Artwork celebrates a place-based focus

Issue: Volume 95, Number 10

Posted: 7 June 2016
Reference #: 1H9d2F

Children from Aro Valley preschool collaborated with mosaic artist Rachel Silver to create a beautiful taonga for their community.

A brightly coloured mosaic adorns the gable of Aro Valley preschool in Wellington.

Featuring depictions of Aro Valley – the Aro pa, Waimapihi stream and of Mapihi, who bathed in its waters – the mural is a collaboration between international mosaic artist Rachel Silver and the school community.

The preschool has focused on ‘place-based education’ over the past year.

Teacher Catherine Vaughan describes this in the following way:

“Place-based education is important because a vital part of the human condition is to have a connection to a place, any place."

“As children build relationships with place, their knowledge of who they are and their own sense of identity grows. Place-based education aims to acknowledge everybody’s place in the world,” she says.

Aro Valley preschool management support Helen Baxter says the mural is special because it’s originated from a collective process of learning about the history and environment of the area.

“It’s the outcome of quite a long process of us all learning about place-based education, working with the children on that basis, and learning about our community’s history and environment. That evolved into the idea of an artwork for our building,” she says.

“Through this project, the children also learned about the process of mosaic-making, their natural surroundings, and the idea of following the stream from the source to the preschool where they spend their days,” she says.

In 2015 the preschool received funding from the Wellington City Council Creative Communities Grants Scheme for an artwork that would reflect and celebrate ‘our place’.

In addition to consulting with mana whenua representative Neavin Broughton, Rachel spent time at the preschool with the children to get their creative input into the mural through drawings and discussion. The children also visited her studio at the nearby Toi Poneke Arts Centre.

Aro Valley preschool chairperson Sacha Green was a driving force behind the project, and describes how the children explored the origins of their community.

“Originally the stream flowed through the area now known as Aro Park, next to the preschool. It was here that Mapihi, a Māori princess, is reputed to have bathed,” she says.

“The area around the preschool was warm and sheltered so was used by Māori for growing gardens for Te Aro Pā. The stream helped to water these gardens. Kumara is occasionally still found growing in the surrounding area."

“The children and their whānau have made several excursions to the source of the stream and followed its journey down the valley and back to the preschool. They have learned also that the stream water flows through pipes under the preschool, all the way to Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) near Te Papa.”

The mosaic project has also strengthened ties between the preschool and nearby Te Aro School, which will have a positive effect on school transitions for the students.
Many of the students attended the preschool, or have siblings there.

“The involvement and connection with Te Aro School has been really important to this project,” says Helen.

“We invited them down to be part of the unveiling and a group of those students performed kapa haka for the ceremony.”

The mosaic mural was officially unveiled on 13 May.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:26 pm, 7 June 2016

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