Exploring nature teaches kaitiakitanga at Daisies

Issue: Volume 97, Number 14

Posted: 13 August 2018
Reference #: 1H9jvx

Daisies Early Education and Care Centre in Johnsonville is using its focus on environmental education to explore the concept of kaitiakitanga, or stewardship of our environment.

Children at Daisies Early Education and Care Centre are learning about things like sustainability and regularly interact with their environment.

Head teacher Brigitte Alamani says that before they could support children to develop a relationship with nature and develop the Nature Explore programme, kaiako felt that they must develop a love for nature too. “After all, you cannot teach what you do not know.”

This knowledge was built during training days at which relationships between kaiako and nature grew. “I finally learnt that, actually, bush walks are good for the soul and insects aren’t that bad.”

 Now young learners and teachers alike interact with their environment regularly and learn about things like sustainability.

Brigitte says she knows children are now thinking about concepts like kaitiakitanga because the young learners are coming up with sustainability ideas themselves.

“These children have developed a strong connection with Papatūānuku and Tāne Mahuta, and on one of our trips, they noticed that there was lots of rubbish on the ground. The children were very concerned, which prompted comments like, ‘Actually, this is not ok, Tāne Mahuta won’t like it, and Papatūānuku will be sad to see all this rubbish.’

“The teachers said, ‘Well, what should we do about it?’ The kids responded with, ‘We should clean up the streets’. From then on, every week a group of children and teachers will walk around our area and will pick up rubbish.”

Importantly, parents and whānau help out with the Nature Explore excursions, and the learning is finding its way home. One parent said, “We have started visiting Khandallah Park with [our daughter]. She has learned about death by seeing dead insects and birds and talking about what has happened to them. She knows more names of plants and flowers than I do!”

Young learners are also involved in year-round gardening on the centre grounds, including maintaining swan plants that attract monarch butterflies. They then follow the life cycle of the butterflies. They also learn to identify what species of birds come into the garden and how to sustain healthy plants.

Brigitte says that children now take greater care of the centre’s plants and have stopped plucking leaves and flowers at random. They water the plants, smell the herbs, and help to harvest fruit and vegetables that are grown to eat.

Environmental practice at Daisies doesn’t end with the children though – decisions made by the teaching staff have an important bearing on creating a centre that aims to leave as small a footprint as possible; for example, Daisies uses and washes cloth nappies, and they allow only minimal plastic toys.   

Why Daisies doesn’t use disposable nappies

It takes 4.5 trees to make disposable nappies for one baby. Over 2.5 years, that’s 1.3 million trees for New Zealand babies).

It takes one cup of crude oil to make the plastic for each disposable nappy.

It takes as much energy to produce one disposable nappy as it does to wash a cloth nappy 200 times.

Disposable nappies generate 60 times more landfill than washable nappies – one baby in disposables will produce 2 tonnes of landfill waste.

Disposable nappies are estimated to make up about 2 per cent of landfill waste.

Over 2.5 years a child will use about 6,000 disposable nappies. 

Nature Explore learning goals

The Nature Explore programme involves getting kids ‘out there’ and into nature, with weekly trips to places like Khandallah Park and treks up Te Tarikākā Maunga (Mount Kaukau). Infants often make the shorter trip to Wanaka Street Garden, which is close to Daisies. This helps to build their confidence for later trips.

Taking the example of last year’s treks up Te Tarikākā Maunga, Brigitte says that again, the trips were prompted by the children themselves, who wanted to set themselves a physically testing goal. She says that the intention behind the trek revolved around an investigation the centre took on last year, which was based on the question: ‘How does investigating Te Tarikākā Maunga and ngā awa of the Johnsonville and Khandallah bush deepen Daisies’ learners’ understanding of Te Ao Māori and strengthen our identity as kaitiaki?’.

The centre has explicit learning goals attached to Nature Explore that address all strands of Te Whāriki:

Learning goal 1:

Children will develop working theories and scientific knowledge associated with natural environments (birds, plants, insects, stream life, land formations).

This can be as simple as identifying species of birds, says Brigitte. “We might talk about how tui have the white ball around their necks, or that ‘blackbird’ doesn’t necessarily mean a bird that is black.”

Example Te Whāriki link: Exploration | Mana Aotūroa – learning outcome: making sense of their worlds by generating and refining working theories.

Learning goal 2:

Children will develop spatial goals associated with the outdoors.

Examples include going up and down hills, under bridges, or across streams.

Example Te Whāriki link: Contribution|Mana Tangata – learning outcome: using a range of strategies and skills to play and learn with others.

Learning goal 3:

Children will develop a love of and sense of responsibility for nature, and understand kaitiakitanga (guardianship).

‘Clean the streets’ is a good example of this learning goal.

Example Te Whāriki link: Belonging |Mana Whenua – learning outcome: taking part in caring for this place/showing respect for kaupapa, rules and the rights of others.

Learning goal 4:

Children will grow in confidence as explorers and leaders and strengthen their resilience.

Brigitte says that there have been children who have come to Daisies without much confidence. “We have had children who were uncomfortable with grass on their feet, for example. We’ve found though that the more opportunities these children have to be outdoors, and the more we talk about it, the more resilience the children develop.”

Example Te Whāriki link: Wellbeing|Mana Atua – learning outcome: managing themselves and expressing their feelings and needs.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:00 am, 13 August 2018

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