Strong bicultural practice and a sense of belonging enrich children’s learning

Issue: Volume 98, Number 10

Posted: 17 June 2019
Reference #: 1H9v8_

Trout, mihi and mai mai are all integrated into the learning environment at Oxford Kindergarten in Southland, where connections and links with the wider world are affirmed and extended.

The children’s bright idea for a whānau-built scarecrow came up trumps recently. Teachers had asked for suggestions on how they might take part in the Gore Harvest Show, held each year.

The children decided to make a trout-shaped scarecrow and enter it in the Show’s Best Scarecrow contest. Their creation was to be based on a huge trout sculpture that sits at the entrance to Gore, which is well-known for its trout fishing.

The whole community joined in. Whānau donated paua to make shiny scales and eyes, local farming families gave the straw for its body, harakeke provided the fins, and the children tie-dyed the cloth sheets that made up its skin.

The fantastic creation won first prize in the show.

Head teacher Katrina Blondell says, “The kindergarten has strong connections throughout the community, and we embrace cultural diversity. The children are grounded in the community in every sense. Food, for example, is a ground-to-plate process.”

The children make soup from pumpkins grown in the vegetable garden on site; from seeds donated by parents, in soil donated by Mitre 10.

The soup and other fresh vegetables often go home with the children for their families to eat.

“The children help plant the garden and that is a learning experience,” Katrina says. “Growing and preparing food is part of our back-to-basics approach.”

Four-year-old Emily says, “I like growing the pumpkin in our garden and then putting it in the pot to cook then everyone had it for lunch”. Her favourite part of coming to our kindy is “playing with my friends. I like making chocolate chip pancakes. That makes me happy too!”

Katrina says “Whanaungatanga is at the heart of everything we do, and there are many opportunities for the children to learn re reo and tikanga Māori. We empower tamariki to show kindness, empathy and respect for people, places and things across time.” This practice reflects several of the learning outcomes in Te Whāriki (2017) including children ‘making connections with their wider world’ ‘showing respect for kaupapa, rules and the rights of others’ and ‘taking part in caring for this place.’

Te Whāriki affirms the identities, languages and cultures of all children, whānau, kaiako, and communities from a strong bicultural foundation.

Bicultural practices that reflect the dual heritage of Aotearoa are consistently reflected in the teaching. There is a very strong and shared commitment to provide opportunities for children to learn te reo and tikanga Māori.

Every day begins with a mihi for the children, as part of bicultural practice. “We don’t see the child in isolation, each one is part of a whānau and we support the whānau,” Katrina says.

Last year the kindergarten provided wet weather gear and gumboots for every child. A supporter of the kindergarten knits woollen hats, gloves and mittens for the children, and twice a year the children go to a rest home to sing songs to residents, while exploring the wider community of Gore.

The local curriculum is well linked to teaching and learning. The teachers use intentional teaching strategies incorporating tūrangawaewae to support children’s learning, development and wellbeing. Children and adults are knowledgeable about their local history and proud of their surrounding areas.

The Mataura River runs through the town and the children have visited the nearby Hokonui Hills, a prominent landmark. “The hills and river are all part of their environment, their tūrangawaewae, and we talk to the children about them,” Katrina says.

Katrina says new children and whānau are encouraged to come and share their whakapapa with the tamariki, and families have supported the kindergarten by sharing their own karakia with the children.

All children are supported at their own stage of learning and parents contribute to our curriculum design in many ways, offering their skills, expertise and time. Family nights bring everyone together over shared kai.

Katrina says, “We work with whānau and the child to ensure a strong sense of belonging by giving them time and opportunities to develop meaningful

relationships with the teaching team. All teachers have been involved in extensive professional learning around social and emotional competence.”

Tips for teachers

Ensure that every parent and child has a warm welcome at the beginning and farewell at the end of each day.

An unhurried programme is best for children and whānau.

Have fun and laugh with the children!

Ensure teaching practice is consistent.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:50 am, 17 June 2019

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