Weaving together as one

Issue: Volume 95, Number 7

Posted: 26 April 2016
Reference #: 1H9d1S

A community weaving group in Kaikohe helps Māori early learning flourish.

Te Kohekohe drop-in centre on Kaikohe’s main street is beautifully adorned with woven art work. It smells of freshly cut harakeke/flax. It is warm and welcoming. The vibe is of aroha and manaakitanga. Generations of mums, aunties and nannies, young and old are teaching, sharing and learning from each other.

The centre is facilitated by the Ngā Kākano Puawai o Kaikohekohe Trust which runs a drop-in playgroup for preschoolers five days a week and hosts the local Ngā Puhi weaving group.

As part of enriching the preschooler community, street play days are organised every second Wednesday at Library Square in the town centre, close to the children’s playground and with free wi-fi. The centre also provides advice and information for parents on other early childhood education options and is linked with local health services.

As part of their work with the community, the trust has partnered with Kaikohe East School to run a new supported playgroup for four-year-olds.

The playgroup opened in term 2 of 2015 with a blessing and school assembly. Already, eight children who had not previously taken part in early childhood education attend. The space set up is exciting, with a Reggio Emilia approach. The playgroup prepares children for school in a way that is responsive to each individual child’s strengths and interests.

The sessions are focused, engaging and exciting. New entrants staff from the school regularly help out at the playgroup, and twice a week the children visit the new entrants class. This approach aims to build a strong foundation so each child has a successful transition to school.

Meeting needs and facilitating manaakitanga

Ngā Kākano Puawai o Kaikohekohe Trust member Kelly Yakas says these exciting initiatives are a response to needs in the community identified two years ago. Under the Early Learning Taskforce she completed a survey of local whānau. Three things became apparent, she says.

“There was nowhere in the Far North town where mothers felt comfortable to breastfeed; there were no public nappy changing facilities, and Kaikohe lacked a playground that was safe for preschoolers.”

Kelly says the survey also revealed the biggest barrier to parents enrolling children in formal early childhood education was not cost or commitment, but vibe.

“Parents needed to have the right feeling about a place, to feel comfortable to hang out and to play and learn alongside their children.”

She says the trust, in partnership with the Ngā Puhi weaving group, has been able to meet genuine community needs as well as creating that “right feeling or vibe of aroha and manaakitanga” for local whānau and this is why it is such a success”.

Te Kohekohe Playgroup mum and weaver Makareta Jahnke says: “You can see and feel the positive energy buzzing around the children, parents and families as they weave and kōrero.

People are making connections and building relationships. Sharing kai and kōrero. They are helping and guiding each other. They are learning customs and values by listening to the kuia.

“The centre provides physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing. There is no other place in Kaikohe that offers this environment.”

Te Kohekohe service user Leigh says: “As a parent living on the outskirts of Kaikohe, Te Kohekohe playgroup is very beneficial. It is a free, fun and safe environment with a very positive vibe.

“The opening hours are great, 10am to 2pm five days a week, allowing us to come and go as we please, with no pressure. I have a 14-month-old son who is breastfed. Feeding and changing him in town used to be very challenging. Te Kohekohe provides facilities for feeding and changing. There is also a separate baby area with age-appropriate resources to help empower me as a parent and help him further develop his social, emotional, and fine and gross motor skills, which are very important in those first three years of brain development. Te Kohekohe is a positive and great environment to be in. It is a great asset to the Kaikohe community.”

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

Posted: 7:05 pm, 26 April 2016

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