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Newsletter: July 2015

Kia Pai Tai Tatou Matariki!

We want to say a big thank you to all of our parents, grandparents and whanau who came to celebrate our first Matariki. What a turn out! We think that next year we may need to have one evening at Crown Street and the other at Pre-School on different evenings giving those parents who have children in both places a choice on which they attend, which might make it easier to do our haka and poi dancing. We want to extend a big thank you to Katie, Lennox, and Manaia (Tane’s parents and older brother) for teaching us and leading us in the haka. On that note if you were a little disappointed or surprised that your child had been talking about doing the haka all week then didn’t want to stand up, don’t be. It is one thing to do the haka with your friends and teachers and quite another to stand up and perform it with people watching. For some children the activity then goes from being fun to being a type of assessment where they expose themselves to being judged or compared. No doubt many of us can remember exams at school when suddenly, placed under pressure you couldn’t remember anything you learnt all year, an unfortunately unlike the haka performance we could not opt out. The haka is not just a dance to prepare for war (or for beating the Wallabies) it is about honouring our life force and celebrating the strength and unity of our tribe. The word Ha means ‘breath’, so it is a very appropriate dance to do for Matariki, which Maori recognised as the start of the year cycle. It is like breathing life into the New Year, which is marked by the rising of the constellation Pleiades, that Maori called Matariki, and interestingly Japanese called Subaru.

So start digging over those gardens getting ready for planting as soon as the frosts have passed.

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 Let’s celebrate unstructured Play

“Do they do anything other than play?” I am often asked when showing parents around Pre-School. Unfortunately when children turn 3 parents start to think that they need a more ‘Structured’ environment where they learn ‘stuff’, when in actual fact it is in their unstructured play that children learn the skills that will be most valuable to them in life.

Frederick Froebel (the 19th century architect of Kindergarten) said

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul”.

And Richard Louv (author of ‘The Nature Principle’) states that unstructured play is critical in developing ‘executive function’ in children which simplified is the child’s ability to be their own boss and make good decisions , which later contributes to the adult skills that we value as ‘initiative’ and ‘common sense’. He quotes researchers that have found that today’s 7 year olds have the executive function of a 5 year old in the 1940s, which has been attributed to children having less time involved in independent make believe play. (You can watch this interview if you Google search ‘Richard Louv on structured versus unstructured play’ or our previous post Follow up from parents workshop).

As many of you know I have been working alongside the Pre-School team while we are waiting for our new teacher to start down there, and I have seen some fantastic unstructured, imaginative play.

The first example involving Emily and Sam who had constructed a very elaborate game that involved one of them sleeping while the other posing as Santa, hid a present for them to find when they awoke in the morning. This play involved problem solving in the hiding and the finding of the present, and in the constant reinvention of the game. It involved a great deal of good communication and negotiation to work out who would be who and what each prop would stand for, and gave them both the chance to try on different roles.

The second was watching Emily, William, and Sienna who were taking an aeroplane ride to see Grandma in Australia. Here the light table became the plane and they took turns at being the pilot who would stand at one end of the light table while the passengers crammed into ‘economy’ seats under the table. (Ryan Air, I think!). So much decision making here, from deciding what to pack, where to go, and what could be turned into the plane.

Emily tries her presents out
Emily tries her presents out
William and Sienna stow their luggage and off they go !
William and Sienna stow their luggage and off they go !
William and Sienna stow their luggage and off they go !
William and Sienna stow their luggage and off they go !

“So what do the teachers do”? I hear you say. Teachers plan for and support this meaningful play, by observing the play carefully and strategically placing resources nearby that they think might enhance the play. Teachers try and stay out of the play, but sometimes have to intervene to keep children safe and to help children stay engaged. Children can’t play/learn, if they feel insecure or unsafe and so the teacher’s presence gives the children the space to play into. For inspirational reading around the value of play I recommend you read the blog ‘Sacred Urge to Play’ on Pennie Brownlees website: http://penniebrownlee.weebly.com. And enjoy reading about your children’s creative, intelligent play in their Portfolios.