In 2017, Te Whāriki; the national curriculum document for ECE, was updated to  better reflects today’s early learning contexts and the learning interests and aspirations of children and their whānau. In early 2018 two of our kaiako; Fenella Tinworth and Laurie Newman each joined a group of kaiako who gathered together, to discover what the recent changes to Te Whariki meant for our mokopuna, whanau and kaiako here at Four Seasons.  Below is the evaluation that Fenella submitted to the Ministry of Education.

We are the Four Seasons Rudolf Steiner Kindergarten in Taupo. Licenced for thirty mokopuna over two years of age. Many of our mokopuna extend their early childhood education to the age of five and a half or six. Mokopuna transition from our kindergarten into seven different local state schools. There is no Steiner school in our area.

Transition to school is a key focus of our local ‘Community of Learning (COL)’. It is also one of the five focus areas within our early childhood sector. Collaboratively as a team of kaiako we decided that; we had not reviewed our transition to school practices for some time, and that our work within the COL would enable us to strengthen relationships with new entrant teachers in the area.

Our question for internal evaluation became “What process are in place to plan for a responsive and supported transition to school”.

Our indicators were:

  • Strong, responsive, reciprocal, and respectful relationships are formed with each family. Thus, supporting mokopuna’s sense of Wellbeing during the transition to school.
  • Kaiako value and acknowledge
  • Parents and whanāu aspirations for their mokopuna and take account of these when planning for the transition.
  • The knowledge and expertise that whanāu Māori bring.
  • Mokopuna voice, needs, and aspirations in preparation for this transition.
  • Each individual school’s new entrant environment and pedagogy and are knowledgeable about these.

Data was gathered from both quantitative and qualitative sources such as:

  • ‘Settling in at kindergarten’ whānau/Kaiako meeting, completed during the whānau first visits to kindergarten.
  • ‘Teina meetings’ between whānau and Kaiako.
  • ‘Tuakana meetings’ at four and a half years to begin the school conversation. Including goal setting.
  • Kindergarten Kaiako visiting new entrant rooms of local schools.
  • New entrant teachers visiting individual mokopuna at kindergarten.
  • Kindergarten Kaiako becoming ‘experts’ on individual school’s new entrant environment and pedagogy.
  • Kindergarten manager messages with whānau during their first weeks at school.
  • whānau survey/whānau voice
  • Parent information evening talk on ‘The older kindergarten child’.

As a team of Kaiako we found the provocation below very inspiring

“Te manu e kai ana i te miro, nona te ngahere;

Te manu e kai ana i te matauranga nona te ao”

“The bird who partakes of the miro berry owns the forest;

The bird who partakes of education owns the world”.

We used this as a guide during our discussion on which theorists support our teaching practice as a teaching team. Rudolf Steiner was of course the strongest influence for all Kaiako. Particularly his indication on the benefits of  ‘rhythm and repetition’ for the young child. The rhythm of the year, seasons, weeks, and days are integral to our curriculum at kindergarten.  Data gathered from whānau voice, meetings, and messages with whānau during their first weeks at school, showed how much the parents recognised and valued rhythm in their child’s life as supporting learning and development. Steiner Waldorf Early childhood Essentials for Aotearoa (2016) explains that rhythm also provides children with a secure framework for practice, so that learning behaviours can be strengthened and become habitual. We felt this would be important information to pass on to the mokopuna’s new entrant teachers as they moved along their educational pathway.

Te Whariki (2017) was also viewed by Kaiako as a theory document that supported all kaiako and whanāu aspirations for mokopuna. Mana whenua- Belonging asks that children and families should feel a sense of belonging and explains further that transitions into and across settings should be thoughtfully planned and should recognise what children bring with them, showing prearticular respect to whanau māori views. Kaiako felt that strengthening relationships with local schools would enhance mokopuna sense of Mana whenua in their school environments.

Richard Louv and his values on outdoor/environmental education has been a huge influence on how we run our weekly Bush Kindergarten sessions. These sessions give opportunity for mokopuna to self-direct their play and be involved in restoration projects in the local environment alongside participating school children. We require much whanau involvement to make these sessions possible, therefore requiring ‘ako’ – promoting reciprocal responsibilities to engage with each other in on-going, interactive dialogue and sense-making. Whanāu māori values for kaitiakitanga are thereby promoted alongside Triti o Waitangi partnership. Mokopuna voice “We like playing at Bush kindy, we like growing things, finding worms, and planting trees with the big kids”. Kaiako decided that whānau aspirations, and mokopuna strengths should be passed on to new entrant teachers

Other theorists supporting our kindergarten pedagogy were Dr Pere and her wisdom in ‘Te Wheke’, Nathan Makaere Wallis and his value on the early years for mokopuna, Kim John Payne and his ‘Simplicity Parenting’, and Mary Willow, Penny Brownlee, and Te Whatu Pokeka.

This internal evaluation on Transition to school will continue for some months yet as we fine tune our agreed processes, work on reciprocal visits with schools, contribute to COL transition workshops, and gather individual mokopuna voice prior to their moving on to school.

So far, we have:

  • Kaiako becoming experts on individual school’s new entrant environment and pedagogy. This will now be shared with whānau via the notice board.
  • Reciprocal teacher visits with some schools
  • Kindergarten directors committed and valuing giving teacher release time for school visits.
  • Whānau evening on ‘the older kindergarten child’

Future actions are

  • To solidify a procedure to identify well ahead of time the mokopuna heading to different schools, and then appoint the Kaiako responsible to gather whānau aspirations for this child, mokopuna identified strengths, and Kaiako future goals for this mokopuna. This kaiako will then write up and present this information to new entrant teacher during visits.
  • To continue with community planting days, seasonal festivals, and participation in the COL to maintain and strengthen Nga Hononga – Relationships with past, present, and future whanau and mokopuna connected with our kindergarten.
  • To Notice, Recognise, and Respond to future possibilities that may enhance processes to ‘plan for responsive and supported transition to school’.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this Te Whāriki internal evaluation project, it has been incredibly valuable to our kindergarten reflective, and planning processes.

Fenella Tinworth

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