Our Curriculum - What Makes us Magic
Every child has a portfolio which traces the individual and group learning that is occurring. Portfolios contain learning stories and a wide range of documentation - photos, art work, work records, project development, children's and adult’s thinking, and, of equal value, parent or whãnau comments and stories that develop the important connections between home and the centre. These portfolios are evolved with the teachers, children and parents. They become a lasting record of the ‘magic’ of early childhood experiences and are available for daily reading in the centres.
Reviewing our practice and assessing our learning environment guides our programme. The teachers capture and extend the children’s interests by using documentation (as described above), photos, observations, technology, dialogue between teachers, planning meetings, and dialogue with parents and children.
Projects are in-depth studies of particular topics undertaken by small groups of children and teachers. Projects allow for children to develop a deeper understanding of events, experiences or concepts that capture their attention in their environment. We use the capacities and resources of children in collaboration with teacher predictions, ideas and hypotheses of where the project may develop. This is a collaborative experience. Documentation on the centres' walls makes the process obvious.
The environment as the third teacher – Magic Places
The Reggio Emilia approach has opened our eyes to the importance of our environment as a means of being ‘the third teacher’. Much thought and planning has directed us to making our environments interesting, educational and full of discovery. Every space, whether inside or outside, in hallways or ceilings, reflects a concern for providing children with an aesthetic and stimulating environment. We plan for surprises within arrangements of furniture and natural materials. Glass allows visibility and light throughout the centre. The three centres have dining rooms and the older age centres have picnic tables for snack times.
The arrangement of space is carefully thought out so that every part of the buildings has a purpose. There are places where children can work together in small groups or in larger groups with a teacher. Routines are minimal. The children are not interrupted by unnecessary transitions from one activity to the next. There are beautiful natural objects set out in the playrooms.
Extensive planting of native plants and trees border the play areas. Grass is surrounded by paths. Outdoor equipment is designed for a changeable and exploratory environment. There is extensive shade. Rubber safe fall is the ground-covering in the exploratory area.
The programme is influenced by Te Whãriki, New Zealand's Early Childhood Curriculum. Children are seen to be inherently competent, capable and rich, complete and gifted no matter what their age or ability. All children will be empowered to learn with and alongside others by engaging in experiences that have meaning for them (Ministry of Education, 2017, pp. 12-13). The programme develops from children's strengths and interests, starting from the child but noticed and listened to by the teachers. It works with an emergent curriculum. All the centres are inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood, where:
the children’s creativity,activity and thinking is valued and captured in documentation of learning,
projects are developed from children's interests or teacher’s passions,
a variety of arts are used to represent the children’s learning,
the teachers utilise group work to develop thinking, and act as guides and resource persons to provoke thinking,
parent’s ideas and knowledge are needed and used in the programme, and
teachers give attention to every piece of the environment making it a place of discovery, as it is considered the "third teacher” assisting in the child’s learning.
In the Over Three Centre, on Monday mornings Suzie, Adrienne, Brie and Jo lead our Kapa Haka Group where a group of our older, interested children are extending their bicultural knowledge and understanding with waiata, haka, poi, action songs and guitar.
Every Thursday morning in the Over Three Centre, Suzie and Ben run a specialised one hour music and movement session packed with carefully selected experiences that stimulate and develop children's brains. The sessions help children to develop the fundamental skills required for formal literacy and numeracy learning. A wide range of songs and resources and a fast-paced, ever-changing programme keep the group engaged, moving, learning and having fun.