An Early Childhood teachers workshop around nature play, organised for the beginning of the year then postponed till term 4 ended up having multiple benefits for the Top of the South inter-regional cluster of Enviroschools.
Harko Brown, expert on traditional Māori games and play was invited to Nelson to contribute to the workshop. He not only inspired a group of 25 Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers but was engaged the following day to support Enviroschools relationships within 3 Enviroschools with bilingual units around Nelson.
The ECE workshop was based at Fairfield house, an Historic site with rambling gardens and green spaces that includes a Nature School. The purpose of the ECE hui was to get teachers to engage with nature play, the natural environment and Māori perspectives around environmental play (ngā takaro). A great take home from Harko was that tamariki are 100% capable of completing any task or game when they do it using their imagination!
The workshop followed the Enviroschools Action Learning Cycle with everyone coming together and building a puna mātauranga, starting with their prior knowledge and experiences. Participants began their day with wandering around the grounds that helped explore the kaupapa of the day. Even when inside the venue, it was easy to stay connected with what the workshop was about because of the views of children from the local Nature School playing outside.
The teachers had a choice of field trip options after morning tea, either visiting Teal Valley Forest kindergarten where tamariki are immersed in natural play and challenges, or Stoke Kindergarten where children have regular forays into the adjoining reserve as part of the adopt-a-spot initiative (with Nelson City Council).
The teachers and facilitators returned to Fairfield house for a beautiful lunch on the veranda and reflected on their experiences. The afternoon session run by Harko modelled a number of traditional games and activities. Highlights included making bird noises, cooperative and competitive games, and everyone went home with a beautiful manu harakeke they had made to give away. This provoked a lot of laughter, enjoyment and celebration of each other’s successes.
Teachers said they were keen to start implementing some of the different ideas such as exploring adopt-a-spot with their local council and engaging with their local environment more.
The following day it was the turn of students in the bilingual units of schools in Nelson. 30 young people and their kaiako had a fun day at Victory Primary School, being introduced to a range of traditional games, many of which they hadn’t encountered before! Enviroschools Regional Coordinator, Joanna Wilson, saw this as a way of engaging with the tamariki and their teachers who are not often drawn into the Enviroschools programme within their schools.
One of the outcomes of this experience has been that kaiako and students felt there was an opportunity to be seen as the champions of Māori Perspectives in their schools and help others understand the value of connecting with nature through this lens. Next year it is hoped that students will be able to pass on their new knowledge to the rest of their school.
School Hui feedback – “Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou mō tēnei rā whakamīharo! Harko it was an absolute honour and delight working with you. The tamariki were captivated and had an amazing time.”
Banner image: Focus, physical and fun – students fully engaged in the games.