Gathering at the gate, I stood with guests including Enviroschools facilitators and kaiako from other kindergartens. We heard a Hebrew song, Hine ma tov, calling us in, welcoming us to Moriah Kindergarten. Tamariki followed this with sign language and waiata that grounded us in place with acknowledgements to mana whenua and significant taiao.
This Sharing Day was to celebrate their Enviroschools journey through five significant stories, and this was undertaken in a unique way.
Beginning beneath the Mitzvah Tree we saw how Jewish values, Te Whāriki curriculum and Enviroschools Guiding Principles are actively encouraged and acknowledged with rau added each day when children have shown care for themselves, care for each other or care for taiao. In the lead up to the Sharing Day, tamariki considered the qualities “nurture”, “empower” and “kotahitanga/unity” to reflect deeply on. Tamanuiterā, noke, āporo and wai were all added to the Mitzvah tree display.
The empowerment of tamariki in this Early Childhood Centre has enabled them to be influential in the learning spaces they transition to. Suzy, an alumni joined us on this day to share how she had gone on to influence both her primary school and intermediate. Having her passions nurtured and her voice heard encouraged her to continue her passion and contribute to change in the schools she moved to.
Storytelling is important to Moriah Kindergarten and this was modelled for visitors by being treated to a dramatic re-telling of local pūrākau featuring Ngāke and Whātaitai, two taniwha who created Te Whanganui-a-Tara. This dramatic play is undertaken each week with different tamariki taking lead roles.
Something I have noticed, as an Enviroschools facilitator, is their full staff attendance at local cluster meetings about te ao Māori. They have shown leadership in engaging with mana whenua and demonstrated responsiveness when new information is shared.
Moriah tamariki have a deep relationship with taiao. They regularly walk to Central Park. They included us on their walk during their Sharing Day where we saw examples of how these young ākonga are developing a sense of belonging and responsibility for this special space. Visiting the awa and significant pōhutukawa trees, we could see how the children care and are cared for. All sorts of treasures were collected in handmade bags along the way. As part of the Enviroschools holistic reflection, tamariki were involved in a session to imagine their centre as a ngahere and creatively capture how Moriah was a nurturing, empowering and place of kotahitanga/unity just as a healthy ngahere ecosystem can be. During the creative process of making visuals with found objects or playdough, guests had conversations with their young hosts about taiao and what was important to these tamariki.
Tamariki led each guest adult around on a tour or “Treasure Hunt” as they fondly referred to it. They were able to share Ō Tatou Tikanga/Tikkun Olam/Our Care Codes which were in photo form to prompt children to easily identify the positive actions. ‘Looking after ourselves’, ‘looking after the environment, Papatūānuku, Tikkun Olum’ and ‘looking after each other’.
At 12pm everybody stopped where they were and broke into waiata joining te wā tuku reo with those across Aotearoa.
The final story to share, aligned beautifully as it was Rosh Ha’Shana/Jewish New Year and whānau arrived for the celebrations. What really shone through for facilitators and visiting kaiako was the manaaki shown.
Moriah Kindergarten are valued leaders in our Enviroschools network. They have shown a commitment to the Enviroschools kaupapa over a long time and their practices are embedded in such a way that it is second nature to all staff to consider the Enviroschools Guiding Principles and weave these through the garden, when buying things or managing the compost. Whānau shared how influential Moriah was in their home with recycling practices, composting and beach clean ups. This has influenced the Jewish Community in their ceremonial practices and events hosting.
At the end of a wonderful day of celebrating and sharing we reflected on these stories using three key qualities that kaiako selected; kotahitanga, nurturing and empowering.
Nurturing showed up in their stories when whānau expressed gratitude for the deep sense of belonging their children have in the community and how their voice and actions are treasured.
Empowerment is seen in their story with the strengths-based approach of kaiako, following student-led interest and the influence tamariki have in the schools they enter after leaving kindergarten.
Kotahitanga or unity was heard within the stories in the feeling of acceptance for differences, intergenerational involvement, reciprocity and integration of kaupapa.
Next steps for Moriah are to investigate how they can:
- celebrate whānau and community involvement at every level
- continue to build trust and respect with their wider community
- slow down, notice and give back on their visits to the ngahere
By Chloe Bisley-Wright, Enviroschools Community Facilitator – Te Whanganui a Tara