Unpacking Te Whariki
He taonga te mokopuna, kia whāngaia, kia tipu, kia rea.
A child is a treasure, to be nurtured, to grow, to flourish.
To better understand Te Whariki we have interviewed our Head Teacher, Sarah, to give us a practical insight into how this curriculum is implemented for tamariki at Eduplay.
THE PRINCIPLES of Te Whariki are:
· empowerment | whakamana
· holistic development | kotahitanga
· family and community | whānau tangata
· relationships | ngā hononga
What does empowerment mean to you personally? Supporting, building up and growing others. Taking a genuine interest in the desires and abilities of others and being unwavering in your position as teacher, learner, cheerleader, supporter to bring positive outcomes for whoever it may be.
Can you give us an example of what EMPOWERMENT looks like at Eduplay? To provide space, time and experiences for children to be uplifted. To learn in positive ways and to bring that to others. Recognising the mana of every child and ensuring that we are not only growing, but protecting it.
Give us an example of holistic development at Eduplay? By viewing the children from a holistic (every) angle we can make a plan to support learning at every stage, for every tamariki at Eduplay. Holistic development includes cultural capital, whanau engagement, children’s desires, the expertise of our kaiako, the research in child development and the genuine drive for our children to be healthy and happy. The child is at the centre and we must make sure that everything that can impact that child in a positive way is part of the process.
What are some examples of culturally appropriate communication? This really comes from the wants and needs of each individual family. Having a commitment to foster cultural competence in our children means that we must invest in their individual cultural identity. To make sure that what we are engaging in is culturally appropriate we must engage first with our families. We seek to understand the aspirations that each family have for their child and how this might connect to culture. Te Tiriti Waitangi also comes into play with cultural communication, our commitment as Kaiako and the standards that we are held to not only by centre policies, but also the standards for the teaching profession, expect us to always strive for positive outcomes for Māori and Tangata Whenua.
What are some examples of ways that Eduplay fosters relationships with parents and whanau? From the moment you walk through our doors - the relationship has begun. Our centre tour gives each family a chance to connect with key people at Eduplay and connect with kaiako as they work in the learning space. Our centre vision of ‘one child at a time’ supports authentic relationships with families to ensure we are practicing what we preach. Fostering two-way relationships and starting with family first, connecting with the wants and needs for each family builds trust and reciprocity. Family engagement is a priority at Eduplay and by providing various ways to contribute, we hope there is something for everyone. Our ‘families only’ facebook, Educa, email in the classrooms, alongside our open-door policy means there is always a way to connect. Our parent evening, parent-teacher interviews, Matariki Whānau night and our Christmas party also provide opportunities for everyone to be a part of Eduplay.
THE STRANDS of Te Whariki are:
· wellbeing | mana atua
· belonging | mana whenua
· contribution | mana tangata
· communication | mana reo
· exploration | mana aotūroa
What does it mean in a practical sense for a child to be capable of keeping themselves healthy? Being provided with a wide variety of food choices that are designed to provide balanced nutrition and variety. Often children will eat food at an Early Learning Centre that they would not eat or try at home. But it isn’t just physical health - children need to develop emotional health and being in an environment that allows them to make mistakes while they are learning, encourages them to try new things, showing children that they really are capable. This gives the child a sense of accomplishment to keep on exploring and trying new experiences.
How does Eduplay foster a sense of belonging? Each child is acknowledged in our environment. Whether that is having their names and photos in cubby holes or learning goals on the planning walls. Whanau photos within the environment also bring a sense of connection. Each child knows they have a place because they can see that they have one, it is everywhere from day one.
What are some of the strategies that Kaiako use to foster a sense of contribution? In particular – the skills of playing and learning with others. Setting boundaries and expectations is the best way to build a sense of safe contribution. Our teachers will model expected behaviours and talk through situations and ensure that no-one is left unheard. Our infants are given opportunities to be with others but are also supported through their individual routines. Our toddlers are given both freedom and support, there is nothing more important than a 2yr old that is viewed as capable, whilst also being able to acknowledge that there is still so much that overwhelms them. It all comes down to connections and our teachers really knowing the children. For pre-schoolers, giving them a wee push in the right direction, but knowing when to hold them tight and to show them they have security - and then on the odd occasion pulling them back from the edge.
What are non-verbal communication skills? Everything that a child does to communicate with us that isn’t verbally obvious. Our infants build connections with Kaiako and this is supported by learning cues and clues about children’s rhythms, an infant shouldn’t need to be crying for an in-tune kaiako to know that they are ready for a sleep or a feed. We use NZSL (New Zealand Sign Language) and baby sign with the children in Parakai and Te Henga, this supports children to share their wants and needs.
For older children that can verbally communicate it might just be snuggling up to a teacher and not saying anything to let us know “I’m tired”, “I’m feeling sad”. NZSL is continued throughout the centre alongside Te Reo Māori and English.
What does exploration mean in an ongoing and practical way when a child has been at Eduplay for while?
After the initial exploration of our environment, resources and the systems we have in place to support learning and once the relationship with whanau is established, we move to planning for learning and development with each child. The concept of free play is ever present but that does not mean free for all, do as you please and come back when its mat time. Free play and meaningful learning through exploration comes with teachers setting up specific experiences and provocations to support interests and learning. By valuing learning through play children are able to engage in play that draws them in, sparks their interest, challenges them mentally or physically – so they learn and develop without even knowing it. By being able to revisit experiences, the learning is cemented and the children are able to build on their prior knowledge. By providing open ended and varied ways for children to explore they are able to gain the knowledge that is important to them in their own time.
Te Whāriki is measured through ASSESSMENT and PLANNING.
How does planning happen at Eduplay?
Planning starts with the child. Our approach to planning uses the skills our Kaiako have in observing the children and identifying their strengths interests and capabilities. We look at their play urges and developmental milestones. We then connect with families and collaborate with them on their aspirations for their children, what they see their children’s interests and strengths are, and what might be next steps. The teaching team will then view the child through their dispositions, urges and developmental stage and find ways to work together to support the child in their next steps. Using Te Whāriki as a guide for teacher practice, learning outcome knowledge and examples of practice to support learning and development, individual plans are written. Alongside the individual plans we use emergent curriculum to support the interests of the child as they pop up as well as large group planning to support our local curriculum and global citizenship contributions.
What is an example of an informal and formal assessment at Eduplay?
Informal assessment is conversations amongst stakeholders. Whether that be conversations about learning between kaiako and child, parent and kaiako, groups of kaiako and supported discussion with centre leadership. Conversations that involve observations, or on the spot adjustments to practice for supporting learning and development.
Formal assessment is intentional observation followed by communication. Whether that is through the individual child plans, curriculum wrap-ups, monthly learning story documentation, sharing learning outcomes on Educa and Facebook. Formal assessment is not testing and ticking boxes, but intentional observation and conversation with the purpose of growth.
What is the most recent internal evaluation done at Eduplay?
Internal evaluation happens on many levels within the centre. Our Kaiako have evaluation practice goals with different monthly focuses. We also have higher level, full centre evaluations that happen in both a planned and spontaneous way. The current full centre evaluation is successful transitions and information sharing in this process. This was instigated by one of our qualified kaiako with an interest in meaningful transition and positive outcomes for everyone involved. She shared the idea with the centre leadership team and with support from all of us, we have been trialling different ways to share information, different transition processes and timeframes, engaging in professional learning in this area and we are using a series of different transitions within the centre to gain data for review.