Mairtown Celebrating 10 Years on the Nature Programme

In Term 2, 2011 the teaching team and the tamariki at Mairtown Kindergarten embarked on a new journey. This year will mark 10 years since the Mairtown Nature Programme was established....

Mairtown Kindergarten
August 17, 2021

Celebrating 10 Years on the Nature Programme

‘In all things of nature there is something of the marvellous’ Aristotle

In Term 2, 2011 the teaching team and the tamariki at Mairtown Kindergarten embarked on a new journey.  This year will mark 10 years since the Mairtown Nature Programme was established.  It has been a wonderful journey now for over 400 tamariki and whānau!  Today, it continues to be such an important part of the kindergarten and our community.

Back in 2010 the Mairtown Teaching Team, had a shared vision to “….provide the tamariki and whanau with ongoing opportunities to develop a deeper understanding and relationship with nature through play and education” (Mairtown Kindergarten, Kauri Scholarship Application, 2010).

After the teaching team were successful in their application for the Kauri Scholarship from the Northland Kindergarten Association and with the support of the kindergarten, whānau and tamariki, Mairtown began it's journey into the establishment of the first Nature Programme for the Northland Kindergarten Association.

“Nature is the children’s chosen place for encountering materials, children encounter the environment with all their body” (The Diana School).

“I have been very blessed to have been a part of the initial set up of the Mairtown’s Nature Programme.  All the hard work has paid off in the way that it has had such a positive influence on many children’s lives, being able to spend time in our local ngahere with the children and their whānau over the many years that I worked there this has been a highlight of my career” Zair Taylor (Teacher/Head Teacher, 2010 – 2019).

" I think it’s incredible that Mairtown kindergarten have been running this programme for 10 years now, what incredible acts of dedication the staff and community have offered to keep this amazing programme running.

The inspiration came after seeing a presentation about Forest Schools in England and Europe. I left the meeting with a head full of possibilities, Mairpark was on our doorstep we just needed to vision and design a programme that would suit both our Northland climate and native backdrop. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked alongside Zair Taylor, Christine Alford, Donna Manson and Sarah Nathan at this time, they were the perfect team of ‘can do attitudes’ needed to navigate the many challenges of creating a new style of excursions with NKA. The rest is history now, Mairtown’s Nature programme has had a huge influence in the lives and mahi of others. It fills my heart to think of how many tamariki and whānau have had opportunity to learn and play collectively outside in nature, as she intended. " - Kim Townsend (Teacher/Head Teacher 2008 - 2017)

The Nature Programme has had a few minor changes over the years and modifications. But every Friday our 10 eldest tamariki are given the opportunity to be active, take risks, enjoy their experiences in the outdoors and have built an understanding of the natural world and a deep respect for papatuanuku.  This programme is led by the tamariki, they are able to set the pace for the day and take responsibility for their own adventures, challenges and assess their own risks.

“The Nature Programme didn’t just impact children but to see the awareness and awe on parents, visitors and other staff faces was inspirational.  It provided an opportunity for everyone to experience not just nature but an emotional, spiritual, physical and co-operative journey.  At the beginning, it solidified what Mairtown was trying to achieve as a nature based kindergarten.  I remember Kim and I going to Mairpark to see if it was viable.  We began with a trolley full of resources, which has now dwindled to two backpacks.  I recently saw an ex student who said the Nature Programme was the best part of her time at Kindergarten.  For me personally I based it all on the children.  Not what I could teach them but how they could teach me to remember - simple, exploration fun time in the bush. I was one of the lucky one who never, in all my years doing this had a wet dayJ.  This place has special meaning as I was bought up in the area so Mairpark was like returning to my childhood playground”.  Donna (Teacher 1998 – 2017).

Over the years we have been collecting feedback from our whānau and tamariki who have been part of the programme.  Here is a snippet of feedback from whānau and tamariki.

“…. truly special to see how the children react and engage with the environment … really amazing group narrative of “their” nature programme …. deep attachments to these special places” – A Ducrot.

“… children took immediate control of their surroundings exploring, jumping, climbing and discovering ….stepping back watching my child participate in so many adventures, fearlessly and to feel her excitement to belong … beauty of the Nature Programme is the ‘life skills’ learned that will stay with these tamariki forever” – Unknown.

“ L just LOVES his nature p days he tells us with excitement all of his adventures he shared with his friends …. the environment does encourage fostering relationships and working with his peers” L Newport.

“… has not only enriched G’s life but has now filtered through our family as well.  We live under our great Maunga Parahaka …. has sparked our enthusiasm for our great beautiful forest” – M & R Proctor

"... the meadow and having a hot milo with a marshmallow, oh and bum sliding!" - Roman age: 11

Kayla (10) Toby (9) Makenzie & Leah (12)

"The children also gained from their involvement in the programmes. This involved both intellectual and social development. There was a clear growth in their knowledge and ability to identify and talk about the plants, insects and birds they regularly encountered. The children also developed an awareness of the fragile nature of the natural environment and the need to protect it. Equally important were the opportunities to assume leadership and ownership of the daily experiences and the collaborative relationships that developed. For many children facing and overcoming new physical challenges was a significant area of growth." (Brent Mawson, 2014).

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