The Office of Pre-Primary Education

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Latest Early Childhood Alert No. 17, 2018

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Editor's note

Next month is Spring. With this in mind, this week's newsletter brings you articles around the theme of spring - outdoor planting, sandpit improvement, spring-cleaning the office of old records and some other articles of interest too.

On a side note, it's been awesome to see the perseverance of our ChildForum team paying off in all the work done to uncover issues and raise awareness around things like parent use of ECE and options, the change in regulations to increase the number of children in centres, child safety and abuse in ECE, lax monitoring of standards, bullying and teacher pay and work conditions, fees and funding. Over the last two weeks we've seen evidence of a growth in public awareness (go to last week's newsletter for more if you missed it) - with some hearty public discussions and commentaries from a variety of perspectives in the media. We know what the problems are. We have put time into researching best options and know what a great ECE system for children, families, and NZ's future is. It's heartening to see greater public engagement in issues.  

In this week's newsletter

  1. Making and maintaining a children's garden with edible plants
  2. How do we know that what we think children have learnt is what they actually have learnt? 
  3. Giving children choices vs. no choice and mat-times and other rituals 
  4. Refreshing the layout of space and activities
  5. Transforming the old sandpit or starting from scratch and tips for dealing with health and safety and bug issues 
  6. Making the sandpit a place everyone wants to play in with great learning occurring
  7. Carpentry and woodwork - an often forgotten but easy area of play to set up
  8. Are Jandals okay?  What about ripped shorts?  What to wear as a teacher of young children
  9. Spring cleaning - records and stored papers
  10. Should English language requirements for teacher registration be revised? 

Research - two decades worth of peer-reviewed top articles by NZ and overseas early childhood researchers are on ChildForum's website - view here.


1. Making and maintaining a children's garden with edible plants

Survey responses from services that did not have gardens, explained that there were problems such as lack of time, lack of support, not enough money, no space, and staff having no knowledge, skills, or confidence in gardening. Such barriers of time, people and energy are just a mind-set, it is argued. “You can always grow water cress in fish tanks inside, you could grow potato in a bucket and you can have pumpkin growing all over the ground. You need to look at what are the easiest types of fruits and vegetables that when you are on holiday and there is no one at the centre, they are going to keep growing without water.”
Did you know you can eat the flowers from some vegetables? Here are a couple you can try:

  • Runner beans - red and juicy flowers
  • Peas - white, crunchy and sweet flowers (not sweet pea flowers)

Always check with someone before eating vegetable flowers as some can be poisonous and cannot be eaten - like potato flowers!
You can plant any vegetable seeds in your early childhood service and at home.
Here is a list of vegetables which are more suitable to grow due to their speed of growth and their ‘fun’ factor.
It is also nice to have vegetables growing that are suitable for children and adults to ‘graze’ on whilst working in the garden

> Go to the full article 


2. How do we know that what we think children have learnt is what they actually have learnt?  

Two really good points are made by a teacher in this article: "I know how children learn through my observations of them. But what I see may be different to what another teacher sees. We have different personal lenses, experiences and training".  And what matters to one child can be different for another.  "I have interviewed 3 children individually who looked at the same photo I took of them planting bulbs. When I asked, "What is happening in the photo?", I got three different stories. That is an example of how children process their learning of the same experience in different ways. One child (a girl) focused on the planting of bulbs for a spring flower display while the other two (both boys) focused on who had the most bulbs, etc."

> Go to the members' article


3. Giving children choices

Regular reflection and reviews at your service should consider if the environment and programme flows and if boundaries and expectations are appropriate without unnecessary rules. All kinds of variables will be considered when deciding on expectations and boundaries. The important thing is there actually are expectations and boundaries. For example, requiring children to come together for morning tea or mat-time can be beneficial. Rituals such as these offer lots of learning opportunities. Also such rituals can build closer relationships, and fill children up with love and a strong sense of belonging that will help get them through their day.

But isn’t this taking away freedom of choice?

> Read and learn more 


4. Refreshing the layout of space and activities

NZ early childhood centres typically have a play room/s with various activity areas in the playroom and an open flow directly from the playroom to a single outdoor area. In this article we show, with photographs, a different design and approach to using space for supporting small group and project work.

Ideas for room arrangement, uses and new/ different activities (ECE Services Member article)


5. Transforming the old sandpit or starting from scratch and tips for dealing with potential problems 

> Go to the article on sandpit design

> Health and safety issues with sandpits and tips for protecting and keeping a sandpit clean and bug free  


6. Making the sandpit a place everyone wants to play in with great learning occurring

What you can add to and change in the sandpit on a daily or weekly basis and why. Tips for maths and science learning and teaching (e.g.  Weight and Measurement: explore concepts of heavy and light with buckets with same size buckets or containers with different amounts of sand. Weighing scales for measuring out quantities as part of a cooking activity with sand.). Lots and lots of activity ideas (e.g. diggers and pipes to create a construction site: baking trays, bowls and teapots etc. for imaginative cooking; cake making decorating with flowers, leaves, sticks for candles; borrow a metal detector and have a 'gold' mining day)     

Go to the full article for more


7.  Carpentry and woodwork - an often forgotten but easy area of play to set up

This has lots of challenges for children and adults alike - great for confidence building, personal satisfaction, problem-solving, extending skills and knowledge.

Girls and female teachers can do carpentry.  Everyone can. 

We recommend this article from the My ECE website as it talks about things such as modelling learning, key requirements for a suitable work bench, the different tools to get and why, other accessories, how to go about introducing carpentry, safety rules, and extending into projects etc.

Go to the My ECE carpentry with young children at home and in centres article 


8. Are jandals okay?  What about ripped shorts?  What to wear as a teacher of young children

Maria Montessori was not worried about giving some clear instructions in this area. She wrote that the teacher of young children “must be attractive, pleasing in appearance, tidy and clean, calm and dignified. These are ideals that each can realise in her (sic their) own way. The teacher’s appearance is the first step to gaining the child’s confidence and respect” (The Absorbent Mind, 1982, p. 277).

>  Go to this article with tips and great discussion on appearance and dress


9. Spring cleaning - records and stored papers

Check out how long ECE services must keep different records to see what's okay to throw out now and give yourself more space 

> Go to the article on record retention (what records and for how long)


10. Should English language requirements for teacher registration be revised? 

In the NZ Herald: Private training provider, the NZTC, graduated an early childhood student though she could not meet the language requirement for teacher registration. Jacqueline Hsu, 36, graduated with a Bachelor of Teaching from NZ Tertiary College in 2012, and has applied several times for provisional registration without success. Originally from Malaysia, she scored 57/60, or to a "very advanced" level, in a QPT test when she signed up for her Bachelor of Teaching degree. But this is not a test recognised for minimum standards for English. She is refusing to take the IELTS test because she "didn't feel the need" to do so. With a teacher shortage now the Education Council told the Herald some aspects of the English language proficiency requirement was being reviewed.

See this post on our Facebook page and add to the interesting discussion of other issues it raises 


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