A Spotlight on Roskill South Kindergarten
This spotlight is a collaborative community story about the rāhui (lockdown) of 2021. From the very first rāhui we wrote Collaborative Community Stories to record this moment in our history. Collaborative Community Stories show how, as a learning community, we co-constructed the curriculum and planned together during this time.
Our pedagogical practice, along with our local curriculum, supported the success of our distance learning approach. Learning Stories are fundamental in documenting and celebrating children’s learning. This formative assessment approach empowers whānau to understand the value of play and how it supports their tamariki’s learning. So when the lockdown happened, whānau knew and understood how to support their child’s learning at home.
Roskill South Kindergarten is situated in Mt Roskill in Tāmaki Makaurau, and is under the umbrella of Ngā Tamariki Puāwai ō Tāmaki – the Auckland Kindergarten Association. We provide care and education for children aged 3-6 years old. The Roskill South Kindergarten community reflects the diverse demographics of urban Auckland.
What we did
While we had lived through the rāhui (lockdown) of 2020, nothing could have prepared us for the rāhui of 2021, the longest yet – the Delta variant provided new challenges, including many weeks of being isolated in our own bubbles at home. Children’s learning is powerful when we are face-to-face (kanohi ki te kanohi). Seeing each other, and hearing and feeling the relationships are important features when we engage with children. It is definitely a ‘contact sport.’ So, we reflected on how we could have contact, even though it was going to be from a distance.
We stayed connected online
When our kindergarten whānau is apart, we never lose the awareness that we are still connected to each other. In this rāhui we introduced Roskill South Whānau Chats on a Monday and Thursday, which provided a great way for all of us to stay connected – seeing each other from afar.
Whānau Chat sessions followed children’s interests, and one session was influenced by Save the Children. We had a Superhero Party!
Roskill South Whānau Chats provided the opportunity to connect, to share and participate in songs, dancing and stories. It was a joy to see the children and it brightened the teachers’ day and theirs. We noticed children’s confidence growing as they became familiar with this new way of being.
Connecting and seeing each other through the online platform provided the opportunity to grow and maintain relationships, and this was a platform that enabled us to be a kindergarten whānau from afar.
Following on from our Whānau Chat sessions, we introduced smaller group chats, this provided the opportunity for children to share stories more in-depth, and organise chat dates for children.
Children and whānau became superheroes
Save the Children launched a new campaign aimed at empowering children during this rāhui. It featured Super Millie! Super Millie shared five ways to navigate lockdown using superpowers that all children have: creativity, inventiveness, decision making, knowledge and fun. Save the Children believes all kids are Superheroes, and so do we. Children-superheroes stick to their bubbles and stay home and keep us all safe.
Not only do we think our children were the superheroes of this rāhui, so too were their whānau. Parents are their child’s first teachers. Right from the moment they are born, children and parents learn together, and during this rāhui this role was increased further – to superhero proportions!
We continued to develop relationships
At the heart of our teaching practice is the relationships that we develop with children and whānau and we believe our multi-layered approach to distance learning has strengthened our connections. The relationships with children and whānau we had before, and which continued to develop during this rāhui, supported children to transition when they returned to kindergarten. We are so grateful to be a part of a community that cares for each other and who value these relationships.
We welcomed feedback
We valued and appreciated the feedback we received from our whānau throughout this rāhui. It indicated to us that we provided meaningful support from afar.
And learning continued
Another learning from home opportunity was learning packs. An initial comprehensive pack was delivered to all children, and we followed up with mini learning packs a month later. See Joy, Happiness & Magic story below for more detail about this fabulous initiative.
During this time children continued to develop their working theories through the experiences they shared with their families and the opportunities the learning packs provided. At the same time, they also demonstrated “confidence in exploring, puzzling over and making sense of the world.”
Our distance learning programme has kept us connected and provided purposeful learning opportunities that have strengthened children’s learner identity. The time children spent with their families and the everyday adventures they enjoyed together throughout this rāhui contributed to their resilience during this unprecedented time. When children feel safe, secure and loved they develop skills for adapting to changes and managing uncertainty.
We reviewed our health and safety procedures to keep everyone safe
Washing and drying our hands before and after food, when going to the toilet, and when they are messy from play have always been part of our routine at kindergarten. After the initial rāhui in March 2020, we reviewed all of our health & safety procedures and introduced a new routine – washing and drying our hands when we arrive at kindergarten. For children who have started kindergarten post March 2020 this routine is part of their induction when they begin kindergarten. The children are very skilled at following this routine and it is how the day begins every morning at kindergarten. We know hygiene practices are very important in protecting ourselves against COVID-19 and we continue to learn about good hygiene practices at kindergarten.
The Great Christmas Challenge
As the end of the year approached, the teaching team thought about how we could connect with the children who had not yet returned to kindergarten. We created an outdoor Christmas light display and launched The Great Christmas Challenge. We invited whānau to visit Kindergarten at night-time to see the magical light display, take a photo and share it with us on Storypark. This initiative was a great success!
Reflections, observations, and learnings
- Kaiako, whānau, and children design our local curriculum. We found ourselves wondering how to keep working together while afar. Our multilayered approach to distance learning helped to bridge this gap. Our online programme and Learning Packs empowered all ākonga, and the learning was mana-enhancing for all.
- It took us as kaiako a while to get used to this different way of working. Navigating the online ‘Whānau Chat’ required a bit of trial and error to find out what worked well and what didn’t but we soon got into the swing of it.
- We responded to feedback received from families. They were feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information they were receiving through other channels like social media and news media. We were mindful of how often we posted on Storypark.
- Accessibility to devices for some whānau was a challenge. We continue working on this challenge to find a solution.
- One indicator of success was seeing how well children returned to kindergarten from the lockdowns, particularly after the long lockdown in August 2021. Children returned happy and settled, with a strong sense of belonging, and managed the transition back into kindergarten with ease.
- Following the success of our distance learning packs, we have now created Welcome to Kindergarten packs that support children’s transition into kindergarten. In addition, we continue to provide learning packs for tamariki who are isolating at home due to Covid-19.
“Thank you all so much for all the love and effort you all put towards these learning bags and making sure the kids are still learning and being busy bees during lockdown! I swear teachers do not get the recognition they deserve you guys are awesome. All love from the Fa’atea family.”
“Received the learning pack today, straight into it. So excited about everything, started with the watercolour pack, absolutely loved it. Thanks so much Roskill Sth, it has been so much joy in this lockdown with you guys. Take care.”
“Me whiri mai te whānau, te hapū, te iwi, me tauiwi, me ō rātou wāhi nohonga, ki roto i te whāriki, hei āwhina, hei tautoko i te akoranga, i te whakatipuranga o te mokopuna. The wider world of family and community is an integral part of early childhood curriculum.”
Te Whāriki pg. 20
Collaborative Community Story from Roskill South Kindergarten
Joy, Happiness & Magic. September and November 2021