2013 Review Submitted by Warwick Marshall (parent and ECE qualified teacher)
Address: 10 Mark Avenue , Paparangi, Wellington
Maximum Child Numbers: 40 children aged 2 – 5 years
Hours: Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays 8.30am - 2.30pm or Wednesdays and Fridays 8.30am - 12.40pm.
Management: A community-owned all-day public kindergarten, one of many kindergartens in the Wellington region operated by the Wellington Region Free Kindergarten Asssociation. The association has a governing board and a general manager along with a team of senior teachers who provide professional support to teachers at this and other Wellington association kindergartens.
Most early childhood services have one or two special features to draw in and sustain children’s interest but the creative features on offer for children at Paparangi Kindergarten were so many I can’t list them all here. These combined with the abilities of the qualified and dedicated teachers meant each and every child was consistently involved in sustained and independent learning and play.
I called Paparangi Kindergarten to check session times so my child and I could visit the 3-4 year olds’ session. I was impressed with the Maori phone greeting and friendly voice inviting us to visit any day or time after 9.30am.
We entered the gate from the roadside and followed the path down into the outdoor area. At first I thought the outdoors was smaller and had less greenery because the flat area was covered by matting. I came to realise there was a great deal of space but it looked smaller because every nook and cranny had been carefully thought out and put to good use. Some of what I saw included challenging swings/ropes/ladders, a tea set laid out on the grass under the trees, a ladder to help climb the trees, an easily accessed garden complete with strawberries and a water pump by the sandpit where the overflow created a trickle of water around the sandpit. The climbing equipment provided all sorts of challenges including the frame of a slide where children could pull themselves up the poles, hang off or slide down one pole or both poles and so on. And there was just so much more including simple and creative things that children love to discover including natural materials attractively presented such as drift wood, pinecones, sticks and leaves. My child was drawn in and absorbed by dipping paint pot lids in a bubble mix in paint trays then blowing his own bubbles.
The huge sandpit was busy with little explorers, builders and scientists who were also enjoying mixing the sand with water from the nearby water pump supplied by rainwater from the roof. The sandpit was surrounded by a beautifully coloured mural depicting Maori mythology (Papa and Rangi (Paparangi)) and the shade sail posts were designed as trees. Other murals inside and outside the kindergarten provided the children with lots to look at and touch. Even the children’s bathroom was brightened not just by interior windows but also a large blue mural with sea creatures and sea shells.
Both my child and I were warmly greeted as we made our way into the kindergarten. Because my child got busy so quickly it wasn’t till a bit later that a teacher (Robin) checked if anyone had told us about the kindergarten. I soon learned about the kindergarten’s mantra that if a child wants to join in play they must ask first and if someone asks to play they can’t be told ‘no’. Perhaps this combined with all the activities on offer explains why I saw so many busy, happy, relaxed and bubbly children. I would never have guessed that it was the first day for two children. One was happily hanging off bars and blowing bubbles and the other was in between two girls holding hands skipping and singing with her new friends. I didn’t see any conflict during the hour or so we were there which is perhaps helped by the teachers encouraging children to ask, ‘can I have a turn… when you are finished’?
Robin signalled that we were welcome to stay by inviting me to make a cup of tea, though I wasn’t quite confident enough to make my own cuppa. As we spoke a child cried out as he was stuck on the climbing frame. Robin helped by talking him down and eventually gave him a helping hand. It was evident the children’s needs were always in the teachers’ minds as they were quick to be there for a child if they got hurt, stuck or wanted the teacher to watch, play or chat with them. The teachers were relaxed as they happily interacted with each other and the children. Mostly the teachers were observing the children, taking photos and writing notes. All the teachers were qualified and the majority of the teaching team had been together for 5 years or so.
Inside too every nook and cranny of the large space had been utilised so children were busy at the arts and craft table, reading corner, play dough table complete with ovens and such, volcano corner, home corner with a bed, a playhouse and more. The materials seemed to be all genuine and real rather than plastic or imitation. The children inside were also very busy including a group working together to organise their own tea party. My child eventually settled his interest on a real life frog and the surrounding pictures got us talking about tadpoles.
The kindergarten is licensed for 40 children and the space/environment easily kept them all busy so the numbers seemed much less. Children are not locked in out of the rain and are welcome to venture out and explore on wet days. On a very cold wet Wellington day inside might get a little crowded but I noticed sound absorption material on all the walls and lots of different spaces from end to end were available for the children to keep exploring including a roofed conservatory type area.
Many of the children go on to attend the neighbouring Paparangi Primary School so the children join in with new entrants for a Kapahaka group. There are also views of the primary school through a fence outside and a floor to ceiling window inside. Because my child is half Japanese I asked about different cultures being included in the programme. Robin explained that during enrolment I would share this information and the kindergarten would be happy to use Japanese phrases.
The programme consists of free play and a rolling morning tea which is when children are free to come and eat as they please. I was told the children all happily attend a mat time towards the end of the session to sing songs and read storybooks. Ratios are 1:10 but with the spoils of resources and carefully thought out activities teachers are not often called on by the children. Children bring their own food but a large modern kitchen also enables baking and so on. Informative and well-presented displays on walls meant both adults and children could read and understand what the children had been learning.
The kindergarten is free with the 20 hours free ECE subsidy or otherwise $4 per hour. All sessions start at 8.30am meaning the children are fresh and energetic. The 3-4 year old session lasts 4 hours and the 4-5 year old session is 6 hours long which would enable parents to make a good dent in their to-do lists.
Our farewell was prolonged due to my child stumbling across so many interesting things to see, touch and climb on the way out. He also really wanted to join some groups of children playing but hadn’t yet learned how to ‘ask’ first. However, when old enough to attend I am confident he would easily acquire such social skills and feel very included by the children and teachers of Paparangi Kindergarten.