Our beautiful centre is situated in Swanson and has a semi-rural feel to it. Our tamariki enjoy the pleasures of our natural outdoor learning environment, with real grass, real puddles and plenty of equipment that is upgraded or changed regularly to encourage our children's interest, risk-taking and exploration needs and that keep them engaged the whole day through. We also have a well-resourced and functioning indoor learning environment that encourages and enables physical growth, emotional growth and life skills. With activities that stimulate all the senses and a wide array of places and things to explore.
Our learning environment is specially designed and set up in a manner that fosters the tikanga Maori practice of Tuakana-teina. In a learning context this is the peer-based learning relationship usually between the tuakana (older, or more expert peer) and the teina (younger, or less expert peer). These roles are also quite often reversed, as we recognize that each of our children are individuals and come with different knowledge and experiences that they can share with each other. It can also take on a variety of different blended forms - tuakana teaches teina, teina teaches tuakana,tuakana teaches tuakana, teina teaches teina. Tuakana-teina is and was an integral part and the underlying philosophy of traditional Maori society and recognizes the value of Ako (to learn), and in history was almost solely presented in older teaches younger, and over generations and in a modern setting it has adapted itself into what we see and use today. With a Kindergarten based setting and in a community as diverse as ours, this practice is automatically fostered due to the varied age range spending their day together. We have extended on this practice with specially design our extended learning space (which includes children under 2), so that all our tamariki have the ability to see and communicate with each other from the age of 3 months to 5 years. This practice ties in beautifully with the te whariki strands of belonging (mana whenua), wellbeing (mana atua) and contribution (mana tangata). This also instills all our children regardless of age and regardless of the individual being the tuakana or the teina they learn valuable life skills including but definitely not limited to respect, nurture, care, sharing, co-constructing...........and collaborative learning. It has been well documented that children that have come from open, inclusive and collaborative learning environment have learnt overall at a much faster pace, as their experiences are not restricted to an age group or separated room structures.
Children are consistently learning regardless of the involvement of an adult/teacher or their peers and even when a child is alone they are learning, it is important to us to create an learning environment that is engaging, encouraging and allows explorations. With this in mind, consideration of our environment becomes a critical in allowing children to be adventurous, interested and undertaking within the planning of an early childhood programme.