Home away from home: kindy’s unique set-up

The Hutt News - - FRONT PAGE - ELEANOR WEN­MAN

‘‘Ev­i­dence shows it brings in the fam­ily and whanau.’’

A Lower Hutt kinder­garten is mak­ing a big splash with its unique style.

Stokes Val­ley Kinder­garten is no ‘‘cat­a­logue-kindy’’, head teacher Jodi Wa­ters said. In­stead, she has made it into a home, com­plete with in­cense burn­ing on the win­dow sills and can­dles flick­er­ing on home­made wooden ta­bles.

Her style has proved a hit. A Face­book video up­loaded last month which shows the space has been shared nearly 600 times and has nearly 90,000 views from peo­ple around the world.

The re­ac­tion was a wel­come sur­prise for Wa­ters, who had only been look­ing to cre­ate a ‘‘home away from home’’ for par­ents and chil­dren.

When she came to the kinder­garten three years ago, she started from scratch. ’’There were no es­tab­lished teach­ers, only re­liev­ers - I needed par­ent in­volve­ment.’’

She wanted par­ents to be in­vested so she made the space feel like a home. She cre­ated ‘‘learn­ing pock­ets’’ rather than one open space, brought in a din­ing table for the chil­dren and in­tro­duced in­cense.

The kinder­garten took its cue from Ital­ian par­ents in WWII. At the time, with lit­tle money and re­sources, par­ents started us­ing nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als to cre­ate toys and tools for their chil­dren. Ed­u­ca­tion move­ment the Reg­gio phi­los­o­phy grew from there.

Un­der this phi­los­o­phy , learn­ing is self-di­rected, Wa­ters said. When work­ing on class projects the teach­ers fol­low what the chil­dren are in­ter­ested in.

‘‘Ev­i­dence shows it brings in the fam­ily and whanau,’’ she said.

While the chil­dren in Stokes Val­ley still used Lego blocks, plas­tic cups and plates were gone, re­placed by glass jars and metal bowls. In­stead of plas­tic tea sets to play with, metal teapots are set out on the wooden ta­bles.

Can­dles on the ta­bles raised some eye­brows, es­pe­cially among com­menters on the Face­book video, but Wa­ters said she laughed when she was read­ing some of them.

‘‘A lot of time has gone into ed­u­cat­ing chil­dren around safety.’’

Some­times, it had been as sim­ple as say­ing, if you touch that, you will get burnt, she said.

Wa­ters also finds a lot of par­ents com­ment on how clean the kinder­garten is kept. She said it came down to a mat­ter of re­spect.

‘‘We work along­side the chil­dren. We have that equal part­ner­ship.’’

PHOTO: ELEANOR WEN­MAN/STUFF

Head teacher JodiWaters backs self­di­rected learn­ing Stokes Val­ley Kinder­garten head teacher Jodi Wa­ters plays with some play­dough in the kindy with a dif­fer­ence.

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