Kids play with fire to learn how to burn

The Leader (Tasman) - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - NINA HINDMARSH

A group of Golden Bay chil­dren are light­ing fires to learn about safety as part of their for­est pro­gramme.

Every week since the be­gin­ning of term two, chil­dren from Golden Bay Kin­der­garten walk to the nut for­est be­hind the Golden Bay Com­mu­nity Gar­dens and light a fire as part of their Te Nga­here [for­est] pro­gramme.

Te Nga­here is the kin­der­garten’s re­for­esta­tion and na­ture pro­gramme which has been run­ning for nearly three years.

The cen­tre is the only En­vi­roschool in Golden Bay to hold the GreenGold ti­tle, the high­est level of na­tional recog­ni­tion.

Marni Thompson, 4, said her favourite thing about the fire safety was roast­ing the yummy ap­ples on a stick.

‘‘What I learnt the most is stand­ing back [from the fire] when it’s get­ting big­ger.’’

Head Teacher Re­becca Ol­ney said the kin­der­garten had the idea to learn about fire safety in the leadup to their an­nual Matariki cel­e­bra­tion in the for­est, where they had a large fire pit.

The kin­der­garten had ap­plied for a fire per­mit and were vis­ited by a fire­fighter be­fore cre­at­ing a cir­cle to­gether with stones and col­lect­ing sticks and fire­wood for the fire, she said.

‘‘The chil­dren learn heaps, and we have been us­ing our re­sources like ap­ples and chest­nuts to roast on the fire.’’

Teacher Les­ley Hop­kins, who first es­tab­lished the Te Nga­here pro­gramme at the kin­der­garten, said the chil­dren were be­ing em­pow­ered to learn and re­spect the fire, by know­ing and un­der­stand­ing the risks of be­ing around it.

‘‘Through this di­rect experience they are gain­ing knowl­edge about the na­ture of an open flame. Within this safe and con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment, they are also learn­ing the nec­es­sary skills needed to keep them­selves safe.’’

She said the fire safety train­ing had nat­u­rally evolved in the Te Nga­here pro­gramme.

‘‘It’s a way that we can, every week, con­sis­tently go back to the same space and give the chil­dren an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act and con­nect with na­ture in the most mean­ing­ful way you can, which is by be­ing in it and learn­ing through their senses.’’

Over the years, Te Nga­here has seen the chil­dren clear­ing the bay trees and blackberry bushes and plant­ing na­tives.

‘‘We couldn’t even walk through [the for­est] when we first started, now there’s so much space. It’s on Maori land, and so orig­i­nally would have been low­land wet­land area and we are try­ing to rein­tro­duce the trees that used to be there.’’

PHOTO: NINA HINDMARSH/ FAIR­FAX

Play­ing with fire (from left): Hjaate MacInes; Lara Cuck­sey; Cait­lyn Page; Alazay Poole and Lola Zee­woldt.

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