Situated only 10 minutes from town, nestled in the Te Miro native bush and perched on the banks of the Waitakaruru stream is The Forest ECE - A unique early learning opportunity for children from aged 3 to 6 at our ECE, and from 5 and up for our one-day-school that runs on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Our kaiako (teachers) are trained not only as ECE teachers but also in Forest teaching and learning, and the combination of the two is the key to hands-on, authentic, one of a kind learning experiences.
We have a beautiful centre where we begin and end our days - recycled and re-furbished beauty is everywhere and reflects our ethos of being kaitiaki (preservers and protectors) of our land. We are firm believers in raising future generations fostering their inherent appreciation and love for nature and instilling a drive to care for it always.
Whilst out in the Forest the children can let their imaginations run wild. Papatūānuku (our earth) is the third kaiako. The environment provides resources that are limitless. For example; a stick can be a stick, a fishing rod, a hammer, a magic wand, part of a construction, the X that hides hidden treasure, a pen to write our name in the dirt and so much more! The terrain changes frequently with the seasons and the weather systems thus offers multiple learning opportunities, keeping things different and sparking imaginations. We also use 'real' resources - hammers, knives, ropes, flints, fire etc that tamariki are supported to learn to use safely to facilitate authentic and meaningful learning and life skills.
The physical and cognitive challenge, the conversations, the wonder, the questioning, all of this supports early literacy, numeracy and figuring out how the world works, social competence and problem solving. Authentically connecting with nature, tamariki climb trees, light fires, cross streams, ride ponies, make huts, feed lambs, goats, pigs and chickens - and most importantly have fun being happy, carefree kids. Resilience, risk taking, teamwork, perseverance, problem solving, responsibility, communication, are all skills that come from these experiences just to name a few. It has been proven many times that hands-on learning experiences are when children really thrive and learn.
Our small team is a little bit mad, full of fun, and we are a real 'work whaanau', both working and playing together. Many will know that Early Childhood has historically been fraught with underfunding, pay parity and pay equity issues, and David and Sara with their accessible, personal, responsive service have been pivotal in keeping our finances straight while we focus on the children, and we are grateful for them every day!