The Free Kindergarten system in New Zealand is directly inspired by the teachings of Frederich Froebel (1782- 1852) who was a German scientist, philosopher and educationalist. The German name Kindergarten translates into English as meaning ‘a child’s garden’. Kindergarten is both a name and an analogy for how children flourish through freedom to play in natural settings.
Kindergartens in Aotearoa were established and continue to uphold the principle of inclusion for all. They are founded on the belief that children learn more profoundly through play than any other educational approach. Children’s need to be creative and expressive in their play is nurtured and promoted. The holistic kindergarten approach envelops the child as a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual being.
Kindergartens in Aotearoa/ New Zealand are committed to honouring the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and as such, authentically encompass a M‚ori world view in their practices, settings and beliefs .These understandings sit alongside the national bi-cultural early childhood curriculum, Te Wh‚riki which guides teaching and learning in all of our kindergartens.
Froebel established a set of occupations, gifts2 and Mother Songs3 that shaped much of the curriculum seen in kindergartens today. Some examples of these are gardening, sewing, weaving, scientific study of living things, singing nursery rhymes, M‚ori and English poetry, building with mathematical blocks and carpentry. Furniture and equipment in kindergartens is child sized and suitable for children. The tools children use in their occupations are functional and reflect the child’s play as their work, as opposed to being merely toys. Kindergarten settings are structured to ensure children have free access to the outdoors. Kindergarten teachers and visionaries protect and promote the child’s connection with nature and papatuanuku (earth mother).
Following from Froebel’s vision the primary adults who work in Kindergartens are teachers who are specifically qualified to teach young children and embrace ongoing learning themselves. Our kindergartens are staffed in ratio by 100% qualified, registered teachers. Kindergartens are established to serve their local community and governed by not for profit Associations. Community involvement underpins the ethos of the kindergarten movement.
1 ‘ occupations’ refers to materials chosen to empower the child to develop skills and innovations
2 ‘gifts’ refers to a set of carefully chosen and crafted play materials made of natural materials
3 ‘Mother Songs’ refers to collection of rhymes, poems and songs for mothers, teachers and children