Investigating Taniwha together through story, drawing and clay.

Over the term the children, Jenn and Maggie have been investigating Taniwha. We began (purposefully) without any visual influences.
Taniwha are legendary Maori guardians. Being a legend there are not photos, only artistic impressions. We wanted the children to come up with their own creative ideas on what Taniwha look like, without being influenced by artistic ideas.

In the first week of investigation, Jenn blanked out the picture from a children’s book ‘Taniwha’ by Robyn Kahukiwa and read it to the children. Incorporating our current focus on collaboration, Jenn asked the children to work together to create their pictures, thinking that they could bounce ideas off each other to create their pictures. They came up with some amazing pieces of drawing from their past experiences. Children seemed to add features of their favorite characters into their Taniwha creations. For example, some children portrayed their Taniwha as a princess while some thought it was like a multi-head monster; Some children added features such as arms, legs and tummy similar to humans, while others drew wings and tails on their Taniwha. Some children created their Taniwha with family.

On Thursday, Jenn read and acted out the Taniwha story (Wellington) and children were given coloured felt pens. We suggested, in pairs, they make and add stories to their drawings. The children came up with amazing ideas. Some were ideas they revisited from last week and others were new ideas the children brought in. Through the stories the children created, more details could be seen in the drawings. Ideas included lots of eyes, crowns, and wings. This time, children seemed to really enjoy this drawing experience. George and Jesse’s story comprised a series of drawings.

This week, we worked together to act out the story ‘the Taniwha of Wellington Harbour’. Afterwards we started a discussion sharing the children’s own ideas about their Taniwha. To incorporate the collaboration focus into the Taniwha creation, Maggie suggested the children draw a Taniwha together as a big group.
Maddy drew a Taniwha head with a crown on; Eira drew ten eyes with a nose on Taniwha’s face; Almog thought the Taniwha had a body like a T-rex; Jethrin added two arms on the Taniwha; Suri said the Taniwha had three legs and she added a bottom to the Taniwha; Luc believed that the Taniwha had two wings and a lot of legs.
Then the teachers joined in with the creation. Jenn drew a lake. Eira was inspired by Jenn’s idea and continued drawing a rainbow lake with coloured felt pens. Wilson (Student) added a long tongue and Vicky (Student) added some scales. Maggie put a tail on top of Suri’s Taniwha bottom.picture2

We introduced a new Taniwha story called Awarua the flying Taniwha. This time, Maggie set up a big and long piece of paper for children to draw their own Taniwha with black vivid pens. Children knelt down together around the paper and worked attentively on their own Taniwha on the mural. They spent a long time with lots of detail on their pictures. Some of the children connected their two Taniwha. It even inspired Jethrin’s mum to join us and create her own Taniwha. Teachers also joined in and created Taniwha too.

On Thursday, Jenn read Awarua the flying Taniwha again. We began a discussion about the investigation of Taniwha so far. We decided to continue to explore more about Taniwha with different media through art. Jenn planned to use black vivid pen with the children and add paint the following week. She provided each child with a black vivid pen and a piece of paper to draw their own Taniwha. Some of the children decided to draw their picture in pairs.

After a few weeks exploring Taniwha through drawing individually and in groups, the children have developed Taniwha images with more detail. We moved on to investigate with the children Taniwha habitats and how could we construct it with natural resources? In order to inspire children’s thoughts about Taniwha habitats, we decided to take the children for an excursion to the park near kindy. We would collect some natural materials to build a Taniwha habitat and display it at kindy. We hoped that this would inspire other children, including the morning children’s curiosity and interest in Taniwha.picture4

In order to explore more about Taniwha habitat, children in the Monday group used black vivid pens to express their ideas about their Taniwha habitat on paper. Children came up with a lot of ideas in their drawings. In their pictures, we saw a lot of detail from the inside and the outside environments, what Taniwha eat, how he/she lives. Children’s imagination and creativity seemed to be more and more sophisticated.
As we had planned, after drawing their individual Taniwha habitat, children were introduced to a new medium, clay. In the past couple of weeks, clay and natural resources such as leaves, sticks and rocks have been put on the table in the morning session for children to explore and manipulate. With a simple explanation about the medium, children sat at the table and started to explore it and use the clay and the natural resources provided to make their Taniwha habitats. Most of the children stood the sticks and leaves on a big piece of clay to represent their idea of trees.picture1

Time for our second mural. The children gathered around a big piece of paper and created their Taniwha habitat in a big group. The children really extended their ideas and incorporated the ideas from their friends into their pictures.

It was amazing to watch the growth and development over the last term of the children’s perception of Taniwha.
If you look at the pictures from the beginning to the end you really see the children’s fine motor skills and thinking developing. Their working theories about Taniwha have extended over the term. The children started off talking about, for example, eyes, mouths and princesses and by the end they really developed their ideas in collaboration with their friends.


Collaboration –
Speaking and listening skills
Sharing ideas as well as space and resources
Respecting and considering other people’s ideas and thoughts
Inspiring and learning from each other

Communication –
Extending children’s vocabulary
Developing children’s speaking and listening skills
Increasing children’s understanding and competence in symbolic, abstract, imaginative and creative thinking
Exploring verbal and non-verbal communication through storytelling and arts
Gaining understanding that symbols can be read and used to express and represent ideas and thoughts
Developing skills and confidence with art and craft processes such as drawing, painting and clay
Developing pre-literacy through taking interest in books and stories, storytelling and listening myths and legends

Fine motor skills –
Strengthen children’s fingers through drawing, painting and clay
Practicing pencil grip and getting ready for school
Practicing writing children’s names
Developing hand-eye coordination

Creativity –
Extending each other’s ideas through discussion
Using visual presentation to support expression and communication
Exploring and being familiar and confident with different medium

Problem solving and Risk taking
Developing children’s working theories

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Resilient Children – Our Head Teacher is interviewed on TVNZ Breakfast 26 January 2017

Why is resilience important in kindergarten?
Developing resilience in children under 5 years of age is integral to the work we do at Uplands Kindergarten. The teaching team is inspired by the work of Guy Claxton, Carol Dweck and Ken Robinson and the language we use at Uplands builds the skills necessary to develop this life skill.

Children need to hear and believe their abilities are not preset or fixed, that they can work their brain (like they would their body if in the gym) and expand their learning capacity. In a kind, enthusiastic and celebratory tone, these are some of the things you will hear at Uplands and things to try at home:
“I can see you are thinking”
“I can see you are concentrating”
“That was tricky!”
“I could see you trying”
“I wonder who we could ask to find out?”
“You’re a learning detective!”
“What a great idea”
“Try again, give it another go”
“Isn’t it fun when it’s tricky?”
“We are all learners, can you teach me?”
“Remember when you couldn’t do….You practiced and now you can! With more practice you will be able to do this too”
“What do you need to do that?”
“How did you solve the problem?”
“Those are interesting questions – let’s find out”

Sometimes learning something new is hard. Describing to children feelings of apprehension, frustration, confusion, worrying about making a mistake, gives them words to describe their feelings. Making a mistake is not the worst thing that can happen at Uplands Kindergarten. Take a chance and don’t be frightened of being wrong.
“What would make this easier for you?”
“How did you do it last time?”
“What else did you try?”
“Learning something new is tricky”
‘Yet’ is a word we always use. When children say “I’m not good at that yet”, we know they have faith in their ability over time. Through effort and difficulty, children take on new meanings and learning which extends the connections in their brain as opposed to crumbling if they make a mistake or things don’t go their own way.
Every word and action we use sends a message to the child, telling them how to think about themselves. We focus on the process they used, the strategies, effort and choices they made.

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Smooth Transitions: Moving from Kindergarten to School

Thinking about the transition from Kindergarten to Primary School can evoke an array of emotions in children and parents. These emotions can vary from excitement to apprehension and many in between! We know that having an effective transition is critical for children’s confidence, resilience and ongoing success at school.

So what can we do to make this a positive experience? Recently, one of our teachers attended a workshop on this very important topic. The teachers were inspired to think about practical things we could do for our next group of school starters. Here’s what we’ve done so far…

The Explorers:

We have a group of three Uplands graduands who will be starting school soon. To build up their familiarity and confidence in the school environment the teachers organised a special trip for the group to go and be “explorers” at their school. We set off, camera’s in hand, for the children to take photographs of their school.


The children enjoyed noticing the similarities between Uplands and school, “That’s like our digger at kindy.”


Back at Kindy the children published a book about their school. Choosing their photos and typing the words.

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Finally, the children shared their story at mat time.

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Top Tips for supporting your Child’s Transition to School:

  • Take your child to visit their school on the weekend to play on the playground.
  • Find out about school visits that are run by school in the lead up to their transition.
  • Listen for opportunities from your child to talk or ask any questions they may have about school.
  • Connect with children and family’s that are transitioning to the same school.
  • Chat to the teachers at Uplands for more ideas tailored to your child.



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Uplands Kindergarten Police Force

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Recently a team of ‘police officers’ have been patrolling the playground here at Uplands. Our costumes have inspired the play and the children have been adding more resources like walkie talkies, phones, traffic signs and office stationary to add authenticity to their play.

While the interest in police role play has continued for a few weeks’ now the children’s focus has been around chasing and imprisoning baddies. The teachers recognised potential to introduce new knowledge about the role of police officers…


Tash (teacher) called a meeting with all the police officers and told a story about a police officer helping a lost child. Tash drew characters to help illustrate the plot. The children were enthusiastic about going outside to role play the story.

Since then the children have also learnt about custom dogs and officers at the airport and this has been incorporated into play. Pictured below are police dogs sniffing for fruit in a passenger’s luggage.


Come in and see the continuation of this story on our planning board!

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Uplands Kindergarten turns 47!


A Remuera institution turns 47 in 2017. Uplands Kindergarten has been providing local children with the highest-quality early childhood education since 1970. To celebrate 45 years, the highly-regarded kindergarten hosted an afternoon tea on March 22, 2015, from 3-5pm, onsite at Somervell Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Remuera and Greenlane East roads.

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