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Preview: Little Eyes on Nature

Little Eyes on Nature

Discovering the magic of nature and nurturing a love for the earth in young children

Updated: 2018-03-06T20:56:09.888+13:00


New beginning


“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love of this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.         

– Richard Louv, author and co-founder Children & Nature Network

It has been very quiet on the posting front of Little Eyes on Nature.
The one and only #1 reason: we are just too busy playing in, on, and with the Earth!

Little Eyes on Nature is taking a break from blogging. Instead, we are starting up a Facebook page to share our love of the Earth and our quest to help our children creating childhood memories they will treasure for ever.

The blog will remain active, but only with a few postings every so now and then. Thank you to all followers and readers and a big thank you to all of you who placed comments. It's been a rich and inspiring experience, and it has connected me with some beautiful kindred and passionate people across our beautiful planet. Your dedication to connecting our youngsters with nature is crucial to the well-being of our children and the Earth. Blessings to you all.

- Mahia nga mahi o nga tamariki hei rangatira - Fulfill the need of our children and tomorrow they stand strong

Anja - Little Eyes on Nature

Our new Facebook page:

We love watching the birds


At our preschools we are trying our very best to make our environment friendly to all sorts of wildlife. When we build Little Earth the place was no more than a paddock full of grass. For the past three years we planted lots of native plants to attract wildlife, especially insects and birds. This year these plants have been blooming and more birds have come to visit us. Apart from the regular visits from the sparrows, this week we spotted waxeyes, tui, korimako/bellbird, starling, chaffinch, and goldfinch enjoying our plants at Little Earth. Even the Paradise ducks come and enjoy our place, too. They even bring their little babies. At Tawa Montessori Preschool we have been enjoying watching the birds for years. The tui and fantails are regular visitors to our garden, as are the blackbirds, the piopio/thrush and the yellowhammer.

We love watching the birds. We will sit very quietly at a short distance, as we know that if we come too close, or make too much noise, the birds will fly away. Sometimes we don’t notice the birds when we are too busy, but when we keep still and just observe them we discover a lot of things about the birds. We notice how their colours, sizes, sounds, and way of eating are different.

Sensorial experiences are of vital importance for the development of the child. Whilst the children love matching the birds with the pictures in the bird book, trying to find out what the names of the birds are, knowing the bird names is by far less important as sitting quietly and observing and listening to the birds. Connecting with the senses and marveling at nature is not rocket science. Our teachers do not have a degree in ornithology to go birdwatching with our children. The only thing you need to do is to “just notice”, to be aware, to be open to what is happening right here and then in front of you. The sparrow taking a bath in the puddle, the tui calling out in the kowhai tree, the waxeyes eating the little berries. Slow down and look at them, marvel at them with your child. It is the simple authentic experiences that feed their heart.

- Anja

Nature, an inspiration for all learning


Our outdoor area at both Tawa Montessori Preschool and Little Earth is an integral part of the indoor classroom. It is not just a retreat to go to for a rest, or just another place to sit down with an indoor activity. Instead, it is a carefully prepared environment which is set up to meet the needs of the child. Care plays an important role in the prepared environment. It is through care our children learn respect and compassion for all living things, including themselves. A key element of our preschool programme is to show our children what caring means. Role modeling and supporting them in their efforts is a much more meaningful experience than just written words.  We focus on observation, patience, and respect for all living creatures, in and outside the classroom.  We do this not only through teaching our children to respect Nature, but also through giving them experiences in the virtues of stillness, wonder, and calmness. “Not too long ago it was assumed that clean water's not important, that seeing the stars is not that important. But now it is. And now I think we're realizing quiet is important and we need silence. That silence is not a luxury, but it's essential.” - Gordon HemptonWe learn about stillness, appreciating the quiet moments to imagine, to  question and to dream, to be alone with our own thoughts. Silence often connects us with our inner selves, something we often forget about. We often sit down with the children in our garden in silence and let them make their own discoveries. “If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder … so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years.”  - Rachel CarsonToday's life is hectic for adults and children. At preschool, we show our children how to take a deep breath, slow down, and wonder at the beauty of Nature. Children are curious by nature. To them, everything is a wonder. We encourage our children to stop and look at something with attention and to marvel at the miracles of Nature, be it a spider web, an emerging butterfly or an earthworm. "Children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today. They are entitled to be taken seriously. They have a right to be treated by adults with tenderness and respect, as equals. They should be allowed to grow into whoever they were meant to be - The unknown person inside each of them is the hope for the future."  - Janusz KorczakCalmness is an important part of being peaceful. Calmness is nurtured through a harmonious and beautiful environment based on the principles of freedom of choice, respect for ourselves, others and the environment, and cooperation. We give our children full attention in an outdoor environment where they are able to move freely, and engage in activities for unlimited time without being hurried to move on to the next activity. Just like Maria Montessori believed in the power of Nature, we too believe that Nature is a source of inspiration for all learning. However, at our preschools we believe that Nature is not just to be seen as a classroom. Indeed, Nature is part of who and what we are. Nature is our own being and we should treat it with uttermost respect, just like we treat ourselves. Nature is not a place to visit now and then, Nature is not a far away land. Nature is here, right where we are. It is our role to give our children awareness and sensitivity to the importance of Nature and the interconnectedness we all have.- AnjaWhy Nature with Capital N - To demonstrate a powerful symbol of the shift in thinking - from a view of nature as simply a source of resources to be extracted to gain capital of the monetary kind, to one of Nature whose natural capital supports life itself, deserving the utmost admiration. For more information see the Earth Values Institute's The Capital N in Nature Camp[...]

Routines or Rituals - Dispower or Empower?


At our preschools, our children learn about the world through what we, the adults, do with them throughout the day, and through their self-chosen uninterrupted play and activities.  What we do with them manifests itself through the three R’s, the Routines, the Rituals and the Rhythms of our preschool programme.  We have always had rituals at our preschool, but after having done some professional development focusing on the importance of rituals we are giving them more attention and focus.  This is what we have learned ...The routines are our care moments.  We all feel safe with a bit of routine.  The care moment is the key for building a relationship. The ritual is the preparation for  bringing the moments together.  They are the anchor for the emotional safety of the child.The rhythms provides the flow of our programme.  We bake bread and make pesto in the morning, we choose our own activities, we have lunch at noon, etc.  The self-chosen, uninterrupted play, what we call the workcycle in Montessori, is the biological rhythm. The routines, the rituals and the rhythms bring the predictability.  They are the anchor or the container for  the child to hold them.  It gives them a sense of safety.  This foundation of safety is the basis of our programme, it is the key to what and when.There is some confusion between routines and rituals.  Routines are usual less engaging, less personal, repetitive, boring and easily become a chore. Rituals provide richness, they give a message of love and care, are meaningful, give a sense of belonging, cultural and have active participants.  The ritual forms the container for the ongoing relationships.  They need to come from the heart.  Rituals also speak to the children's reptilian brain, telling them “this is known, this is safe”.  Children can then proceed from the safety of the known into the unknown. They feel emotionally secure, and can move out of their comfort zone and in to the state required for learning.  Loving and caring rituals are therefore very important. A good programme is enriched by rituals, rather than disarmed by routines!  Routines should be rituals, rituals should not be routines.  Routines should be empowering, not dispowering.  Rituals should be enriching, not disarming.  An enriching ritual has the children empowered as participants.  There is an atmosphere of trust, respect and cooperation with and among akonga (learners).  Routines are few and simple, rituals are rich and warm!At Little Earth, we have a lunch ritual that nourishes not only the body, but also the soul.  Far from being a teacher controlled event, children play an active part in the lunch procedures.  The ritual starts with music which signals it is time to prepare for lunch.  First we connect together, singing a song on the guitar.  Then we all get ready for lunch.  We set the table with beautiful cotton table clothes, china plates, wax candles, fresh flowers and real cutlery.  Beauty is important for any ritual.  When ready, the children get their lunchboxes.  They take the food out of their lunchbox and put it on their plate.  Teachers and children sit down together and we all say a karakia (thank you for our food).  When finished we all tidy up the table, do our dishes and go of to play. A ritual is giving full attention to the ordinary.  Rituals are emotional nurturing.  They create a known, safe heaven, but at the same time provide for creative experiences that produce divine moments.  Moments you can FEEL.  Rituals come from the Hearth and are authentic.  If done with full attention, rituals can feed us all, the body, the mind and the soul!What rituals do you have in your centre?- AnjaIf you want to learn more about rituals in your early childhood centre, contact Little Earth for more information about [...]

Paper to Paper


We have a lot of paper waste. What shall we do with it all? Let’s make paper!Paper is one of the most versatile products of modern mankind.  In the very old days, paper was made from rags and vegetable fibers, extracted from hemp, bamboo, willow etc.  Today paper is primarily produced from wood.  We use hundreds of  millions of tonnes of paper each year, resulting in  billions of trees cut down and tonnes of paper waste in landfills.  As an Enviroschool, at both our preschools we “nurture Nature and People and the whole school environment is a learning resource”.  In practice that means that our programme focuses on giving children access to activities that reflect an ecological approach and a positive belief in the future. We aim to practice sustainable practices where possible.  With all that paper waste it means we have to act!  At both Tawa Montessori Preschool and at Little Earth we have a system where we collect paper waste and use it to make new paper.  The paper waste we collect is soaked in water and every week we make a batch of pulp.  This way we can make our own paper every day. The paper making activity is set up so that the children at our preschool can do this independently, at any time of the day.  The only time an adult is needed is when we make the pulp as it involves the use of a blender. The pulp is stored in a sealed container in the fridge for daily use throughout the week. We made the frames ourselves, using fly screen from the diy shop, and the tray is an enamel oven dish.Here are the steps we use to make our own paper:Materials: tray, jug for water, pulp, frame, frame with mesh, towelTo make the pulp:- Rip paper into tiny pieces.- Add water and soak for a few days.- Put soaked paper into a blender with a little extra water and blend to a pulp.- Tip pulp into a container and store in fridge.To make the paper:- Tip some pulp in the tray, if needed, ad some water- Submerge frame into the tray.  Gently get an even coverage of pulp over the mesh in the frame.- Lift frame out of the water. - Gently dry with a towel.- Remove top frame to reveal paper!- Carefully turn paper out on to another dry towel.- Wait to dry!We have been making paper daily for nearly two years now. We use this paper for cutting, glueing, wrapping, drawing, and lots of other activities in the classroom. We have even used it to make our own seedling pots.- Anja[...]

Matariki and the wonderful spirit of Giving!


"Everything can be great, because everybody can serve."- Martin Luther King Jr The wonderful thing about the naturalised environment and enviro focus at Tawa Montessori Preschool and Little Earth is that it is never finished! Even having received a silver and a green-gold EnviroSchool award, which some people refer to as ‘the top’, we are by no means standing still. We are still aiming to be a more sustainable community and foster a sustainable mind set in our tamariki and families. It is this positive attitude to growth and change that really sets our preschools apart as a truly environmentally friendly early childhood centre.While we have been teaching the children at our preschools to be stewards and caretaker of the Earth and its inhabitants for many years, we are also teaching them to be of service to the community. The Montessori philosophy encourages a vision of peaceful communities and service to others. It was Maria Montessori’s vision that a peaceful world, created by children, would make the world a better place.At our preschools we foster this with the children through learning the joy of giving of themselves, and develop compassion through practical life volunteer experiences. We regularly visit the elderly at the local club, help out with community work like tree planting and we collect and donate gifts to local charities.This year we are celebrating Matariki in the spirit of community service and giving. Matariki is the Maori name for the group of stars also known as the Pleiades star cluster or The Seven Sisters. In New Zealand the rise of Matariki in the sky and the sighting of the next new moon is celebrated as Maori New Year. Matariki lies within the Taurus constellation and rises only once a year in the eastern sky around the shortest days of the year. Traditionally, The Matariki star constellation marked a time for starting all things new. Today Matariki means celebrating the unique place in which we live and giving respect to the land we live on. It is celebrated as a time to share with each other, for family and friends to come together and share in the gifts that the land and sea have provided for them. This year Matariki is on June 21, New Zealand’s winter solstice. Matariki celebrates the diversity of life. At both our preschools we celebrate and acknowledge what we have and what we have to give, a celebration of spirit and people.At Tawa Montessori Preschool we organised a “bring and buy”, with children and families bringing home made or surplus produce. These products were for sale for a koha (a small monetary donation). The koha will be donated to the breakfast club at one of the local schools.At Little Earth we set up a “community service sack”. This sack is passed from family to family. The family will fill up the sack with donated goods and deliver it with their child to a local charity. The empty sack will then be passed on to the next family who in their turn will fill up the sack with donations and deliver. “The needs of mankind are universal. Our means of meeting them create the richness and diversity of the planet. The Montessori child should come to relish the texture of that diversity”. - Maria MontessoriOur preschool community really is a community of caring and joyful learners! How did you celebrate Matariki this year?- Anja[...]

The Nido - The Partnership Dance and Culture of Respect


“If we continue to actively pursue the path of child-rearing reform and evolution throughout the world, then utopian ideals such as world peace and ecologically sustainable development are entirely within our grasp.” - Robin Grille (Parenting for a Peaceful World) Late last year we started a new programme at Little Earth, called the Nido. Nido means Nest in Italian. At The Nido we facilitate parent and infant classes, based on Pennie Brownlee’s “Dance with me in the Heart” book and training. The programme acknowledges that the young child will develop according to nature’s plan in a culture of respect where they can be a free and equal human being. Pennie developed the programme based on the learning she gained when she went to the Pikler Institute in Budapest in 2004 to study the work of Dr Emmi Pikler (1902 - 1984). Dr Emmi Pikler’s peaceful approach is ‘all about the baby and child’. Pennie’s programme teaches us to see our baby  and child for who he or she really is, which is the basis for the Partnership Dance, and the Culture of Respect. The focus of The Nido classes is the relationship and the bonding between parent and infant. This first relationship between the infant and the parent is all for the child. It sets the scene for every other relationship which will follow. The better that relationship is the better the baby’s chances for the rest of her life, contributing to a more peaceful world.We are nearing the end of our first full ten week course, with only two more classes to go. Facilitating the course has been an incredible experience. During the course we have explored various topics that deepen the parents’ understanding of their important role. We have learned about movement, care moments, play, heart coherence, tuning in, partnership and respect, full attention, and awareness. We have shared beautiful moments, observing our babies and growing the relationship we have with our babies and with ourselves.  The learning not only applies to relationships with babies, but they also work in every other relationship in our lives. “Once we fully comprehend the far-reaching implication of our collective parenting choices, the idea that a mother or father in the home are of lesser status than an executive in the boardroom, will be dumped in the deepest corner of the trash-bin of history. Parenting or school teaching are no less momentous and influential career choices than joining the diplomatic corps or registering for a Masters of Business Administration. Parents and teachers can be the most powerful and effective social-change agents - as long as they are given the resources and social support they need to fulfill their potential. “- Robin Grille (Parenting for a Peaceful World)The most important role the parent has is to grow a healthy working partnership with their baby, a partnership where they and their baby work as one. So instead of doing things to their child parents learn the simple skills of how to do things with their child. If you want to be part of the Heart Dance Revolution, the next 10 weeks course of The Nido “Dance with me in the Heart” classes at Little Earth will start in Term 3 2012. Follow/Like us on Facebook!- AnjaIf you want to know more about the Pikler approach, Clare from Nature Play (South East London) has done an incredible job collating a huge amount of information about Emmi Pikler and her approach into one website, The Pikler Collection.[...]

Lavender-Infused Oil - delighting the senses


“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”
- Luther Burbank 

We have English lavender plants in our garden at Little Earth. This year, over summer, we had an abundance of lavender flowers blooming in our garden.  We wondered what we can make out of them.  Last year we have learned how we can cook with our lavender flowers.  We know that lavender biscuits are yummy but we want to know more.  This year we have been exploring other ways on how we make our lavender flowers more beneficial to us apart from attracting bees in our garden and using them to beautify our surroundings.

We had a look at  a lavender book and we saw a photo of a bottle of lavender soaked in a yellow stuff- apparently it is oil.  We learned that lavender flowers have oil that can make another oil aromatic.  We decided that we wanted to make this, too, thus; we made our own lavender-infused oil,  learning about making  lavender-infused oil which can be used for cooking and for taking care of our body as an itchy bite ointment or  for relaxing our tired bodies.

Here is what we did:

- Materials: fresh lavender flowers, olive oil, jar, strainer

- Fill a jar with lavender buds.

- Pour the olive oil over the buds. Fill it full enough to cover the buds completely.

- Let the jar sit for at least a week in a dry place away from direct sunlight.

- Shake the jar at least once a week to make sure the potion is mixed well.

- After a week, use the strainer to strain all the lavender and sediment from the oil.

- Pour the oil into the clean jar.

You now have your own infused lavender oil to use for baths or massages. Our lavender infused oil can even be used for cooking.

Needless to say we had plenty of uptakes for our  bottles of Lavender oil!

- Anja

The Natural Childhood report from the UK


The National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland has recently published a report in the UK that presents overwhelming evidence of a long-term and dramatic decline in children’s relationship with the outdoors, building on Richard Louv’s pioneering work, calling for urgent action before it is too late. The Natural Childhood report is written by Stephen Moss and shows that children’s connection with the outdoors is crucial to their development.

The Trust have set up an inquiry to gather evidence and ideas from experts and the public across the UK and other countries, the results of which will be reviewed and a roadmap agreed by UK experts this summer.

As part of the debate, they are running a series of thematic and expert guest blog postings each week at They are currently running guest blogs about Natural Childhood Around the World. I wrote this weeks contribution from New Zealand, which you can view on their website.

 The full ‘Natural Childhood’ report can be accessed here on the National Trust’s website. Please show your support, get involved and give yourself and your children a daily dose of Vitamine N(ature)!

- Anja

Our first bounty!


Thank you for our happy hearts, rain and sunny weather.  Thank you for our food and that we are together. - Karakia Tawa Montessori Preschool and Little Earth MontessoriThere is plenty of information available about the importance of school gardens.  Gardening with children helps them to connect with nature, it teaches them about nutrition, it introduces children to sustainable practices and children learn about the life cycle and science.  For us at Tawa Montessori Preschool and at Little Earth, the gardens play another very important role.  The gardens at our preschools give us reasons for celebration and nurture a sense of community. Our recent gardening working bee at Tawa Montessori Preschool saw teachers, parents, friends, grandparents and the children spending two hours together, weeding, pruning, raking, sweeping and playing, followed with some well deserved food.  We had a great time in the garden, on a beautiful Friday afternoon.  Times like this happen less and less as we are busy with work and family commitments.  We forget how important these times are for the well-being of all of us as an individual, and as a family.  Spending time together and working for a common good fosters a sense of belonging, contributes to friendships and rekindles our relationships as teachers, parents, friends and children.  A garden is a beautiful setting for moments like these!The gardens at our preschools also give us many opportunities for celebrations as we celebrate the seasons, as well as the many wonders and miracles we encounter in our gardens throughout the year. Gardening is a part of our daily activities. We sow seeds and watch them grow, we attend to their needs and take care of the plants. This year Papatuanuku has been very generous  and provided us with plenty of vegetables and fruits at Little Earth. To share our bounty with our whanau we organised a summer Harvest Festival with a picnic lunch. The children  called it a “Veggie Party.”The Harvest Festival served as a celebration of all of our work in the garden and the food grown on the land. It was a spontaneous, impromptu celebration, requiring only a low key organisation one week ahead. We prepared a menu from our harvest and the children all helped with the preparation. Each played a role to make our “veggie party” a success from harvesting, pasta-making, tomato sauce making, pesto making, bread making, juicing, and baking, to setting the table. We had a big turn-out of families who brought along their savoury dishes whipped up from their garden’s produce, too. After blessing our food with our Karakia, we all sat down in our garden and shared the food. The family contributions and community spirit were overwhelming and we are still buzzing with excitement.Thanks you to all who came, to our working bee at Tawa Montessori Preschool, and to our Harvest Festival at Little Earth Montessori: A garden truly grows more than just plants, it grows people!- Anja[...]

A Culture of Care and Respect


At both our preschools, our environment is one of beauty and harmony, with a curriculum centered on caring. We want our time spent together as a community to be a truly social experience. We play together, we work together.  We learn to make our own voice heard, as well as listen carefully for the voices of others.  We aim to not only respect each other, but show respect in all our interactions. “We are all connected in the circle of life”These words, inspired by my beautiful friend Marghanita from Outside with Marghanita, are on our gate and at our entrance.  We live these words in our daily practices. We care for our chickens who then care for us by providing us with eggs.  We use these eggs for making lemon honey, but then crush up the egg shells and feed them back to the chickens for extra nutrients. We plant seeds, water and care for them, nourished with coffee grounds from the local coffee shop.  We  later harvest the vegetables and use them in our food preparation.  Any scraps are given to our animals or put in the compost which will feed our soil. And the circle continues. The children at our preschools engage their heads, hands and hearts in the garden and beyond.  They are fully involved in the physical work of collecting, transporting, setting up and maintaining the environments.  They show care in making sure the animals are taken care of, the creatures that live in our garden have a safe habitat, and the plants are well looked after.Caring and creating a culture of respect, nurturing the heart and the emotional well being of each child is at the core of what we do.  We know that to be open to learning and confident to experiment, our ‘emotional fuel tank’ needs to be full. We also know that young children have a strong desire to be independent.  They want to be able to make their own choices, participate in their own daily care, and complete their own tasks.  Children do not want us to serve them, they want us to show them how they can do something for themselves. They need to make their own discoveries in learning.  Deep satisfaction does not come from watching someone else complete a job for you!  Satisfaction comes from repeated attempts, personal growth and eventual mastery. Childhood is a journey that shapes the child for the rest of their life. In order to keepsake childhood, and to create a culture of care and respect, we need to create a warm haven for our children where they can feel safe and secure, where they can be independent and where they are given time to develop according to nature’s plan. In today’s hurried world, at Tawa Montessori Preschool and at Little Earth, we aim to provide the antidote to the stress and fast pace of our modern lifestyle, through reconnecting our children with nature. Animals, a garden, and a living landscape to explore are key elements of our preschool programme. Awakening the children’s awe and wonder for nature and its miracles are part of their daily experiences. Outdoors is where we ought to be!- Anja[...]

Ko te Ngahere - Our Forest Programme


That moment of Wonder is the source of all spiritual growth  - Richard LouvForest Kindergartens are preschools in the outdoors, usually in a forest, but there are preschools with programmes at the beach. Children attending a forest kindergarten spend most, if not all, of their time in the outdoors. There are several types of forest kindergartens, some have their base away from the forest, some have their base inside the forest, whilst some forest kindergartens do not have a base at all and are totally immersed in the natural environment. The kindergarten may have a shelter in the forest for assemblies like snack time, lunch time and/or nap time, or for shelter from severe weather. In general the children play and learn outside regardless the weather, wearing clothes suitable for the prevailing weather. The shelter can be a building, a hut, a yurt, a caravan, or even a teepee. Forest kindergartens have been a part of the Scandinavian preschool education for over 30 years. They are also common in Germany and Denmark and are spreading through the rest of Europe and Northern America. Children attending forest kindergartens play, and explore in the outdoors, with natural objects in their environment used as tools for their learning. Singing, dancing, stories, and other activities all take place in the he outdoor setting. At Little Earth we are committed to giving children real lief and authentic experiences. Our beautiful outdoor environment, the ever changing theatre of nature, is the ideal environment where children can be active and concrete learners. It is constantly changing, highly attractive and full of beauty. Since the opening of Little Earth in 2009 we have been taking our children on Forest Walks. We have a beautiful native forest reserve near our preschool. Nikau Reserve is a lush nikau palm forest, frequently visited by kereru and tui and other native birds. The Forest Walks at Little Earth are very popular with our children and parents, who join us on our forest walks. The children play and explore the forest and are introduced to the beautiful treasures of Tane, the guardian of the forest, according to Maori legend. The forest environment provides many challenges and interesting features for the children to play and explore. They are happy climbing over logs, lifting up branches and exploring the stream, using sticks for “fishing”, jumping over the stream or just walking through it. The many palm leaves on the forest floor also provide plenty of challenges.  There are plenty of fungus and insects on the fallen logs alongside the path, and the children enjoy observing them. We do not bring toys, instead we bring  magnifiers, field guides, and binoculars for the children to use. At the end of the track, just outside the forest, is a picnic table where we sit down for a moment, talk about our experiences, make sure everybody is accounted for and start our walk back to Little Earth. Exploring and immersing into the natural environment is a beautiful way of introducing the children to the Earth, with the aim to develop their understanding of care and respect. We do not take any treasures out of the forest, what is in the forest, stays in the forest. Each creature deserves our care and respect. We do not have a shelter of any sorts in Nikau Reserve, but we do visit the forest two or three times per week for a whole morning session.  We have our own Forest Song, composed and written by one of our teachers. We sing our Ko the Ngahere song when we enter and exit the forest, which is always a special experience.On several occasions over the last few weeks a kereru, or native woodpigeon, has come down to sit on a branch, watching the children when they are singing and entering the forest. A magical[...]

A visit across the Pacific


Recently I returned from a three week teacher exchange in Arizona, where I visited several pre-k programmes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I am very grateful for the warm welcome I received at the schools I visited. Arizona has a very different climate from our lush green wet and windy Wellington in New Zealand. This was especially noticeable  in the different outdoor environments that I witnessed. The hot and dry desert climate creates challenges for most schools to establish and maintain a school garden or natural outdoor environment. However, this doesn’t mean it is not possible to create a beautiful, natural garden and outdoor playscape, as the Montessori Center School in Phoenix proved. They have a beautiful outdoor garden where the children and their families can learn and experience nature. It was a real pleasure to visit their beautiful sensory garden, designed to understand and enhance each of the senses - sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. The garden also includes art stations, vegetable gardens, a hummingbird- and butterfly trail and a compass garden. They made good use of plants that grow in their area naturally, including the one plant that thrives in the Arizona desert environment, the cactus. But it isn’t the climate only that is an obstacle for schools to create more natural outdoor environments. The combination of strict law, regulations and high insurance premiums pushes many schools into creating “soulless” playgrounds with low maintenance plastic toys and meaningless equipment. Combined with, in some cases, an absence of rooms with windows, and I couldn’t help but question what this does to the spirit and soul of the young child.  During early childhood the brain is shaped by our daily experiences, necessary for growth. If we keep our children away from nature, limiting their experiences with the natural world, stifling the development of their biophilia, which is their natural love for the Earth, we will create a generation that suffers from nature deficit disorder, a term introduced by Richard Louv, and biophobia, a fear for the natural world. If that happens, who will be our future Earth Stewards? How can we expect our children to take care of our planet if they themselves have not developed any empathy, nor love, for the Earth they live on. Caring does not come naturally, it needs to be fostered. A lack of exposure to the nature experiences, combined with the rigid learning programmes that are more common in pre-k programmes, and the fear for safety, resulting in less time for free unstructured play and we are raising a generation of children far removed from a connection with the natural world.  "We survive because we can love. And we love because we can empathize."- Bruce Perry (“Born for Love”)Bruce Perry, in his book ”Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential - and Endangered”, writes that three-, four-, and five-year-old children need to have lots of time for unstructured play. They need to explore, to negotiate the rules of made-up games with friends; they need  opportunities to practice compromise, negotiation, and sharing. Early childhood is a crucial time of life for the development of empathy.And empathy is what we need if we want to have healthy relationships, not only with other human beings, but also with the natural world, our home the Earth. What other good way to develop empathy than providing children with authentic, natural environments. Environments that are not over regulated by adult rules and societal priorities, but environments where children learn to manage dangers and risks, and where they can have those lifeshaping experiences that shape not only their brain, but also their soul.Many of the t[...]

Celebrating the year - beauty and authenticity


This year, the focus at our preschools has been on providing our children with beauty and as many as authentic experiences as possible. Baking our own bread, collecting eggs from the chickens, harvesting our own fruit, making our own paper, these are just a few of the daily experiences our children have at our preschools. Our beautiful outdoor environment, the ever changing theatre of nature, is the ideal environment where children can be active and concrete learners. It is constantly changing, highly attractive and full of beauty.

A natural environment is as authentic as you can get.  We know it is real because it is not a static environment – our garden is ever changing! One day the climbing logs are dry, the next they are wet and slippery; the daffodils are blooming one week and wilting the next; rain falls one morning and clears in the afternoon. There is no ‘turn off’, ‘pause’, or ‘reset’ button like in technology.  We do not know exactly what nature will give us.  We notice and adapt to changes.

In today’s hurried world, we offer the antidote to the stress and fast pace of our modern lifestyle.  Our garden is therapeutic.  We see both purposeful activities and time dreaming in the garden as both having value, with no time limits.  We believe that deep concentration on any chosen activity lets us discover who we truly are. 

“All of us have moments in our childhood where we come alive for the first time.  And we go back to those moments and think, this is when I became myself”. 
 - Rita Dove

This year we will continue to offer our children beauty and authentic experiences which will create positive, life shaping memories, rich early childhood experiences that previous generations have had – times full of wonder, nature, fun, friendship and timelessness. We hope you will too ! Happy New Year!

- Anja

Join the Christmas Box Challenge!


 - Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold -
- Joseph Chilton Pearce

After you have opened all the presents and eaten the food, give in to the universal urge to Play.  Children the world over, and adults alike, need to play whenever they can.  Play is in all animals, including us.  We are biologically driven to play.  So don’t throw out those boxes.  Join The Grass Stain Guru in The Christmas Box Challenge!

Have a playful Christmas!

- Anja

Coffee grounds Christmas decorations


Who doesn’t like coming home to the smell of coffee? Especially after a day of Christmas shopping. We wrote earlier how at our preschools we use coffee grounds in our garden. We also use them to make fossils. Now here is another idea how to use coffee grounds in the lead up to Christmas. Make Christmas decorations!

Use 1 cup of used coffee grounds, 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of salt. Mix the ingredients together and roll out the dough. Use Christmas cookie cutters to make the shape. Make a hole for the ribbon or string before you let them dry. Once dried, decorate them the way you want, we decorated them with glitter.

Once finished, you can put your feet up with a cuppa while the children decorate the tree, with coffee grounds!

Now that will fill up your room with aroma!

- Anja

Letting go - making a mindshift


We know that for a lot of our tamariki leaving something behind is very difficult.  We have seen their discomfort with leaving their clothing, boots, or slippers behind at preschool or when some other treasured possession has been left at home. 

One of our tamariki arrived at Little Earth wanting to show us his tiger worms he had found. His mother had commented to him that they wouldn’t be happy staying in the bug catcher for long so maybe he could find a new home for them at preschool. However, after arriving at preschool, our young friend said that he wanted to take them home.

After showing his friends we suggested he could transfer the worms to our worm bin.  But no, he had different plans, “I’ll put them in my cubby”, he replied. His friends pointed out to him that the worms didn’t have much dirt in the bug catcher, and where was their food?  Our young friend found a quiet space in our window seat and looked at the worms, obviously thinking of all of this.

After a few minutes he came up to us. “My worms are sad now”.  “I wonder why they are sad”, we said, and he told us, “They don’t have enough dirt.  They don’t have food”.  So we asked him, “What would you like to do with them”?  He pointed to the worm bin - “In there”. 

We all joined watching our friend as he transferred the worms from his bug catcher to the worm bin.  We could see he was still feeling anxious about his decision.  We were all so impressed by his choice to put the care of the worms ahead of his own feelings of wanting to hold onto a belonging of his. 

At our preschools, our goal is to not just offer some activities promoting sustainability but to actually help our children and families make a ‘mind-shift’ into more sustainable thinking.  We want the idea of caring for the Earth to be so embedded that conscious choices are made.  The decision to offer the worms a more suitable home is such a wonderful example of informed decision making and is a really exciting part of our children’s journey and growth. The Earth really is a great Teacher!

- Anja

Care and compassion, we are all part of the web of life


 "He nohonga ngātahitanga ahau me te taiāo" - We live as one with our natural world - Kaitiakitanga is the practice of looking after something, just as Tane, in Maori legends, looks after the forest and Tangaroa and Hinemoa look after the oceans.  We have been working with our tamariki to get them to understand that to take responsibility for our environment we need to be caring. At our preschools we help our children to look after their relationships, not only with the environment, but also with each other, and their place within.  Our aim is to bring harmony and well being to all involved. After all, we are all part of the web of life.  It is important to explore these relationships, to introduce the children to the concept that everything is connected and inter-related, whanaungatanga and whakapapa.  We have a past and a future and our choices and actions make a difference.  We show our tamariki how to be respectful to all that is around us, kaitiakitanga, that we are part of a community and act in harmony with nature.One means of doing so is the garden at both our preschools.  The garden provides our children with many opportunities to cultivate their curiosity about nature and gives them a sense of community and responsibility.  In the garden, children see and experience how their actions either help or harm the environment.  It nurtures their aroha, a feeling of love for the natural world, and of the urge to protect or take care of it, manaaki.  These are important values we'd like to instill in our children as our future guardians.  Aroha is more than love, it is about compassion for the environment and understanding the environment and our place in that environment, our connection with the natural world.   A connection that, according to Richard Louv in his latest book "The Nature Principle" is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival. Respect, care and compassion underlies all we do at Tawa Montessori Preschool and Little Earth.  This weekend I will be attending The Natural Phenomena, an outdoor nature education early childhood conference in the "Wild Woods" in New Zealand.  I will be presenting a workshop on the interconnectedness and interdependence with the life force of every natural thing and how to introduce our tamariki to care and respect all things and the correct ways to interact with them.  We must care for our natural world, be good guardians or kaitiaki.If you are attending The Natural Phenomena, come and say hello.  - Anja[...]

Touch the Future - Introducing the Nido


Our youngest people are our stakeholders! Little Earth is currently developing The Nido, a new parent/infant programme, geared towards sustainable parenting practices, based on a culture of respect.Last month we opened The Nido room at Little Earth, a special place where parents can come for classes and workshops, to learn and to share knowledge and to connect with other parents.  Our philosophy is inspired by the works of Maria Montessori, an Italian educationalist, and guided by research from Joseph Chilton Pearce and Emmi Pikler, pioneers in parent and infant relationships. The aim of our Nido programme is to tighten the bond between parent and child in their journey of creating a magical childhood, based on respectful relationships and in harmony with nature.The first 3 years of life is a critical period in a child's life.  The young child is constantly learning, absorbing everything in her environment.  At the Nido we acknowledge that the young child will develop according to nature’s plan in a culture of respect where they can be a free and equal human being.  The Nido classes will explore various topics that deepen the parents’ understanding of their important role as the child’s first teacher.This weekend I will be attending the 'Heart Dancing Class for Facilitators',  a course facilitated by Pennie Brownlee.  This course is the first facilitator course in the 'Heart Dance revolution'.  It is a dream  coming true for Pennie who is a well know early childhood educator facilitator in New Zealand. She has worked tirelessly for nearly forty years educating parents and teachers in respectful parent - infant relationships with the aim to grow communities which have the well-being of children central, communities based on respectful partnerships.  I feel privileged to be one of the inaugurate course participants and to be able to spend a whole weekend in the companionship of Pennie and other great people who are passionate about adults - children partnerships.  For those who would like to know more about the 'Heart Dance Revolution', I recommend Pennie's book "Dance with me in the Heart, the adults guide to great infant-parent partnerships".  You can also read 'The Partnership Dance', one of her many published articles.  Here at Little Earth we are excited about our Nido classes and the prospect of creating a caring compassionate community.  If you want to join us at the Nido or want more information visit our website.- Anja[...]

Akonga, a community of learners


Recently we achieved the GREEN GOLD Award from Enviroschools.  Last week we celebrated our GREEN GOLD Enviroschools achievement with a visit from our sister preschool Tawa Montessori Preschool.  Children and families from Tawa Montessori took the train up to Kapiti.  After a “Thread the Earth Lightly” candle walk in Nikau Reserve, and our special forest walk song "Ko Te Ngahere", we had a picnic at Little Earth.   The Enviroschool team send their Green Gold fairy to congratulate us.  The special award and flag was presented to Little Earth by a delegation from the Wellington Regional Council and the Kapiti Coast District Council.

We continue our journey at Little Earth, not only as an Enviroschool but as akonga, a community of learners, children, teachers and parents.  While the children are our stakeholders, we, the adults are their mentors and it is important we not only empower and engage our young children, but also enact.  We know how our planet is in peril, we know we have to make changes to the way we are living. Here, at Little Earth we want to do something about it.  We want to give our children, the stakeholders, the skills and attitudes to grow into global citizens who will act as responsible caretakers.  Nature has no reset button.

Little Earth sparkles with GREEN GOLD! You can read more about our GREEN GOLD award on the Kapiti Independent website.

- Anja

New life in our milk bottles


Our recycled milk bottles at Tawa Montessori have done us well.  It’s been nearly a year now since we first put them up.  They weathered a hot Summer, a wet Autumn and a cold Winter.  Now it is Spring and while the bottles are still in good shape, the plants look a bit sad.  Our new planted pansies are getting a hammering from our chickens who love to dust bath in our flower beds.  We decide that the milk bottles may be a much better home for our pansies. Take the milk bottles of the shed wall and fill the bottles with new soil. Get the pansies out of our garden and plant them in the milk bottles. Water the plants and put a rod through the handles of the bottles to hang. Fasten the wooden rod to the shed wall and done, they are ready to flower.Children love working in the garden.  As they plant the flowers, they learn that flowers and plants are delicate and need to be handled with care.  They learn about watering, and the properties of dry and wet soil.  They can admire the instant colour beauty and observe the insects that visit the flowers.  Projects like this are not only a great way to introduce children to gardening, they are also a concrete hands on introduction to sustainability and environmental education.- Anja[...]

Healthy eating (4), making our own egg spread


With Spring in full bloom, our chickens at Tawa Montessori Preschool and at Little Earth are laying eggs again.  The hen at Tawa Montessori has gone broody, but at Little Earth we thought we can make egg spread for on our bread.  This healthy snack is fast and easy to make.This is how we make our own egg spread: Ingredients: a dash of salt, two eggs, melted butter. Boil two eggs and let  them cool.Shell the eggs and mash them in a bowl.Crunch the shell and feed it to the chickens or worm farm. Add a dash of salt and melted butter and mix it together.Yummy, especially with pesto!Slowly our garden is able to sustain our needs for our food preparation at preschool.  The children put a lot of love and care into the garden and animals and they are now enjoying the fruits of their labour.   We have noticed that they are more and more connected to the garden and the animals and taking more ownership.  “The egg is from our hen,” they will say, “I will feed the chickens now. They will give us more eggs”.  We are not only eating healthy, we are also developing a more sustainable and caring community. - Anja Links:- Healthy eating (1), making our own pesto- Healthy eating (2), making our own lemon honey- Healthy eating (3), making our own bread- Healthy eating (4), making our own egg spread [...]

Spring in Aotearoa!


Spring has arrived in Aotearoa, there is no doubt about it!The fruit trees are in full blossom,and the hen has gone broody.Now the Spring showers are arriving too!First we try to catch the rain,but  who can resist a puddle?All we need is a raincoat and a bowl,and we pour and pour, and we catch and catch, and we get wetter and wetter.Spring, who doesn't like the Spring?- Anja[...]

Healthy eating (3), making our own bread


At both Tawa Montessori Preschool and Little Earth we bake our own daily bread. We used to have our freezer stocked with supermarket bread to make our morning and afternoon snack. We noticed there was quite a lot of wasted bread in the compost bowl. Now we have less waste and healthier bread. Our children love to bake and are used to different baking technique. They are independent with the skills associated with baking. Making our own bread is another ritual in our day that contributes towards our  sustainable and respectful community.Here is how we make our daily bread:Ingredients:4 cups high grade flour1 tablespoon yeast1 teaspoon salt1.5 ups lukewarm water1/4 cup oil (we use rice bran oil).Directions:- Mix yeast and water and let it stand for a while.- Combine flour and salt in a bowl.- Pour the yeast mixture and the oil into the dry ingredients.- Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and then knead until the dough isn't sticky anymore.- Cover and let the dough rise (about 45 minutes).- Knead and then cut the dough into 12 parts.- Shape the dough into buns.- Bake at  220 C for 10-15 minutes or until brown.In the morning, the yeast, oil and water are added to the flour and salt.Then the mixing begins! Lots and lots of kneading until the mixture is not sticky anymore.The dough rises in the warm classroom, then the buns are rolled and shaped ready to be cooked. Once the buns have cooled down, we cut them. They are now ready for morning and afternoon tea. We have noticed how the children enjoy contributing to the morning and afternoon tea.  They work with care and attention, wanting to do a great job!  We hear comments like “The crust tastes GOOD!” and  “I like the bread.” It is a good reminder that we, the adults don’t have to make the bread for the children (serve), but we can help them to do it themselves.We also learned that having whole wheat grains in our bread is much healthier than white bread so now we bake whole wheat bread every morning. It is yummier and much better for our bodies.The gift real work brings to a child is independence.  Maria Montessori noted that one who is continually ‘served’ instead of being ‘helped’ is deprived of becoming independent, of being truly free. (The Discovery of the Child, pgs 55, 56, 57)- Anja[...]

The Natural Phenomena


See you there!

- Anja