What an amazing six weeks. The whole nation has been captivated by a sport that’s almost synonymous with the nation And what an outcome—just look at how the nation has responded to that! What a unifying event this Rugby World Cup has been.
The effects of the Rugby World Cup tournament have been strongly evident in Christchurch. While tourists haven’t swelled the streets, Rugby World Cup fever has infiltrated Christchurch early childhood environments across the city. Our youngest citizens are keenly engaged in all the areas of learning that having the Rugby World Cup in Aotearoa New Zealand has afforded them.
The moment you set foot in the door of Christchurch ECE services you can be met by amazing displays of children’s ‘Rugby World Cup’ investigations. In ECE centres, this has taken them on various learning journeys such as:
- discovering the flag for each country
- learning the greeting in each country’s language
- learning the rules for playing rugby, practicing the ‘crouch, touch, pause, engage’ routine
- finding out about players from their local area and from other countries
- associating a colour with each country
- learning the New Zealand and other national anthems
…and the list goes on. There is an intense sense of national pride and excitement, when children begin to tell you what they have been doing.
A couple of weeks back, I was in a centre in Invercargill where I became totally mesmerised as the children and teachers joined together in a circle to sing the New Zealand national anthem. There was a culturally diverse mix of children and teachers, some of whom were New Zealand born, and others recent immigrants. The influence of culture was evident in siva and kanikani movements as children rhythmically responded to the music. The anthem was sung with such passion, and most competently in both Māori and English. I listened as one 3-year-old Pakeha girl used harmony as the song ended. Before I left, I commented to the supervisor about how I was emotionally touched with this very moving rendition of our Anthem.
The supervisor shared with me how introducing the national anthem had come about, and it had nothing to do with the rugby world cup. “It was after the earthquakes’ she said, ‘ we heard about the looting.’ The teaching team was very disturbed to think that anyone would even consider looting from people who had just experienced such a devastating event in their lives. This team of teachers looked to find a way to contribute toward strengthening a sense of community and responsibility for children. Using the national anthem was their way of promoting unity in Aotearoa, of giving children a sense of pride in ‘our place’ regardless of who they are or where they came from. The supervisor commented, ‘This is all about unity. We all live in Aotearoa and this anthem is a special song that belongs to each and everyone of us.’
So, to all ECE services and other education settings in Aotearoa, now that the Rugby World Cup is over:
- Will your children move on to other things?
- Will singing the New Zealand national anthem become something you ‘did last month?’
- Will your children only ever associate the national anthem with rugby?
I think we could learn a lot from this small ECE centre tucked away at the bottom of our country.