Whakawhanaungatanga – the key to the success of this early learning contract.
The Intensive Community Participation Project (ICCP) in Kaikohe applies Māori values and beliefs to support whānau and their tamariki transition into the education sector. Collaboration, connecting whānau and developing an early learning community have been vital to the success of this project.
Te Kohekohe Drop in Centre
The project began in November 2012 with the opening of a drop-in centre, intended to provide a safe space for whānau and their children to play, connect with other families and learn about the importance and value of early learning. It was important to get it right for every parent, aunty, uncle, grandparent and child that came through the door. Needless to say it was about establishing meaningful relationships. This has taken time but has been the most valuable part of the project.
Since opening, we have had 278 children less than five years old attend the drop in centre. These children had not previously participated in early childhood education (ECE) but this did not mean that whānau had not considered ECE options. There are seven licensed ECE services, two Kōhanga Reo, two Playgroups, one Puna Reo and four home-based childcare services operating in Kaikohe alone. What was interesting, but not surprising, was that many whānau with children under the age of three wanted to have their tamariki close to them.
It’s important for us at the drop in centre to respect the needs of families, and provide a space that truly responds to those needs. Early learning conversations start with whānau. At the drop in centre, tamariki and whānau can participate freely in early learning activities with other children and families without having to enroll on certain days or certain times. We are open Monday to Friday from 10am – 2 pm. Participation is initiated by parents and whānau, and even though there is no obligation to participate, we have children who attend regularly, and have new whānau coming in every week.
Street Play Days
Street Play days were probably the most exciting initiative in the project. Over the past 18 months we have held 14 Street Play Days. Once a month, we load the van with our water trough, painting easels, play dough, musical instruments, books, clay, gym equipment, and barbeque, and set everything up in a different part of town every month.
We have had support from local ECE services, home-based services, Plunket, Parents As First Teachers (PAFT), iwi providers, health providers, and many other local services that support families. Collaboration is vital in a community like Kaikohe. This has built capability, capacity, and ultimately, community. Monthly Community Action Group meetings initially contributed to the development of the action plan of ICPP initiatives, which meant initiatives were meaningful and responsive to identified needs.
The aims of the Kaikohe ICPP were to raise awareness of the value of ECE and increase participation in ECE. Throughout the project we have collected data that has allowed us to measure our outcomes. Based on that data we can report that we have almost doubled our target expectation. While that alone is an impressive outcome, we are even more proud of the relationships we have developed with parents, families, whānau, and every child that we have come to love.
Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal (2007) explained that the purpose of education is to facilitate the flow and experience of mana in the individual and in his or her community. Our ICPP contract has engaged tamariki and their whānau in education by creating opportunities with whānau not for whānau.
'Ano me whare pungawerewere'
'It is like the house of the spider – linked by a web (of values)’
The ICPP team also keeps the community connected by a Facebook page Te Kohekohe Drop In. With 305 friends, this social media page informs about coming events and successes.