We're not simply here as a day care, we educate and teach your children through scaffolding play too.
Our mixed aged setting means that tamariki learn skills involved in interacting with older and younger children throughout their time at our centre. This process of mutual learning - Tuakana-Teina, and Ako (older children teaching younger children, and younger children teaching patience and empathy to older children) - is a key part of our Centre's philosophy and everyday practice.
Our excursions programmes (Tumble Time, Explorers and Southern Adventures) also mixes their social groupings so children learn to get along in a small 'safe' group setting with those outside their usual friendship associations, supported by teaching staff. By the time children go to school they have an understanding and familiarity with a broad range of children (not just their immediate friends), and also have a wider Southern Stars 'family alumni' group from those children they have known previously from the centre.
We are very privileged to be able to offer our young children attending Southern Stars regular opportunities to get out in the Te Anau Community through our involvement at Tumble Time and our Outdoor Programme (Southern Explorers and Southern Adventures).
While Kaitiakitanga-Guardianship and sustainability are a huge part of our outdoor excursions, the social interactions during Tumble Time, Explorers and Adventurers are a major outcome of these programmes. Having small groups means the children get to know each other better, making connections and having shared experiences with different children that they then spend time with back at Southern Stars. The teachers get to know the children and their whanau better through discussing the day's excursion, forging reciprocal relationships between Southern Stars and whanau. Leadership, empathy, independence, new challenges, caring for each other and the land/nature - Manaakitanga - can all be fostered, encouraged and supported. For those children who are quiet or speak English as a second language, these excursions give them the opportunity to converse in a small group, and gain confidence in their verbal conversation.
Tumble Time is a community-run event that encourages both physical and social development in young pre-school children. It is run every Tuesday during school term time, by fantastic volunteers, in the Real Journeys Event Centre, next door to Southern Stars. Two Southern Stars teachers take groups of four children (aged 2-3years) over for a 30 minute session. Here the group are encouraged to follow their own lead, setting themselves challenges. There are jumping, bouncing, balancing, climbing, throwing and crawling activities, all designed to aid gross motor development and hand-eye co-ordination. They all get to socialise with other Southern Stars who are there with their whanau, and also assist in packing away the equipment at the end of the session.
For our 3-4 year old Explorers our destinations are within walking distance of Southern Stars. A group of eight children, plus two teachers, head away from Southern Stars about 9:30am, returning by 11:30am. At our chosen destination (5-10 minutes walk away), we explore the area - building up physical skills and strength by scrambling up and down banks, running, and bug hunts. If we go to one of the playgrounds there are opportunities to climb, hang from monkey bars, develop and practice physical skills and challenge themselves. Every excursion is different - different seasons and weather conditions, groups of children, and different focuses. For those Explorers who attended Tumble Time with the Southern Stars team, or their whanau, Explorers provides more challenges, building on the physical skills they have developed at Tumble Time and applying these to 'real life landscapes' - steep hills, tree climbing, balancing logs, roly-poly hills, and running in wide open spaces.
For our Adventurers (4 year olds), a small group of four travel to a number of different destinations, usually the children's choice - Rainbow Reach, Manapouri, Control Gates, Patience Bay, Tarn's Farm - all under 15minutes drive away from Southern Stars, for the morning. Southern Adventures builds on those physical skills developed during Tumble Time and Explorers and our outdoor playground equipment at Southern Stars. On the Kepler Track the Adventurers gain confidence in the bush, climbing, sliding or climbing down, swinging, balancing, and learning about native NZ - the birds, bugs, pests, trapping, plants, fungi...there are so many learning opportunities. Spending time in the bush develops the children's Mana Aoturoa, their place in the natural world, where they can explore and gain knowledge of the natural world and the environment.Sometimes it is just the freedom 'to be' in nature - at the lake shore playing in the sand, throwing stones into the water, enjoying the sun, jumping in puddles, listening to the cicadas.
The wider exploration of the National park and environs that Southern Adventures allows contributes to children's sense of understanding and belonging to this special place - Fiordland. As active participants in the Kids Restore the Kepler programme, we also contribute to the guardianship of the place and children's awareness of native species and sustainability issues. By the time our tamariki go to school they already have a strong understanding of, and familiarity with, our back yard (Fiordland National Park) and this adds to their confidence that they know and feel comfortable on the ground they stand.
Transition to school and our 'Moving to Learn' programme
At Southern Stars our main focus for the transition to school relates to our 'Moving to Learn' programme. This focuses on developing up gross motor muscle skills - the big arm, leg and core muscles developed during activities such as running, jumping, climbing, hanging and swinging off monkey bars, and digging in the sandpit. Once these muscles are well developed and strong, children then have the strength and flexibility to control their fine muscle movements, like holding and manipulating small objects, and using a pincer grip, in preparation for holding a pen or pencil steady for the controlled movements of writing and drawing.
We have a large outdoor playground with a variety of equipment for developing gross motor skills and strength (boxes to climb and jump off, big mats to climb over and balance on, monkey bars, and a big playground with steps, ladders, tunnel and slides). We actively encourage and support biking, with a range of bikes available to suit all abilities. There is an amazing pump track right next door, so the Southern Stars children can watch other children zoom round the track, providing an incentive to practice and be just like the Big Kids over the fence!
These outdoor resources compliment the skills learned and practiced for those participating in Tumble Time, Explorers and Adventures.
We have a variety of activities to for children to practice and hone their fine motor skills - puzzles, peg boards, drawing and writing resources, paints, and messy play. Most of these activities are available for the children to select themselves.
Pretend and dramatic play opportunities are supported with a number of props, or open-ended natural props where the imagination can run wild, along with the conversations! This type of play helps develop social skills, and language development, as children play together in groups, sometimes recreating scenes from real-lifre experiences (shops, farms, and families are some of the most popular themes at Southern Stars) or books that the children are familiar with.
For the almost 5 year olds we arrange school visits to nearby Te Anau Primary School, with two or more visits with their group of peers starting at a similar time. We also offer support to those Southern Stars children attending Mararoa School.
Encouraging independence is also a focus for children - supporting and encouraging our 3 & 4 year olds to put on their own socks and shoes, jackets, unwrapping the contents of their lunchbox, so that by the time they go to school they are managing themselves in everyday skills. We also have daily mat times just before meal times, where the children become familiar with the concept of sitting together to listen to stories, sing or dance together, in preparation for the group times they will encounter at school. This helps them once they start school as they can then focus on the differences to routines and the school environment.
This is what our week usually looks like for the children of Southern Stars...
Monday - Southern Adventures
Tuesday - we attend Tumble Time
Wednesday - Southern Explorers
Thursday - Home day at Southern Stars, with Bike Day happening once a month
Friday - Southern Adventures
Over the summer months we have bike days once a month, where we block off the car-park next to Southern Stars and the children practice their biking skills in a large area. We also take small groups round the pump track on a bike day too.
The teachers work together as a team to scaffold play, bring challenges to children's thinking and physical abilities, and plan experiences that build on current interests and learning.
We are so lucky for **** to have been a part of the amazing Southern Stars team before heading to big school. We love the mix of culture, environmental, play, art and learning etc. The kids love going to 'stars'. Thank you!
Such a great adventure! So blessed to live somewhere where you can do this, and that Southern Stars allows such awesome activities.
Whānau connections: We use Educa, a free New Zealand app to connect with caregivers, collaborate and share your children’s work with you. Click to find out more...