Back at work last week and loving it! We had only half numbers so it was a nice ease back into the swing of kindy. Kindy is the New Zealand pet name for kindergarten, the latter name which I find so formal and kinda German, really! We borrow so much from other languages! And kindy is so much more child-friendly too!
|View from Katikati Kindergarten building, early morning|
We have a very tight privacy rule when showing photos of children on the Big Wide Web, because of what some really sick people do with them! So I am unable to share photos of our lovely sustainable kindergarten in action, but I have some without children, which I can share. The teachers I work with, all identified that our brightly coloured, box-like play ground structures were ageing and needed replacing. The boxes are manufactured here in New Zealand and a popular addition in most Early Childhood settings. They are very costly and only have a 5-7 year life span. We wanted something aesthetically pleasing, that ran along the lines of sustainable. Earlier on, I had attended an adobe workshop at Te Puna Quarry Park and had suggested this to my colleagues as a crazy throw-away idea. To my surprise, they thought it was a grand plan and ran with this idea, and we started to throw some ideas around. Boy, did we dream Big! We were building a play-house, a fountain, an amphitheatre, garden surrounds, structures to challenge their agility, climbing over, under, through, and to top it all off, the cherry on top – a pizza oven! We were ever so enthusiastic! We contacted the “expert” of adobe building, and he and a mosaic tutor would come down for a week at the end of our January holidays to run a workshop. We then had to advertise the opportunity to learn the art of adobe building, so our “learners” became our labour force. Brilliant idea! 6 workshop attendees people signed up. Parents within our kindy community offered help.
|Part of the "Great Wall of Katikati", with swings bar in background|
Then came the reality check. We approached a very helpful Western Bay of Plenty Council representative, whose job description as an eco-building advisor, free service, to come and help us measure up and draw the plans for us. A jovial German arrived, listened to our over enthusiastic ideas, looked at our primitive plans on paper and clucked his tongue, whilst shaking his head furiously. “This is how it is,” he said. “You have great dreams but great dreams require much, much more space than you have! Sorry!”
|Our little Hobbit House, complete with Earth roof|
So we argued back and forth on the architectural merits of each structure we were to retain and those we had to drop. The amphitheatre – too large a structure. Drop. The fountain – logistically too tricky to fit in. Drop. The pizza oven – would we use it often enough, baking Maori bread (Rewena) and pizza to warrant the space? No? Drop. (Secretly, we all thought we could add it at a later stage!)
What we were left with, was the adobe house, the “Great Wall of Katikati” to challenge their balance skills and agility, and to offer them opportunities for risk management, a tunnel, and a Billy Goats Gruff bridge. There was a lot of nail-biting as we had to convince not only our parents of the merits of this crazy idea, but also our Umbrella organisation. The latter was most intrigued and as they support our journey of sustainability, gave us the go-ahead. We then had to collect tonnes of clay, cement, newspaper, (sand we took from our enormous sandpit), coloured bottles and mosaic materials. We literally climbed mountains of challenges, and then we started to doubt ourselves. Could we really pull something as large as this project off, successfully? There were no pretty pictures in catalogues to show us what it would look like.
|Our new addition sandpit shade from sliding panels of|
Our tutors arrived and we rearranged the kindergarten into accommodation for them, requiring much moving around of furniture to create privacy for each of the make-shift “bedrooms”. Mattresses were borrowed and the end result was a rather Bohemian-style living space. We worked like pack-horses every day, taking turns on each of the areas of labour: cake-mixing in the concrete mixer, mosaicking and building with the adobe “cake-mix”. A giant brick mould was used to form the adobe in situ (on site) bricks, which were then sculptured into rounded organic shapes when slightly malleable, reminding me of loaves of bread.
|Looking out across the sandpit decking|
|Our sandpit shade made with renewable resource bamboo,|
harvested on local builder/craftsman Clive Lee's own land.
Renewable forestry Redwood timber shed in background
stores all our sand play toys.
A 7 day project in our holiday time left us with aching bodies and weary minds. We felt like we had built the Great Wall of China. We eagerly awaited the first day back, to see what the children would make of it. Our hearts plummeted when we witnessed our children excitedly scrambling over, up, under the wall, bumping into one another in their bid to conquer it. We had several bruises to nurture that day. We nearly sobbed that afternoon when the children went home. So much time, energy and hard work for nothing, we lamented. It’s a failure! What can we do? Let’s talk to the children the next day. Next day arrived, and before we had time to talk to the children, we noticed a natural set of “wall” courtesies beginning to emerge from the children themselves. We watched as they negotiated, began to take turns and work co-operatively after their rush to conquer on the first day! Phew! I think we all nearly cried again, this time from sheer relief and delight!
|The bridge where many a Billy Goat has had to run for their lives|
Anyway, that was a long time ago, the structure is 2 and a bit years old, it has weathered well and the children love it! Accidents are far and few between, even with newer children arriving and learning to take responsible risks. It appears like it has always been there and we can’t imagine kindy life without it! We often have visitors to come and view it. We have since even hosted our own successful workshop, adding on an extra garden surround. I am still holding out for that pizza oven………………….
|The inside of the Hobbit House with decorative alcoves|
and glass bottle highlights allows for quiet reflective time