It was in my last week at Gems Lake Hayes Estate before moving to the new centre at Shotover Country that it dawned on me that the four years that I had been at the centre were the longest I had worked at one location in the twenty five years since I left University. I started to reflect on what had kept me so engaged and motivated?
No day had ever felt the same. Due to the unpredictabilty of human nature, especially that of younger children, everyday offered up its unique combination of joy and sadness, laughter and tears, a day could be planned but adaptabilty was the key. It many ways this could have been unsettling, but the strength of the teaching team made this a positive. Each teacher was recruited intentionally to ensure that a balance of skills, interests and dispositions were represented and celebrated.
Professionaly I was able to grow my passion for outdoor and environmental education. I proposed an outdoor program based on the Scandinavian Forrest Schools and through a collective desire and attitute to find ways to make it possible Gems Farm School emerged. It has been a great reward to see how over 100 children have since had the opportunity to gain first hand experience of life on the farm through all four Central Otago seasons. Years later, these children (and parents!) still remember their days at the farm, real life learning!
More recently Gems has supported me in undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching – Early Intervention. There is a huge body of research, and more recently political acknowledgement, that the earlier children who require additional support are recognised and supported, the quicker and more effective interventions can be. A number of initatives from my study have already been put into practice within the centres.
Everytime I refer to Te Whāriki, New Zealands Early Childhood Curriculum, I can’t help but feel that instead of being solely a curriculum for zero to five year olds, it should be regarded as a great curriculum for life, creating goals for improving wellbeing, belonging, contributing, communicating and active exploration of our environment and the world around us.
After eight fantastic years in Queenstown, the needs of my family require us to move on within the South Island. My hope is that like the goals in Te Whāriki, I find a centre where, I know that I have a place, I am affirmed as an individual, different ways to be creative and expressive are valued, as is my desire for exploration that will continue to influence my learning throughout life. These have all been embraced during my six years as part of the Gems family.