What spurred me on to write about this was a very passionate speech that Lady Tilly Reedy gave prior to the new edition of Te Whāriki. Lady Tilly Reedy was one of the writers of the original TeWhāriki:
was originally developed by writers Dr Helen May (senior lecturer in early childhood education) and Margaret Carr (senior lecturer in early childhood studies) from the University of Waikato, working in partnership with Dr Tamati Muturangi Reedy (from 1996, Dean of Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao, University of Waikato) and Tilly Te Koingo Reedy (nominated by the Kōhanga Reo National Trust).
Te Whāriki has changed, but the principles and the strand headings remain the same. Lady Tilly Reedy talks about Mana Aotūroa - explorations. Her words, "I know that a lot of you are concerned about the environment. Well, be concerned because that is Te Whāriki."
If for no other reason other than being a Te Whāriki centre we should be ensuring that our tamariki have plenty of opportunities to engage with nature. In order for children to understand and grow ideas of being good kaitiaki they need to know what they are protecting. They need to have an affinity and love of nature to understand the value of the natural world. We run the risk of children becoming disengaged with nature - what will that mean for the future of our environment? Will the children of today grow into adults who will love and protect what we have? "Research has shown that empathy with and love of nature grows out of children's regular contact with the natural world. Hands on, informal, self-initiated exploration and discovery in local, familiar environments are often described as the best way to engage and inspire children and cultivate a sense of wonder." (Connecting Children with NatureDepartment of Conservation)
From a Te Ao Māori perspective ensuring children connect with the natural world weaves together the Māori belief in the interconnectedness of people and the earth that we come from. Listening to Penny Brownlee at the Natural Phenomena Conference reminded me of the reassurance and sense of belonging that is created when you know you are part of something much bigger than yourself. To stand alongside a tree and hear it's heart beat, to stand and look out to the ocean and hear it's song, to listen to nature - the birds, the leaves and to know that we are all somehow connected means that we are never alone.
If children understand this concept of being able to whakapapa back to Papatuanuki then they are more likely to look after, be good kaitiaki, of their environment.
"Introduce the concept that Papatuanuku is our living mother: she gives us life and we need to respect her and all living creatures. Ranginui our sky father gives us rain so the plants and trees can grow…. Encourage the idea of caring for and nurturing living things. How we can become kaitiaki for the planet and talk about what that means?"
Final thought: let's not take for granted what we have. Let us keep alive children's in born sense of wonderment and awe through stopping and ensuring we too are connecting with the natural beauty of the world around us.