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Philosophy and Curriculum - What makes us magic?

Philosophy Statement

Magic Garden is a place where relationships matter. We believe in developing reciprocal relationships embracing families and whãnau. We value the wealth of knowledge that families and whãnau bring and share, and we join them in partnership to enable children to grow and reach their full potential. We value the unique place of Mãori amongst the multiple cultures in our community and respect and celebrate these cultural heritages and identities.

The New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum, Te Whãriki, guides and inspires our work with children and adults. We value ongoing learning, so we enrich our thinking and practice with the approaches of Reggio Emilia, RIE and current theory. We are committed and passionate about professional learning and shared team understandings to enhance our practices and uphold a high standard of teaching. We believe children’s learning is fostered through a socio-cultural, emergent curriculum. Our Priorities for Learning statement shows we value self-initiated investigations, experimentation, social competence, creative expression, and foundation skills for literacy and numeracy.

We recognise the importance of a safe, secure, unhurried, peaceful environment that is respectful and empowering for each child. We believe children enjoy, and learn through, making decisions, working together, problem solving, and leading their own learning. We value making time to listen, supporting children to know themselves and become increasingly independent. We treasure each child’s unique gifts, curiosities, passions and potential. We view children as life-long learners, capable of contributing knowledge and understandings as global citizens.

We value an aesthetically pleasing, sustainable environment full of natural and cultural resources reflective of our wider community. We value links with our community and are inspired by regularly dialoguing with local and international visitors in our centres. We enjoy sharing innovative ideas and practices.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people! It is people! It is people!                               Mãori Proverb

Our environment

Magic Garden has identified priorities for learning:

  • Discovery, Investigation and Exploration
  • Social Competence
  • Foundation Skills for Literacy and Numeracy
  • Strong and Respectful Relationships within this Community of Learners

These priorities have been symbolised as three pillars supported by a foundation of relationships. A description of these priorities can be located here.

Our ProgrammeChildren painting together
The  programme is influenced by Te Whãriki, New Zealand's Early Childhood Curriculum.  Children are seen to be inherently competent, capable and rich, complete and gifted no matter what their age or ability. All children will be empowered to learn with and alongside others by engaging in experiences that have meaning for them (Ministry of Education, 2017, pp. 12-13).

The programme develops from children's strengths and interests, starting from the child but noticed and listened to by the teachers.  It works with an emergent curriculum.   All the centres are  inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood, where:

  • the children’s creativity, activity and thinking is valued and captured in documentation of learning,
  • projects are developed from children's interests or teacher’s passions,
  • a variety of arts are used to represent the children’s  learning,
  • the teachers utilise group work to develop thinking, and act as guides and resource persons to provoke thinking,
  • parent’s ideas and knowledge are needed and used in the programme,
  • teachers give attention to every piece of the environment making it a place of discovery, as it is considered the "third teacher” assisting in the child’s learning.

Programme ExtensionChildren are empowered to learn
In the Over Three Centre, on Monday mornings Suzie, Adrienne, Brie and Jo lead our Kapa Haka Group where a some of our older, interested children are extending their bicultural knowledge and understanding with waiata, haka, poi, action songs and ukulele. They perform regularly in the centres and in the community.

Every Thursday morning in the Over Three Centre, our specialist music teacher, Ben, runs a specialised one hour music and movement session packed with carefully selected experiences that stimulate and develop children's brains. The sessions help children to develop the fundamental skills required for formal literacy and numeracy learning. A wide range of songs and resources and a fast-paced, ever-changing programme keep the group engaged, moving, learning and having fun.

RIE™/Magda Gerber approach for Infants and Toddlers
The Infant and Toddler Centre is strongly influenced by the RIE™/Magda Gerber approach of caring for children, alongside the NZ Curriculum, Te Whãriki.  It is an approach of respect.  For babies, "being who they are" is our curriculum.  This means accepting, enjoying and loving eachchild as she is and not expecting her to do what she cannot do.  It is allowing the time, the space, the love and support to be herself and to discover the world in her own unique way.  It means letting her crawl until she can, on her own, take her first steps.  The environment is carefully crafted for safety, caring times, exploration and challenges, small group eating, calm and unhurried days, talking spaces, inside-outside flow, respectful interactions, homeliness and cleanliness, with natural objects setting off an aesthetically pleasing space. For further information see our Parent Information Booklet for the Infant and Toddler Centre.Babies and young children are respected for who they are

Every child has a portfolio which traces the individual and group learning that is occuring.  Portfolios carry learning stories and a wide range of documentation - photos, art work, work records, project development, children's and adult’s thinking, and, of equal value, parent or whãnau comments and stories that develop the important connections between home and the centre. These portfolios are evolved with the teachers, children and parents. They become a lasting record of the ‘magic’ of early childhood experiences and are available for daily reading in the centres.

AssessmentProjects are in-depth studies of particular topics
Reviewing our practice and assessing our learning environment guides our programme.  The teachers capture and extend the children’s interests by using documentation (as described above), photos, observations, technology, dialogue between teachers, planning meetings, and dialogue with parents and children.

Projects are in-depth studies of particular topics undertaken by small groups of children and teachers.  Projects allow for children to develop a deeper understanding of events, experiences or concepts that capture their attention in their environment.  We use the capacities and resources of children in collaboration with teacher predictions, ideas and hypotheses of where the project may develop.  This is a collaborative experience.  Documentation on the centres' walls makes the process obvious.

The role of the teacherTeachers are actively involved with children
Relationships between teachers and parents are crucial in our learning environment.  Teachers are intensely involved in what the children are thinking, saying and doing.  They are present for them and actively engaged with them in their activities.  Reciprocal relationships with open dialogue valuing the contribution of each team member allows collaboration of knowledge at planning meetings, sharing of observations and interactions of children.  Combining of insights promotes a programme linked to children’s interests and skills. We have a stong emphasis on reflection of teaching practice supported by our professional development programme.

The environment as the third teacher – Magic Places
The Reggio Emilia approach has opened our eyes to the importance of our environment as a means of being ‘the third teacher’. Much thought and planning has directed us to making our environments interesting, educational and full of discovery.  Every space, whether inside or outside, in hallways or ceilings, reflects a concern for providing children with an aesthetic and stimulating environment. We plan for surprises within arrangments of furniture and natural materials.  Glass allows visibility and light throughout the centre.  The three centres have dining rooms and the older age centres have picnic tables for snack times.
The central courtyard
Natural objects provoke play activities The arrangment of space is carefully thought out so that every part of the buildings has a purpose.  There are places where children can work together in small groups or in larger groups with a teacher.  Routines are minimal.  The children are not interrupted by unnecessary transitions from one activity to the next.  There are beautiful natural objects set out in the playrooms.

Extensive planting of native plants and trees border the play areas.  Grass is surrounded by paths.  Outdoor equipment is designed for a changeable and exploratory environment.  There is extensive shade.  Rubber safe fall is the ground-covering in the exploratory area.


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