Community spirit in early childhood education

Published on Wednesday, 05 May 2021
Last updated on Monday, 03 May 2021

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Moa Kids is a great example of an early childhood education (ECE) service that’s run by families for families.

This Christchurch-based community preschool operates on a not-for-profit basis, and it offers priceless opportunities for ages zero to six to learn, grow and rise to the challenges of life.

Children are encouraged to be resilient, resourceful members of their child care community, and to learn more about this wonderful preschool. We spoke with its Centre Manager and ECE Hero, Hayley Flanagan.

Moa Kids is a community owned, not-for-profit, incorporated society. What does this mean in practice?

Community is the heart of Moa Kids. We are run by a governance committee which is made up of parents and grandparents. They play a huge role in our centre and all volunteer for these roles. We never have issues filling the spaces we need and are very clear when families start that we a run a governance of parents and are always looking for members at our Annual General Meeting. 

Being not-for-profit means that everything goes back into our centre. We offer the Ministry of Education’s 20 hours ECE (for up to six hours a day, 20 hours a week) for ages three, four and five, and also offer an additional 10 hours free, which adds up to 30 hours free ECE.

We run low adult-to-child ratios, all our teachers are qualified, and, overall, our ECE model offers quality and continuity to teachers, children and families. 

What is the Moa Kids early learning philosophy, and how do you help children reach their potential and thrive in their early years?

We have an open-door policy at Moa Kids and a real ‘learn through play’ ethos.

Our philosophy is reflected by the RIE and Reggio Emilia approaches, which we explain to parents when they come to our centre.

Respectful, responsive and reciprocal interactions between children and care-givers are central to what we do at Moa Kids, and we help our children to practice self-choice, self-help, build resilience, gain independence and be adventurous in a safe and supportive setting.

All of our teachers are very passionate about our philosophy and what we do. 

When it comes to activities, we do not have a lot of structure to our day. Our programme and projects are planned and driven by children's interests, which makes them more meaningful to our children.

Our resources reflect this, with lots of natural materials, and we are outside, and in our community, as much as much as we can be. 

All of our children have a key teacher, who works closely with their families to ensure that every child reaches their full potential. Each child has a continuing relationship with the same key teacher – they have one while they’re in the nursery and one in their preschool room.    

We work very closely with all families to make sure their and their child’s needs are met. Communication is the key here, and we continue to work out ways to best communicate with our families. 

As well as supporting your children through everyday challenges, you’ve also steered them through several traumatic events, including floods, earthquakes, the Christchurch mosque shooting, a local scrub fire and a global pandemic.

How do you and your team respond to challenging situations like these?

We respond in different ways, depending on what the situation is. For example, in the case of an earthquake or a tsunami, we have to head to our safe house on the hill, but if there’s a fire on the hill, then we evacuate to a completely different place.

Whatever happens, we keep everyone informed when a crisis or emergency happens. All of our families are emailed and kept in contact through the event. 

All of our staff and children know what to do in these events (as we have regular drills), and families know how we communicate when traumatic events arise. 

We focus on providing care and support for everyone, and make sure there’s stability for our children in the midst of disruptive events.

The New Zealand Education Institute gave you and your team an ECE Community Heroes Award earlier this year. How does it feel for your leadership and resilience to be recognised nationally?

Everything is always a community effort at Moa Kids and I couldn't do my job without my amazing team and supportive parent community!

We have been working on our resilience and wellbeing as a team for the last few years. It has been a big part of our strategic plan, so it’s great to be able to see the growth when challenging situations arise.  

At the end of the day, we love what we do, and if any families are interested in joining the Moa Kids community, I’d encourage them to come into the centre and see our modern facilities and early learning approaches in action. Our door really is open!   

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