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A vibrant kindergarten in Levin, NZ that is recognised as the 'healthiest' and as a 'hub of the community'

Taitoko, which means 'ray of light' in Maori is a centre situated in small-town Levin in New Zealand that has been transformed from a centre on the verge of closure into a 'thriving community hub' (Northcott, 2010).

Head teacher Caryll Resink says when she started at Taitoko it was like a "forgotten centre...on the wrong side of town where no one wanted to send their children" (Northcott, 2010).

Determined to turn the centre around, she applied for the Parent Support and Development pilot, a project that was trialled by the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Education that looked to turn kindergartens into a type of hub for the community to come together and form networks.

The project ran initiatives such as weekly coffee mornings with parents and guest speakers such as dietitians, dentists and school teachers, where the parents could ask questions (Northcott, 2010). Resink explains that parents are encouraged to come into the centre, make a cup of tea, hang out and learn alongside their tamariki (Torrie, 2008)

To meet the goal of a 'hub environment' the centres' building also got an upgrade, the interior and an extension to provide an area for under 2's - designed by Wellington-based firm Tennet+Brown Architects. (Who also designed the award-winning Maori Language School - Mana Tamariki - see previous blog post).

It has now not only been recognised for its philosophy of fostering community, but has also been named the 'healthiest school at the MidCentral District Health Awards' (Torrie, 2008).

Resink says: "We have fit and healthy fun weeks, budgeting advice, cooking classes, sewing bees. Agencies like Breast Screen Aotearoa and midwives use the centre to deliver their services. We bought cameras so we can send home laminated photos of the children." (Northcott, 2010)

It is a place where cultural diversity is nurtured and developed so children can freely learn about themselves and the world around them. Children's paintings are 'plastered all over the walls, whilst Poi E blares from the boombox.' (Torrie, 2008)

Bronwyn Torrie (2008) visited the centre and described it as a place where:

"Shrills of delight repeatedly burst from happy smiling little people who are having a great time squishing slime, hammering nails, jumping off boxes. Kids are yelling in Samoan, Tongan, Maori and English as they tear around the playground at top speeds. Then there are the kids inside singing and dancing or playing with playdough and poi. Taitoko Kindergarten is buzzing. The place is alive." (Torrie, 2008)

Via Stuff, Wellington Kindergartens, Whanau Family news and Tennet + Brown Architecture.


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