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Medium term curriculum design example

Including animals to build learning

This is an example of the type of things that could happen at each step of medium term curriculum design.

Get to know our people and place

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A new early learning service situated on the outskirts of Hamilton caters for tamariki (infants, toddlers, and young children) who live in either urban or semi-rural environments.

Kaiako found that connecting with Papatūānuku is important to this community. The schools that tamariki were likely to attend hold agricultural days and there were whānau keen to help promote animal care at the centre.

Decide on learning priorities

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The diversity of family backgrounds and kaiako strengths presented an opportunity for both new learning and leadership in sustainability and care of the natural world. This aligned with the service philosophy in which practice was to be “underpinned by the values of curiosity, creativity, respectful practice, and kindness nurtured in nature.”

Looking after animals is shown to have a positive impact on wellbeing in respite and aged care facilities. Kaiako were inspired by this research. They felt that having different kararehe/animals would provide an extra tool to support the wellbeing of their tamariki:

  • to make connections
  • support emotional regulation
  • to feel that this new environment was their place and space to care for.

Kaiako had broad ideas about what learning they wanted to promote – for example kaitiakitanga. They also wanted tamariki to be co-contributors in deciding their learning priorities as their interest in kararehe developed.

Plan our response

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After guinea pigs were brought into the service, care practices were established over a 3-4 month period.

Planning focused on:

  • logistical considerations, like how they would be housed and treated – attention to animal welfare
  • the interactions and practices (provocations) likely to facilitate the learning of scientific concepts, like predicting and hypothesising, and emotional regulation, for example, enabling the role of kaitiaki
  • building on ideas and contributions from tamariki, whānau, and kaiako.

Make it happen

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  • Engaged with the community to ensure their plan was sustainable and ethical for the kararehe.
  • Acquired a hutch that was put together by the team.
  • Took time to ensure tamariki became familiar and comfortable around the guinea pigs, which at times were fast moving and different from animals at home.
  • Used language with scientific learning and wellbeing in mind. Awareness of habitats led to talk about where tamariki lived; the contrasting localities of city and rural life and the balance of nature in different environments.
  • Offered tamariki multiple ways to make sense of the experience – direct observation, counting and record keeping, observational drawing, dramatic play, music, and dance.

Find out what and how tamariki are learning

Find out what and how tamariki are learning

Through first hand experience, tamariki of all ages learnt about the life cycle of the guinea pigs and how to help care for them. Observational drawings and record keeping helped tamariki learn how to predict (hypothesise), compare, and contrast. Kaiako used the records of growth and drawings by the tamariki as evidence of the learning.

Kaiako also observed that the presence of the guinea pigs often gave an upset child “time to breathe”. Tamariki who were not feeling good in themselves found they could still have a positive impact on the welfare of others.

Review and respond

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Over the course of the cycle kaiako checked in with tamariki and whānau through everyday conversations to see if and how the planned learning was beginning to unfold. These conversations informed next steps for both the experiences and interactions they offered. Some of their reflections were documented as part of an evolving planning story using a digital platform.

As tamariki took the lead with their interests, kaiako looked for opportunities to respond with provocations with the same attention to science and wellbeing.

When children’s curiosity transferred to the care of insects, kaiako:

  • Set up a giant spider web as a provocation. Tamariki were soon drawn to the huge fabric spider web.
  • Initiated a plan to build an insect hotel with tamariki. But for now tamariki preferred to use their own block structures to construct adaptable spaces.

Kaiako noted the modelling of the same care and respect in play episodes where tamariki showed “a gentle hand” with each other. This was an incentive to plan for the introduction of more animals.