One of the ways we teach tamariki at kindergarten is by getting them involved, and by making practical, day-to-day connections to big ideas that they might otherwise be having trouble understanding. While we might talk about things like sustainability, actually cultivating and picking our own berries and rhubarb brings that concept down to earth in a way that’s easy for our youngest learners to grasp. And when they participate in the process of doing something, they gain so much more knowledge as they learn.
Kidsfirst Hāwea won First Prize for it’s jam at the 2023 Wānaka Show!
It was a joint effort from kaiako and tamariki.
The jam was produced by harvesting their own fruit, with the kindy making the delicious (award-winning) jam. And it was something that they then shared with their local community, friends and whānau.
Having fun while making big concepts real by the act of ‘doing’.
Many of our Kidsfirst Kindergartens make jam. The kindergartens often have fantastic gardens which are overflowing with produce during the summer and autumn months. Children love getting in and finding the ripe berries, pushing aside the leaves to discover hidden treasures, especially after watching with interest as things have grown over the past few months and have now borne fruit.
Making jam is a relatively easy process but it provides a myriad of learning opportunities.
Because it involves the growing, harvesting, and preparing of ingredients, tamariki are involved the whole way through, giving them a sense of involvement and responsibility, as well as encouraging them to work together towards a shared goal.
Hāwea’s head teacher Nicola Brown says it took a whole week to pick enough of the blackberries they used in their jam and to get the process going. The tamariki worked together to harvest the berries, squash them, measure and mix everything up – with the end result being some very good-tasting jam.
At Kidsfirst Phillipstown, kaiako Kathy Harford says that it’s a simple way to instil some essential learning.
“It’s about them understanding how and why it’s important to be good kaitiaki, and how to engage with the process carefully, so that everyone gets a turn, and everyone understands what’s going on,” she says.
She’s also noticed that once the children have made jam at kindy, they’re often keen to go home and try it with their parents. And, of course, the kindergarten’s always keen to help with recipes, and suggestions.
“They’re gaining life skills as well,” adds Ngam Brown, teacher at Kidsfirst Hei Hei.
These kinds of learning experiences are so valuable. It can be as simple as involving your child in the process – getting them to understand and describe what needs to be done and then giving them the chance to do it, with the right support. If they’re not confident taking the lead, helping measure or stir can give a sense of achievement too. The most rewarding part of the process isn’t necessarily the jam at the end, but having successfully contributed to or completed something.
Our kindergartens are very lucky because they’ve all got big outdoor spaces and gardening areas. It’s amazing to young eyes to see plants and vegetables growing. There’s always a lot of excitement when it comes to picking the produce. It also makes simple tasks like this so much easier, and means they happen a lot more frequently and spontaneously.
Kidsfirst has a commitment to maintaining our outdoor learning spaces as we believe it’s just so important for the tamariki. Over the years it’s been something we’ve prioritised. It’s about having somewhere to appreciate nature, nurture a garden, play in the sandpit, and run on a real grass lawn. Plus a harvest of fruit and vegetables is always welcome from our kindy gardens. Many of our kindergartens share this produce with parents, friends and whānau.
The fruit harvest underway at Kidsfirst Hāwea.
Sometimes the berries are just too good to resist.
Children love picking the blackberries for the kindergarten’s jam.
You can take the learning home…
If you want to extend this learning at home, here’s our simple, but delicious, jam recipe:
5 easy steps
1. Cut up about 5 cups of fruit into small, even pieces.
2. Then mash them up with a quarter of a cup of sugar. Add a pinch of salt and a few good squeezes of lemon juice…
3. Boil the fruit for around 20 minutes over a medium heat, in a large saucepan, stirring at intervals.
4. When the jam is done it will stick to the back of a spoon like a light film, without filling in if you drag your finger across it.
5. Make sure you jar and store the jam properly. You want everything to be sterile and clean so the jam will keep.
…and, lastly, remember to have fun.