Welcoming children back to a special place of connection and learning
After floods inundated parts of Shepparton in November 2022, the 54 reasons kindergarten at Mooroopna had to relocate numerous times.
But with the help of donors, the original kindy has been refurbished and will soon be ready to reopen its doors – and welcome the kids back to their special place.
Kindergarten Lead Teacher Monica says that going back to the actual site of the kinder is “just really going to be that final missing piece of being home.”
“For our families it's going home. They’re going to feel like they belong and it's their space. It's their kinder … where they feel like they can grow even more.”
A safe place where the learning journey starts
Lee Joachim, Regional Manager for 54 reasons Northern Victoria, says the kindergarten plays a special role in the local community. Save the Children has been offering kindergarten service in the area since 1969, at first to the Aboriginal families and later opening up to the wider community in the 70s.
3-year-old Wanala loves to do art at kindy.
“In this area in particular it has been a good focus and has driven our community to understand the importance of education in a child’s life,” he says.
“The importance of Mooroopna kindergarten to us today is that we know it as a safe place – [where children] are safe from harm and they’re being provided education.”
Getting children school ready
Teacher Monica explains what’s involved in getting the children school ready.
“We've been focusing on the social and emotional component, getting them to be able to focus for longer periods, and offering them group and individual experiences that’s of their interests – really looking at what they need and focusing on that.
“They really need to know how to pronounce those sounds correctly, how to recognise those letters and sounds to then be able to move forward with their reading.”
Aunty May, kinder educator for 15 years, reads a book and leads the 3-year-olds in a floor activity.
Mum Christine shares how her kids have fun while learning at the kindy, especially her 4-year-old child A’sya. “I see that they are learning and growing when they come home after a day of being at kindy. Like my youngest daughter, now she knows the days of the week she'll sing it through.”
Providing a quality start to education demonstrates the child rights approach of 54 reasons, part of the Save the Children Australia Group.
At the kinder, teachers achieve this by listening to children to understand their interests and strengths – an approach that is helping them to thrive.
Teacher Monica says, “[They need to] feel safe and connected to contribute as a whole, and just identifying who they are to make sure that they are ready for [primary] school.”
“It's a big, big change for them to go to [primary] school … when they’re so used to being in such a small, close knit setting [at kinder], it's really important that they feel empowered that they can speak up.”
Connection to culture and families
Respect for culture and appreciation for First Nations heritage in the community is embedded in the day-to-day activities in the kinder. Children participate in a Welcome to Country, and are exposed to Indigenous resources that they use to learn and play.
Connection with families is also deemed important. Kindergarten Team Leader Tiffany shares, “What's special about this kindergarten is the connections that all our staff have with the families and they know everything about these families and provide the best support to them to make sure that the children are getting the best and everything that they need.”
Mum Christine is from a family that has a long history with the kindy, and attended herself when she was young.
For 4-year-old A’sya (right) kindy is a fun place to play with friends like Lineshya.
Five of Christine’s children have attended the kindergarten, and she still brings her youngest A’sya. For all her kids, she’s observed only one thing when they learn they’re coming to kindy. “Excitement. They never want to stay home when they know it's kindy time.”
“I just love it. It's just a good atmosphere and everybody's lovely here. I love it.”
Throughout its long history in the Shepparton community, the kindergarten has been able to enjoy the support of people and organisations who know the importance of education for children. This has once again been evident during last year’s floods.
Regional Manager Lee Joachim says, “Without external people assisting us and helping us, you know, it has been a true struggle.”