Physical Activity with a Cultural Twist at a Cook Islands Early Childhood Centre

For the first time since Nor Western Cook Islands Early Childhood Centre in Ranui opened, children are learning new ways to be active and revitalising their culture at the same time.
West Auckland’s only Cook Islands centre has been making connections with the Cook Islands language and culture through movement. Each day at the centre children use stilts made out of string and coconut shells (tamaka kapu akari) and do an activity that resembles the grating of a coconut while other children and teachers sing a Pe’e kana’ akari’ chant.

Healthy Families Waitakere connected Sport Waitakere Funskills ECE Coordinator Nikki Andrews with the centre to provide support to build children’s motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding of physical activity so that they to choose to be active for life. The centre then took what they learnt, and adapted the basics of active play to incorporate their Cook Islands culture.

Through their work with the Funskills programme, an initiative funded by New Zealand Community Trust, staff now see the importance of active play being essential to the health and future wellbeing of children in their centre.
The centres Acting Supervisor Manava Paroti says “The teachers have deepened their learning and understanding of physical literacy and we have changed the way we think about active play. Our pedagogy of teaching and care has shifted”.
Their activities also align with the new Active Play Guidelines for Under Fives as they enable children to develop skills that will give them the confidence and competence to be physically active for life.

“Since the programme began, the children have got more confident with their balance outside and are also listening better”, says Manava.
During Cook Islands Language Week at a recent early childhood festival for all Cook Islands early childhood centres, the staff and children performed their new skills to other centres. They also gifted a resource of their learnings to inspire and motivate other centres attending the festival to incorporate their culture in their active play.
“It’s great that they (the centre staff) have been inspired to add a Cook Islands flavour to the Funskills programme and that they have been confident to share this with other centres”, says Funskills ECE Coordinator Nikki Andrews.

At the festival, the head teacher also spoke about celebrating their culture through healthy eating. The centre promotes healthy eating to families and they have seen an improvement in the content of the children’s lunchboxes. Teaching staff reviewed healthy eating practices in the centre after completing a Pacific community nutrition course delivered by the Heart Foundation.
Staff are also role modelling healthy behaviour since they learnt about healthy eating, “A bonus is that the staff are happy as they have lost weight since doing the course” says Manava.

Article Supplied by Healthy Families Waitakere, August 2017