Michelle Flower, Whangamata Kindergarten- COVID-19 response

Michelle Flower
Whangamata Kindergarten, New Zealand


Our vision is to provide quality, inclusive and accessible Early Childhood Education to our community within a welcoming environment, and to foster a culture of open thinking and manaakitanga. Our mission is that every child believes in themselves, and that we ensure they leave kindergarten with the foundations of personal development and a love of learning for life.

Our qualified and very experienced teaching team support all children to experience a cross section of the curriculum through their passions, interests and creativity. We are an Enviroschools Kindergarten and promote a healthy, peaceful and sustainable programme and we take pride in our beautiful environment, which sparks children’s natural curiosity and excitement for learning. Being on the same grounds as Whangamata Area School provides us with a unique opportunity to participate in school life.


Click here for a link to the original reflection from Michelle.

Notice: what was my role as a teacher and taking note of this experience, thinking about it, taking a closer look, the starting point of reflection?

14 April 2020

I don’t think I will forget that feeling of panic, that flip of my stomach when I heard for the first time that NZ was going into lockdown.  My thoughts were initially on preparation, safety of my family, and for what life may look like in a bubble.  Two days, although seemingly quite a luxury in the life of a teacher, was just not enough time to get my head around what working from home might need to look like.

We are now on day two of week three.  This lockdown hasn’t really been how I imagined it would be.  It started with a big ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, followed by me bringing out the monthly planner – my first instinct was to work, to get everything achieved in a month so that I could start a new term feeling accomplished.

On the Wednesday morning, just before lockdown an idea had surfaced, one that I thought could keep our community connected.  Given the time I knew I would have, I set my own goal to set up this Storypark system and engage as many of our community as I could.  Storypark would, I believe, allow for a more private group than a community facebook page and, more importantly for our team, be a place that teaching and learning is showcased and grounded in philosophy that links pedagogy to children’s learning through play. My hope was that given the time at home in their bubbles, families would engage in ways that we might not have seen outside these crazy circumstances.

What is right for one may not be for another.  We may all do it differently and all of that is OK. Rhythm and ritual creates grounding, and gives the children safety.  How can we recreate rituals via Storypark?  While not physically connected we can stay heart connected through our communication.  When our rituals and routines are in balance we feel hinged.  I can’t relax until I have brought order to my environment.

We created an online ‘Challenge Master Room’, where teachers created challenges for the children and whaanau. The challenges included creating mini-worlds, obstacle courses, ephemeral art, fairy houses etc. None of these challenges required anyone to buy anything special – think reuse, recycle, repurpose.

Community post in Welcome to the Challenge Master Room!

Kia ora Whangamata learning community,

This morning as a country we transitioned to Level 3. We are excited to be back supporting our learning community through this Storypark platform.

At kindergarten we have a culture of growth mindset. This means that we all learn alongside each other, we teach each other (ako). No one person is the knowledge provider, we all teach, we all learn. This extends to tamariki, kaiako, whaanau, and whaanui. We think this fits perfectly with children learning from their homes.

We have created a series of challenges for everybody in our community to engage in. As at Kindergarten we will support children to revisit by providing same, same but different challenges with a twist to provoke curiosity and challenge. You will notice that we have created a Challenge Master Room. This room is for you to document which challenges your family have completed. We cannot wait for Level 2, where we will plan to continue to stretch yourself to be challenge masters here at Kindergarten. We look forward to seeing how you progress through these challenges, keep an eye out for your teachers participating.

Your teachers (Jenn, Shell, Rach, Deena and Yvonne)

Community post in Welcome to the Challenge Master Room!


Happy Monday everybody,

I hope you are having a great day. Last night I was watching the news on TV and I was reminded of Amelea’s fairy garden. Down in Christchurch a touch of magic has sprung up in a forest. Hundreds of mini fairy homes have appeared on trees at Bottle Lake. Where the creations first came from remains a mystery,

Watching this video fired up my imagination….

Today I have created a fairy door out of sticks, pieces of wood, driftwood, shells and manuka. When the sun comes back out I am going to hang it in a tree down at Beach Access 14. If you are walking look out for it 🙂

Arohanui Shell

Replies received from our community:

Community post in Welcome to the Challenge Master Room!


Kia ora everyone,

Yesterday I attended a webinar online about play by one of my learning hero’s Kimberley Crisp. She talked about hut making and how both children and adults feel safe and secure when in small spaces. Children and adults all over Aotearoa are building huts, playing out how the world is feeling.

I hope you enjoy sharing in challenge number three, next time I think I would build it a little bigger! But what FUN. Let me know if you can guess where I am. Another clue, like Rach I think it would be a fab place for fairy doors!

Arohanui Shell

Learning Story: Acts of Kindess Revisited (click on image)

Community post in Welcome to the Challenge Master Room!


Kia ora whaanau,

Last night on the news I was intrigued by the way in which Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand) are collecting items for display in the museum reflecting on our time in Rahui. This got me thinking about the stories that have been shared, and the stories we will tell in generations to come.

This morning a really creative idea was shared with me, and I have decided to embrace it as my choose my own challenge, and flex my creativity muscles. I have been around my bubble taking a look through a different lense, a recycled tea container. If you are going to try this at home you could look through a CD, a CD cover, a cup, cellophane. I know the children really enjoy taking photographs at Kindergarten from their perspectives, and often their photographs tell a wonder story about how they see the world. Perhaps we could start a ‘Bubble Exhibition’?

Arohanui Michelle

Recognise:  Your thoughts about experience, be honest, make it authentic.

At this time, juggling all the “new normal” things which heavily features, keeping in touch with family who are feeling vulnerable in their employment and taken pay cuts, getting some fresh air, rationing ingredients, 1pm briefings, piles of paper in a newly created work spaces, and WAY too much screen time for my eyes to handle right now.  The weird thing is the less pressure I put on myself, the better I feel, but the lazier I feel.  I don’t like feeling pressure, but then I hate feeling lazy.  Such a paradox.

One of the real positives for me during this time was to be able to pick and choose from such a variety of fabulous professional learning.  I actually found this a delicate dance to find the balance here, engaging with a screen for hours at a time.

One hour well spent very early on was with Kimberly Crisp.  I was reminded how important, even though we are in these bubbles to check in with others.  She spoke of the 80/20 rule.  The important thing to understand is that in your life there are certain activities you do (your 20 percent) that account for the majority (your 80 percent) of your happiness and outputs.


When you are in real relationships with people and you have common values, your community grows.

What will Kindergarten look like beyond Covid-19?

One of the challenges for me about being in a bubble for so long, is how I transition out of it.

I see this hinged on how we come together as a team, on cohesiveness, on communication and trust.  How you see is how you will be! If you have a strong foundation of why, then you will do the how!  If we say we can’t we can’t.  We are on a journey – like an onion, it unwraps over time.

Both Pennie Brownlee and Ann Milne have consistent messages, that they cringe when they hear people say that they just want to get back to how things were before the lockdown.  This is our time to evaluate and inform change.  How do you do this when it takes everything to take a breath and find your own calm.

Reflect:  What have I learnt about myself?  What am I more aware of?

The biggest thing I have to learn from this, is that it’s ok!  I don’t feel ok about it right now.  I’m an over achiever, a doer, a 10 things on the go at once kinda person, with another 20 things in the pipeline.

“The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

Is this possibly why I feel more connected via technology, not just professionally through Storypark.  In my own family we are hosting Kahoot quizzes every few nights, and check in with each other every day.

Where does kindness come from?  What is in your heart will touch the heart of someone else.  Perhaps suspending judgement and trusting that our community are, just as we are doing what feels right for their own family and common-unity will be richer, deeper and connected.

Resource possibility:  Dancing on a shifting carpet.

Click here to view the Kimberley Crisp webinar.

Below is a Learning Story that Michelle wrote, about Bodhi, which is so beautifully connected to their lockdown experience.

Click on the image to read the original Learning Story.

Back to COVID-19: Reflections and insights from teachers across the world

Stay Informed!