A brighter future for our tamariki in early childhood centres

A brighter future for our tamariki in early childhood centres

Healthy Families Waitakere convened stakeholders and educators from the early childhood sector to develop ideas and create early learning environments where children eat well and are more physically active.

Over a series of workshops, six different stakeholders came together with teachers from 70 West Auckland centres. The workshops provided a space for shared learnings and collective thinking towards actions to positively influence the health and wellbeing of under 5’s.

Educators have had success in making significant changes to their teaching practices and centre procedures. Ranui Kindergarten teachers gained an understanding of how to apply culturally relevant strategies to promote physical activity and re-designed their play activities to reflect Māori knowledge and practices.

Teacher Tui Cusack said they were inspired to apply a cultural lens to their sessions to cater to the 55% Māori children attending the kindergarten. “The teaching team looked at ways to weave a Māori physical activity framework into our setting so put what we learnt into practice and the children responded well.” she says.

Glendene Learning Steps focused on improving their environment and resources to increase physical activity in the centre. Teaching staff redeveloped a number of their active play resources, introduced new activities and upgraded their playground. Teacher, Nalina Nand said the new resources added value to their sessions around play, “The kids are more active since the new resources have been introduced”, she says.

Discoveries Educare in Te Atatu Peninsula want to inspire other centres nationwide to make positive changes around food provision. The centre is working towards the gold level of the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Award and made improvements to their menu by adding a wider variety of fruit and vegetables.

Staff have also seen less food waste since engaging parents in ways to create healthier lunchboxes.

“Over half of a child’s daily diet is consumed at day care, we want our centre to set an example for all Discoveries day care centres to create consistency across the organisation around healthy food messages and to show children that food is fun and nutritious”, says Manager Jessie Lin.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says early learning environments play a huge role in children’s wellbeing with most children spending up to 6 hours a day in early childhood centres.

“By bringing the early childhood community together to think differently about the underlying causes of poor health, we can make changes to create more health promoting early childhood centres to set the foundations for a healthier future for tamariki”.

Local Boards and Sports Clubs taking collective action to help people live healthy active lives

Local Boards and Sports Clubs taking collective action to help people live healthy active lives

Healthy Families Waitakere have been influencing local boards in West Auckland to consider how they support improved access to water in public places for the West Auckland community.

As a result, Whau Local Board prioritised funding for the installation of six water fountains in six parks that currently do not have public access to water. To ensure this investment is effective, Healthy Families Waitakere worked alongside the Auckland Council Parks Department and the sports clubs situated on the parks to agree on the positioning of the fountain.

There are over 3350 members across the six clubs and many were consulted around the location of the fountains to be placed in areas of high foot traffic. Local residents were also asked to contribute to the designs of the fountains to showcase local art and maintain the appeal to community.

Tua Raroa, Chairperson at Western Magpies Softball Club says he is excited that a fountain will be installed to support the community using Brains Park to have access to drinking water.  With around 500 people using the fields, parks, playground and courts on any given competition day, this will support the clubs’ pro water position.

“This aligns with our focus on 'water as best choice’ when playing sport and as a result of the fountain, we believe we will see less fizz coming to the park and filling our bins”, he says.

Installing water fountains to create healthier and sustainable sporting environments is spreading into other communities. Waitemata Rugby Football Club in Henderson is also demonstrating ways to increase access to free drinking water by installing a water bottle filler on the exterior of their building and holding a competition across their junior teams to design messaging around being pro water, including a mural.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says the water fountains will reinforce positive messaging about the importance being able to access water for our communities when they are being active.

“With only 45% of adults in the Waitemata region being a healthy weight, it has never been more important to make sports clubs part of the solution”, she says.


Vegetable gardening returning to our communities

Vegetable gardening returning to our communities

Eighty families in Waitakere are now benefiting from growing, harvesting and cooking with vegetables from their backyard gardens. After attending workshops that covered how to compost, build a garden bed and look after the plants, these families embarked on a journey to provide nourishing food for their whanau. With 50% of these families now cooking with the vegetables most days of the week and 80% at least once a week, we are seeing a sustainable shift in the food consumed by our communities.

Since having their own backyard garden, families have made savings by growing and cooking with vegetables that they previously would have bought from a store. For example a Ranui family no longer need to buy spinach and silverbeet as they now grow enough to feed their family.

Being able to utilise freshly picked vegetables in family meals is a significant motivator for these families to continue to grow more vegetables. A number of families are saving on waste and producing less rubbish as well as having a little more money in their pockets. These gardens are not only benefiting each family but many have shared their surplus of vegetables with wider family members, friends, neighbours and even foodbanks.

The Pasifika Arts Centre at Corbans Estate Henderson have two gardens that have become a hub for over 100 Pasifika people. 14 Pasifika groups regularly attend the Centre and have embraced the gardens as a means to re-ignite traditional gardening methods. The Centre also plans to increase the number of gardens beds and plant taro on the grass bank.

The gardens have prompted these families to share their knowledge and skills with the wider community and 10 more Pasifika families have since developed vegetable gardens in their own back yards, “The gardens have strengthened our sense of community, by creating a space to gather, share and learn about gardening and our environment.”

Corbans Estate are now seeing the value in their space being used to support local food production and will work with the Pasifika community to extend the gardens to cater for the increased demand.

Healthy Families Waitakere worked alongside key stakeholders, My Backyard Garden Project, Pasifika Vision and Compost Collective at Auckland Council, to coordinate the workshops and installation of the garden beds that are now reaping benefits for the wider community.

“A critical element to the sustainability has been connecting these families with each other and the stakeholders that can support them with training, education and materials”, says Healthy Families Waitakere Manager, Kerry Allan.

Where recreation meets conservation

Where recreation meets conservation

Healthy Families Waitakere are taking a position to support the recent Rāhui (customary ban) placed on the Waitakere Ranges by local iwi and are working with local leaders to create alternative opportunities to be physically active.

The proposed closure by Te Kawerau a Maki and Auckland Council will protect Auckland’s largest Kauri tree population and native bush by excluding the public who have been contributing to the spread of Kauri dieback disease.

The Waitākere Ranges is an area of national, regional and local significance. Over 1 million visitors annually walk, bike, run and take part in events in the Ranges. Healthy Families Waitakere are taking action to support those who would usually access the Ranges to keep active and identify alternative physical activity opportunities for the large number of visitors to West Auckland.   

Healthy Families Waitakere are bringing community leaders together to find ways to leverage existing community assets and infrastructure such as the 135 parks and reserves, 36 sports fields and the network of walkways and cycle ways.

The team will also work with regional and local partners to prioritise investment in urban tracks, walkways and coastal routes and raise public awareness about the alternative physical activity options.  

Auckland councillor Penny Hulse is keen to ensure Auckland Council fully support the work of Healthy Families Waitakere which will ensure ongoing use of the existing urban tracks and walkways.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says being physically active has significant benefits to people’s health and wellbeing and connecting with our natural environment is important for our future generations.     

 “By working with local and regional partners, we can collectively ensure our community still participate in regular physical activities that they enjoy.”


Culture and physical activity come together to transform teaching practices in ECEs

Culture and physical activity come together to transform teaching practices in ECEs

Placing cultural values at the heart of the teaching methods in a Pacific ECE environment has inspired one ECE to deliver active play and movement in a unique way.  Healthy Families Waitakere having established and supported a network of Pacific ECE’s in West Auckland were able to secure the inclusion of FunSkills into a centre.

FunSkills is professional development for teachers around skills and movement, delivered by Sport Waitakere. As part of the programme delivery Healthy Families Waitakere, Sport Waitakere and Cook Islands Educators worked together to design an approach that involves play activities based on traditional practices from the Cook Islands.

Over 6 months, Nor West Cook Islands Early Childhood teachers developed their capability to teach active play and were supported to embed cultural approaches into movement and play.

This enabled children to be engaged in physical activity which celebrated their Cook Islands culture. Children used stilts made out of rope and coconut shells (tamaka kapu akari) and did an activity that resembles the grating of a coconut while other children and teachers sing a Pe’e kana’ akari’ chant.

By applying a cultural lens, teacher’s capability and understanding of movement and play was enhanced and Acting Supervisor Manava Paroti said their pedagogy of teaching and care had shifted.

“The teachers have deepened their learning and understanding of movement and we have changed the way we think about active play”, she says.

Their activities align with the Ministry of Health’s Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: 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.

With 94% of Pasifika children attending the 225 early childhood centres across West Auckland, Healthy Families Waitakere are engaging more centres to develop other Pasifika approaches to movement and play to nurture and develop children in Early Learning Environments.  

Kelston Girls College take the first steps to becoming a ‘pro water’ school

Kelston Girls College take the first steps to becoming a ‘pro water’ school

Healthy Families Waitakere have been working alongside all twelve of our secondary schools to drive sustainable changes in each school through the leadership of staff and students. One high school, Kelston Girls College have taken the first steps to making long term change by promoting water as the first choice during class and while being active. 

School Nurse Pat Hutchinson was successful in negotiating a change with their vending machine provider Sanitarium, to increase the amount water in the machines. They have agreed to limit the number of other drinks to only one row. Prior to the change, most drinks available contained sugar.

“We encourage our girls to drink water at school primarily to keep hydrated, reduce headaches and improve concentration” says Pat.

Athletics Day and School Cross Country events in 2018 are also being used as an opportunity to promote water.  Sport Activator Jamie Lane believes sport has a role in not only promoting regular forms of physical activity but can be used as a vehicle to promote positive health messages.

Jamie has been proactive in supporting the student committee to consider ways to promote water before, and during the Athletics Day and School Cross Country events.

"Senior management and staff are supporting the promotion of drinking water and other student-led health and wellness initiatives that will hopefully grow year to year and allow the students to feel good about themselves long term", he says.

In addition to sporting events, water has also been included in the curriculum with Year 9 and 10 students exploring water as a topic during enquiry week in Term 4, 2017. Students learnt about water sustainability, water systems and the benefits of drinking water.

This fantastic example of leadership at Kelston Girls College is just the beginning. Their efforts to create a healthier school environment where water is the easiest choice is all part of a movement happening across Waitakere where community champions, organisations and sports clubs are choosing water as the best and first choice of drink. This is a further step to eliminating excess sugary drink consumption in young people. 

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Image: School Nurse Pat Hutchinson and Sport Activator Jamie Lane with their newly stocked vending machine