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Five Minutes with: Sue Stevely-Cole

Sue Stevely-Cole, founder and director of Bear Park Early Childcare, talks to MiNDFOOD about the importance of quality childcare.

Five Minutes with: Sue Stevely-Cole

Why is getting childcare right at an early age so important?

It has been credibly researched that the first five years are one of the most important times of a child’s life. This is where the foundations for future lifelong learning are created. Through social interactions with others, children learn to communicate not only with their bodies but verbally as well. Communication is a key element for life.

Tell us about Bear Park’s childcare philosophy.

We advocate for the rights of all children, valuing and embracing the culture of childhood and respecting children as active members of society. We base our philosophy on te Tiriti o Waitangi; the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum of Te Whāriki; as well as the integration of a strong inspirational influence from the Educational Project of Reggio Emilia, in Italy. We have developed our philosophy statement under the four main principles of Te Whāriki: Whakamana (Empowerment) – we empower children to be interactive learners and constructors of knowledge, actively engaging and exploring the wider world around them. Kotahitanga (Holistic Development) – our curriculum reflects the holistic way that children learn through acknowledging them as unique free-spirited individuals, who are competent, capable and beholding of a richness of cultural identity. Whānau Tangata (Family and Community) – we acknowledge that the wider world of family, whānau and community is an integral part of our curriculum and we foster active participation from all three protagonists. Ngā Hononga (Relationships) – we believe children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places and things, so therefore encourage participation in meaningful and thoughtful relationships.

What things should people look for when choosing childcare?

Look at the way that the teachers interact with the children within the learning space – what does their body language convey? Do the teachers look genuinely keen to be there with the children? Do the children appear to be engaged in learning activities provided?

Tell us about some of the ways you engage Bear Park students.

We encourage teachers, children and parents to listen actively with all the senses. We perceive listening as a skill, an active tool that needs space and a willingness to step outside the envelope of self. This is how we further our cultures, countries and communities: by accepting diversity in opinion, staying present and seeing value in differences.

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