We chat with Rosa Mertens, Boongaiai’s Director. Rosa came to Armidale several years ago to do further study after completing her Steiner teacher training at Parsifal College, Sydney. Boongaiai is a preschool with all types of children is a richer place for the diversity.
Rosa Mertens was appointed to Boonagaiai as Director for one year which has since gone on to become two, with the children and staff very much enjoying her youthfulness and inspiration during that time. Rosa enjoys living in Armidale and says there is no other job she would rather have than teacher at Boongaiai. Together with assistant Rhonda Wilson, Rosa coordinates a small, warm, and home-like preschool setting.
> How many children attend Boongaiai?
The preschool has a high teacher to child ratio with a maximum of 16 children per day, ensuring a personal relationship develops with each child and family.
> What is Steiner education?
An education for the whole child – head, heart and hands – which in the preschool years this means giving children a solid foundation for the later years of formal learning. Creative play, beautiful craftwork and meaningful activities characterise daily life in the preschool.
> What is the importance of creative play?
Play engages children emotionally, mentally and actively. As they move from solitary play to social play they learn to compromise, cooperate and share ideas and materials and learn to understand the world around them. The amazing ability to transform their environment into ships, cars, houses, rockets, etc, disappears later in childhood but at this young age it has it’s purpose and place. Through this play children are imitating and exploring what they are experiencing in the complex world that surrounds them and developing their future capacity for creative thinking, concentration and persistence.
> Why do you have the natural surroundings at Boongaiai?
Both in the indoors and outdoors, care is taken to create an environment that is beautiful as well as interactive. The surroundings are a rich experience for each of the senses. For example, the vegetable and herb patch outside offers a variety of smell and taste sensations; the shells, logs and knitted toys inside offer a varied and rich sense of touch and provide unlimited possibilities for creativity and problem solving. The surroundings help the children connect to the natural world, both to care for it, as well as see it’s possibilities.
> What are examples of the activities at Boongaiai?
The activities are real and meaningful, the end results are valued. The children do handwork with quality craft materials such as coloured wool fleece, beeswax for modelling, beeswax crayons for drawing and watercolour painting.
Bread or other food is prepared daily for morning tea assisted by the children. Sometimes flour is ground, sometimes vegetables are chopped, or when there is a birthday, a cake is baked. Through the work of the children, and the smell from the oven, morning tea is always an enjoyable time.
Songs and rhymes, verse and movement are an important part of the day. This is the beginning of a musical and movement awareness in a fun and engaging atmosphere.
Once outdoors there is often work to be done – the sweeping, the watering and the vegetable patch to be tended to. Or there is the big sandpit which is endless in what it offers for little diggers and river makers.
> Does Boongaiai support the young child’s sense of independence?
Yes, in both practical as well as social situations children are increasingly supported to gain independence.
> Why do you have a strong rhythm to the day?
The daily rhythm helps children feel secure, as they know what will happen next. A relaxed and cooperative atmosphere is created, where each time of the day flows from one to the other.
> Does this education cater for all types of children?
A preschool with all types of children is a richer place for the diversity. At Boongaiai we appreciate differences, with each child very much an individual, and cared for in accordance with their individual temperament, strengths and struggles. Appropriate challenges as well as support is provided for the children as they grow and develop.
> Thanks for your time.
Boongaiai have places available now and are taking enquiries for 2010. For more information on the Preschool including arranging a visit please call Rosa at Boongaiai on 6772 0028 or The Armidale Waldorf School on 6772 8876. You can also go to the website www.waldorf.nsw.edu.au for more information on Steiner early childhood education. Boongaiai is at 278 Rockvale Rd, Armidale 3km north from the Marsh and Erskine St lights.