Early childhood education programs organize winter study tour in New Zealand

Monday, February 04, 2019

EDvance group in Auckland

San Francisco State University's EDvance program partnered with SF State's Department of Elementary Education to organize a winter study tour (January 4 to 16) to Auckland, New Zealand, in collaboration with Annie White and her students from the Early Childhood Studies Program at CSU Channel Islands and Highscope Educational Research Foundation President Cheryl Polk.

For the first leg of the study tour, the group was hosted by Wendy Lee and the Educational Leadership Project (ELP) team in New Zealand. They engaged in a lecture series organized by ELP, supplemented by excursions designed to expose the group to the history of the country, the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi, Māori culture, and efforts to reform education to ensure culturally sustainable frameworks and practices. A central feature of the study tour was the Te Whāriki Curriculum and the approach to early learning it has inspired.

During the second half of the trip, the group was hosted by Bianca Ranson, founder and director of the Māori-owned and operated Potiki Adventures. The group was invited to stay on Waiheke Island at a Marae, a sacred meeting place for Māori communities, to gain hands-on educational experience and insight into Māori arts and culture.

SF State trip leaders included Barbara Henderson, interim director of the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program and Elementary Education faculty member; and from EDvance, Director Lygia Stebbing, Associate Director Ashley Williams and staff member Brijhe Pointer. The other eight participants were current students or alumni of the CAD PATH program overseen by EDvance. They included Jessica Campos (Wu Yee Children’s Services ), Briana Johnson and Karen Quijada (Felton Institute), Marissa Mota (Frandelja Enrichment Center and Willie L. Brown Fellow at the SF Office of Early Care and Education) and Kristen Rigney and Cristina Serrano (Jumpstart Early Experience participants).

The study tour also included San Francisco early childhood professionals Cynthia Elekwachi and Dora Pulido-Tobiason (Cross Cultural Family Center), who have been working in early learning settings for over a decade.

Here is an excerpt from a participant’s reflection on the experience:

“The highlight of the trip would undoubtedly be the five-day stay on the Marae. We were welcomed onto the Marae with a traditional Māori ceremony that exposed us to traditional dances and greetings. Most importantly, we were able to engage deeply in these experiences while developing awareness and understanding of the meaning and intentionality behind Māori culture and customs. For someone who has almost no knowledge about my own cultural traditions, ancestural language or history, the invitation to engage in someone else’s was enriching and inspiring. It is hard to put the experience into words because most of the learning took place internally. I walked away with a newly found ability to not only be my true self but also to be proud of what made me the person I am today.

"I also learned how to tune into my Ukaipo (source of sustenance or origin) to help me re-center myself and my energy when it feels off balance. I now know that we are all connected, and through these connections we are able to grow closer in our understanding of how to truly appreciate what someone else brings to the table. Thank you to the new friends we made on Waiheke Island for the great life-changing experience you created for all of us. Kia Ora!!”

— Brijhe Pointer

This study tour was an excellent example of how collaborations across CSU campuses and with international partners can enrich our students’ understanding of practices that can ensure our youngest children in California — the leaders of tomorrow — are immersed in learning experiences that will help them thrive.