At New Brighton Community Preschool and Nursery, "continuity" was one of the topics of research interest during the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) project entitled Key Learning Competencies across Place and Time: Kimihia te ara totika, hei oranga mo to ao. Our discussions had enhanced and challenged our understanding of continuity for an individual learner. We also wanted to look at the notion of continuity within the larger picture; how a centre storyline appeared over an extended period of time or through multiple experiences. A centre storyline is a sequence of teaching and learning events, connected by a theme. The theme might be a topic of interest, a group's exploration, a particular learning outcome or a teaching strategy. Within the preschool (the 3- and 4-year-olds') environment, a storyline that we called "Stone Crazy" had been evolving over several months, and this was the perfect site for our exploration. Our analysis of this storyline also revealed some of the strategies we use to enhance teaching and learning, co-constructing meaning with the children, who bring their own interests and agency to the task. The data we gathered and analysed for this investigation were individual Learning Stories, centre stories, stories from home, the minutes of Learning Story reflection meetings and a team reflection notebook.
"Stone Crazy": A storyline
In this article we share our "Stone Crazy" storyline. It became an ongoing project, involving teachers, children and the wider community. As with many storylines, it was sparked by an interest; in this case the discovery within the preschool playground of an unusual stone, which caught the attention of children and teachers alike. Because of its outward appearance, we wondered if this stone could contain crystals. Together the children and teachers pondered the possibilities of what this stone was and, even more exciting, what was inside? After some unsuccessful attempts to open the stone, there were many discussions about how the stone could be opened and discoveries made. Both children and teachers applied their research strategies to solving this conundrum.
Eventually an expert within our local community, a stone carver from Te Pani House, (1) was invited to help us solve this mystery. Along came Bill Rowlands with his willingness to share his wealth of knowledge about what our stone was. He managed to break a bit off, and from that he could tell us what the rock was and that it was 36 million years old. It wasn't special, as we had first imagined, but still special because it was so old and from our own garden. This heightened our interest and sense of wonderment and we eagerly accepted Bill's invitation to visit him at work. Te Pani House opened our eyes to the world of stone carving and motivated both children and teachers to bring this world into our centre. Thus began a journey where teachers and children all shared the roles of learners and experts, participators and explorers, fuelled by our thirst for knowledge and a newfound fascination with carving. While we had developed an interest in becoming carvers ourselves, we visited Bill and asked if he would carve our special stone. Bill willingly agreed and we left this treasure in his possession. However, he later contacted us and explained he could not carve the stone as it was too hard and he kept breaking his tools: an illustration that experts, too, experience trial and error. Instead he promised to use another stone, a softer stone, to carve us something for our centre.
Back at the centre, teachers and children alike started on individual carvings with stone that Bill had donated to us. The tools we had were basic and while we (both teachers and children) enjoyed experimenting with these, we soon came to realise they were not enough to achieve the results we wanted. Through our regular visits to Bill we noticed the tools that everyone was using at Te Pani House and the different effects these had on their carvings. …