Lifespan Studies/Te Whariki
When we look at a growing human child there are five apparent developmental domains - Lifespan Studies/Te Whariki introduction. These being physical, cognitive, language, social/emotional and spiritual. They are not necessarily distinct but interweave with each other to complete a whole picture of the developing child. Each domain influences and is influenced in turn by the others. The principals and strands of Te Whariki support this holistic development as they too interweave within each other. In this essay I will discuss how Te Whariki our national curriculum supports each of the above domains.
Physical development begins in a newborn infant with essential survival reflexes such as breathing, suckling and rooting. Gradually voluntary control increases and the infant starts to develop gross and fine motor skills. This physical development and growth goes on to become milestones such as rolling, sitting and walking and grasping objects and using fingers and toes. Te Whariki supports physical development through strand 5 – Exploration, Mana Aoturoa. One of the direct goals in exploration is “they gain confidence in and control of their bodies” (Ministry of Education [MoE], 1996, p. 82). Te Whariki gives us guidelines that we can follow like helping children to develop increasing control of their bodies, manipulative skills and co-ordination and balance. Te Whariki also provides us with reflective questions and gives us examples of how we can help the children to meet these outcomes such as providing safe objects that infants can pull themselves up on. With mastery of new motor skills comes the ability for children to explore their environment in new ways. Once infants start moving they actively seek out human interaction (Berk, 2013), which in turn leads to all of the other developmental domains.
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Cognitive development is the process of knowledge. Berk states that “it includes all mental activity – attending, remembering, symbolizing, categorizing, planning, reasoning, problem solving, creating and fantasizing” (2013, p. 225). It is how we make sense of the world around us and is essential to everything we do. Te Whariki supports cognitive development in many ways. It is supported largely in the strand of Exploration, however the strands of Contribution, Mana Tangata and Communication, Mana Reo also give goals and guidelines in regards to it.
Within Te Whariki the goals for exploration are that children’s play should be valued as meaningful learning. They should learn strategies for active exploration, thinking and reasoning and they need to develop working theories to make sense of their entire world (MoE, 1996). These goals support cognitive development directly as many theorists regard play and imaginative play as crucially important to children’s learning.
Language is a uniquely human ability and it helps us to communicate our thoughts, ideas and lets us share our emotions (New Zealand Tertiary College [NZTC], 2013). Language development is extremely important as it lets children vocalize their needs and wants and lets them express themselves. Chomsky believed that children have an innate system called a language acquisition device (LAD) that permits them to combine words and make sense of sentences they hear (Berk, 2013). Te Whariki directly supports the domain of language development through strand 4 – Communication. One of the goals within communication is that “children experience an environment where they develop communication skills for a range of purposes” (MoE, 1996, p. 16). Te Whariki also provides learning outcomes such as children developing language skills for real life, play and for problem solving such as learning how to express feelings, how to negotiate, predict, guess, plan and learn the ability of storytelling (MoE, 1996). These goals and learning outcomes help us to enrich and foster children’s language development. Te Whariki also supports Te Reo Maori as a relevant language (MoE, 1996). Social and emotional development are extremely important to a young child. Te Whariki supports this domain through its entire curriculum as it sees the child as a holistic being. All of the principals and all of the strands of Te Whariki support social and emotional development of children in some way. Emotions are what drives us as humans and how we feel has a direct impact on our personality and our ability to socialize. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that basic needs must be meet before a child feels safe and secure (NZTC, 2013). Te Whariki supports this theory with strands 1 and 2, Well-being, Mana Atua, and Belonging, Mana Whenua. It states that “children experience an environment where their health is promoted” (p. 48) and “their emotional well-being is nurtured” (MoE, 1996, p. 50). Also that “children and their families know they have a place” (MoE, 1996, p.54). With these goals occurring children will feel like they belong, self-respect and approval will develop and then the ability to effectively learn and achieve success occurs (NZTC, 2013).
Spiritual development is an enigmatic developmental domain and is hard to define. However as teachers of young children it is one that we need to encourage and acknowledge (NZTC, 2013). In the narrow sense it is religious but in a broader sense spirituality can be said to be when people in their everyday lives, show the highest of human qualities. These being love, generosity, forgiveness, sharing, peacefulness and awe and wonder of nature and its creatures (Wolf, 2000). Nurturing this spirit is a responsibility of early childhood teachers and one that our national curriculum Te Whariki supports us in. Strand 1 – Well-being directly links to spirituality in that it states that adults should recognize the importance spirituality has in the development of the whole child (MoE, 1996). Also to teach through all strands of Te Whariki attributes such as respect, curiosity, trust, reflection, confidence, independence, responsibility and a sense of belonging (MoE, 1996).
In conclusion Te Whariki supports all of the developmental domains in a myriad of ways. All developmental areas make essential contributions to the developing child and they all interweave and connect with each other. All of the principals and strands of Te Whariki also interweave and connect with each other, therefore all of the strands, Well-being, Belonging, Contribution, Communication and Exploration can be linked to any one of the five developmental domains in some way. Te Whariki sees the child as a whole holistic being and as such we as early childhood teachers must view children as holistic beings and nurture them in all aspects of their growth and development. Te Whariki as our national curriculum helps us to do this.
Berk, L. E. (2013). Child development. (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc. Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō nga mokopuna o Aotearoa/Early childhood curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media. New Zealand Tertiary College. (2013). Lifespan
studies 1 study guide. Auckland, New Zealand: New Zealand Tertiary College. Wolf, A.D. (2000). How to nurture the spirit in non-sectarian environments. Young Children, 55(1), 34-36.