After 15 years of hard work and obtaining a unique status among early childcare services in Rotorua, award winning Tiaki Early Learning Centre changed hands on 1st April 2023. It has been bought by Osatti Investments Limited which runs Playtopia Educare.
The word Tiaki means to ‘care, protect and look after, to be a guardian’. This name was given to the Centre by the local hapū Ngāti Te Roro o te Rangi.
Tiaki Early Learning Centre, nestled on the shores of Lake Rotorua, caters for up to 30 children. It was opened in November 2008, with a desire to create a quality place for children to grow and learn, with the support of many kaiako, families and the local community.
The service is set within a large, well-established outdoor environment, with vegetable gardens, an orchard, and plenty of space and mature trees which allow children room to move, climb and play. The outside environment is intentionally designed to encourage children to connect with nature.
Tiaki ELC has won several awards, including the Innovation category of New Zealand National Commission (UNESCO) Award in Global Citizenship Education in 2018; Excellence in Health and Wellbeing Education at the 2019 Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards.
Now, it is time to bring scientific concepts to childcare education, showing importance of vermicomposting, organic gardening to grow our own kai, and many more.
Tiaki’s philosophy is rooted in whanaungatanga and tangata whenuatanga – the concepts of relationships and socio-cultural, place-based education. Place-based learning builds a feeling of belonging and fosters a strong sense of identity, of affiliation, and responsibility.
The high teacher:children ratio allows the children to undertake place-based education, connecting with the local community which is a large part of Tiaki life.
With time, the children develop a love and respect for the local area, they want to care and look after it, that is the essence of kaitiaki.
“As a former senior environmental scientist at Scion, and Professor of Environmental Science at Fiji National University, I am impressed with the philosophy of sustainability and zero waste policy at Tiaki ELC,” said Dr Guna Magesan, Director of Osatti Investments Limited.
“Tiaki’s philosophy will continue under new management. Similarly, excursions to local Marae, wetlands, lake, and community interactions and learning from nature will continue. To make sure that happens, we have appointed Bradley Graham, who is a current kaiako, as the interim Manager of Tiaki ELC,” he added.
“At Scion, I had an opportunity to lead several projects including land treatment of effluent; nitrate leaching from gorse; biological farming and impacts on water quality; and “wastes to resources” programme. Now, it is time to bring scientific concepts to childcare education, showing importance of vermicomposting, organic gardening to grow our own kai, and many more,” Dr Magesan added.
“We already compost all food scraps. We work hard to find resources that align with our philosophy. We avoid plastic and try to purchase well-made, long-lasting resources. All of this means we can significantly reduce the amount of waste we produce,” said Bradley Graham, interim Manager of Tiaki ELC.
“The kaiako come from a range of backgrounds but all of them share a passion for the natural world while ensuring the best quality education for the tamariki.
“The outdoor environment is the best possible resource which helps children to become capable, confident, and resilient while developing a healthy respect for Papatūānuku,” he added.
Tiaki provides delicious and nutritious vegan kai. The menu has been developed alongside a qualified and experienced pediatric nutritionist, who worked with the chef who prepares the kai. It’s about teaching the tamariki healthy ideas around food, trying new foods, understanding where your food comes from, and the effect that has on the environment.
Tiaki Early Learning Centre is indeed unique, and it holds a special place within our hearts because of its service, philosophy, and learning from nature. The children are able to authentically connect with their local community and its history and culture, and the result is that they can receive the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional benefits these connections offer.
“I got into the childcare business with a concept of community development through childcare education. We are here to contribute to the community,” added Dr Magesan.
“Let us all come together. Let us all work together. Let us all grow together.”