Little Gecko Yoga Programme – Torin Mecklenborg
The year has been off to an exciting start with the introduction of the Little Gecko Programme at Royal Drakensberg Primary. Little Gecko is a movement program designed by OT Rachel Carey and yoga instructor Helen Garner which addresses the need in children for movement that optimises central nervous system functioning, thereby setting them up for successful learning in the classroom.
The program follows a story about the adventures of the Little Gecko, who embarks on a heroic journey to find his lost tail. Enroute, he encounters many dangers (cat, snake, owl and weasel). He finds inner strength and courage to get around the dangers. The movement program incorporates yoga poses based on the characters in the book. The Little Gecko hears a voice inside him that affirms him as he faces each challenge – “You are brave and you are strong!” Through the story the children learn that they too are brave and strong. The story teaches self belief and the movement program enables the children to function more effectively in the learning space. This combination creates a sense of security and confidence which enhances all aspects of the children’s experience.
The RDPS teachers spent a weekend doing some training and background to the wisdom of the programme with Rachel and Helen. Their enthusiasm inspired us and got us very excited to roll it out to the kids in the coming week!
On the Monday, we read the whole story of the Little Gecko with all the kids. We split them into three different groups, based on age, and the story was met with great enthusiasm! Across the board, from the grade RRRs to the grade 3s, the kids absolutely loved it. There were only a few moans and groans at the idea of having to embody the 5 animals in the story afterwards.
We are now in the routine of doing a sun salutation variation designed for young kids every morning before school. When the sun is out, we do it on the lawn with the whole school to greet Mr Sun and when it’s raining, we do it in the class rooms with their teachers. The children have continued to enjoy the routine with growing enthusiasm and have become quite good at saying the gecko affirmation at the end, “you are brave and you are strong!” and in isiZulu “unesibhindi unamandla!“
It is a wonderful way to start the day as it energises the kids while allowing them to get the wild energy out of their systems helping them to regulate their emotions. After week one, all the teachers reported back with positive feedback, a lot of them mentioning how the children have been noticeably calmer and quieter in class allowing for more effective learning.
One of the boys, little Ali, in grade RR, a busy boy who is usually bouncing off the walls actually fell into a deep sleep while in his ‘hiding place’ – otherwise known as child’s pose – after the sun salutations the one day. This was beautiful to see, as it was his nervous system responding beautifully to the practice allowing him to feel safe enough in his body to actually rest.
The children continue to ask their teachers if they can do yoga and run to give me a big hug when I arrive in the morning to lead the sun salutation. The teachers have been amazing at taking on the programme and including it so effectively into their already busy class schedules!
We are very happy at how this program has all begun and so grateful to everyone who has made it possible. We are also thrilled by the response we have seen from the teachers and children alike as we roll out this lovely initiative into the community creches. We are truly excited to see the impact of this foundation phase initiative on these amazing kids later on in their lives.
Teacher Corner with Mpilenhle Sibiya
1. What is your favourite song?
Gods Plan by Drake.
2. What is your favourite colour?
I like neutral colours.
3. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoying cooking and watching series.
4. What is something you can’t resist?
Ice! I am addicted to crushed ice – the sound ice makes in my mouth when I am chewing. It feels amazing.
5. What is your favourite holiday destination and why?
Zimbali seems like a special place – I just love the idea of a beach house vacation. Waking up watching the waves and the sound that water makes – it gives me good life vibes and inner peace.
6. If you had super power, what would it be and why?
Reading minds – I think it would be so cool to know what other people are thinking. Through reading minds, I can save the world because maybe if someone is thinking negatively, I can try and convince them to be positive.
7. What is your first memory from your schooling career?
I remember my first teaching practical was 2018 in grade R classroom. I have never felt so comfortable around children. That is when I knew that I had chosen the right path for myself. I loved the energy that kids come with, the ability to forget quickly and give so much love without even recognizing that. I think it’s so cool.
8. Why did you choose to be a teacher?
My grade 8 Art teacher encouraged me to become a teacher. She told us that in learning there are no mistakes. She used to wear bright colours to school, always happy, loved to play music and ready to give. She was able to integrate learning with everything sport, food….
Being a teacher is so cool, you get to be yourself, and children will accept you the way you are.
Outdoor Challenge – Cait Gordon
The outdoor challenge is an event the children always anticipate, the excitement is palpable as they wait to see which activity they will get to do this time. This day allows the children to explore the great outdoors giving the teachers a chance to use the wonderful mountains that surround our school as the classroom. The children are separated into groups of mixed grades allowing them to interact with the other children. This is also a wonderful opportunity to give the older children some responsibility to be hands-on in assisting the teachers with the younger children helping to make this day a raving success each and every time.
The activities of the day consist of river rafting where the children have the opportunity to make a small boat out of natural materials they can find around the dam as well as a trip around the dam, allowing them a chance to try their hand at paddling. In the distance the next activity can be heard at the stables where the children learn the basics of grooming a horse, feeding them apples and a short ride along the edge of the dam. The next group is exploring the forest discovering all the plants and animals we have in our very own Fern Forrest while their friends can be seen nearby quietly looking out for all the birds in the area in their “Feathered Friends” activity. The smoke across the way is a sign that all is well with those roasting marshmallows and building a shelter in “Camping Fun”. The last group spent the morning visiting the vegetable garden and learning how to plant a seed showing off their green fingers’ knowledge learnt earlier in the morning.
The Grade 3s got a special treat of either a long horse ride around the Cavern with one of their wonderful guides while the others enjoy an exciting morning at All Out Adventures, both activities are much anticipated especially since most of these children have been at RDPS since Grade RRR.
As the day comes to the end and the taxis start to arrive to take the children home, the school is full of laughter, happiness and chatting as stories are being shared amongst friends discussing their favourite parts of the day and showing off all their creations.
Getting to Know Our Little People – Sine Ngobese
The thoughts of little children can be very refreshing and remind us to be thankful for the small things. We spent some time at RDPS asking the children some questions to get to know them better. This is what they had to say:
What do you look forward to when you wake up every day?
Coming to school and paly with my friends – Simphiwe
What do you think is the best job in the world? Why?
To play because I like playing – Sandiso
Working at Standard Bank because I get to tell people what to do with their money – Buhlekwande
Imagine you just won a million rand, what would you buy first?
I would buy a whole lot of marshmallows, juice and cake – Yamkela
A big, big, big house for my family to stay in – Lwandle D
If you were president for a day, what would you do?
Get every other country to give me money – Vuyo
Make the whole country on holiday – Jameson
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Superspeed so I can race time – Sihlelelwe
Super strong so I can open tight jars – Gugulami
What makes you laugh or smile?
When my grandma tickles me – Khwezi
Bringing the Arts to RDPS – Cait Gordon
The dilemma of continuing the arts at RDPS was hanging around as the teacher who headed this followed her heart to a life in the Cape. However, things at Royal Drakensberg have a habit of falling into place and Mam Khanyi appeared to make the dream of a performing arts curriculum a reality with a weekly drama lesson for the children.
These lessons are a highlight of the week for the children creating a safe space for them to explore a different side of themselves, as they play games and learn songs with specific actions that are designed to inadvertently build self-confidence and teach projection of their voices. A few minutes into the lesson and even the more reserved children are laughing and having fun with their classmates.
It has been so wonderful to see the interest in performing arts develop in the children in such a short time. We cannot wait to work with Mam Khanyi to create some lovely dances and performances in anticipation of our school plays later in the year!
We have been delighted to watch the children grow and we have been privileged to work with such a dedicated team through the first term.
We wish our greater Royal Drakensberg community a blessed Easter period.
Our best wishes,
Teacher Thoba, Megan & Loretta.