Our Story

A world of wonderment and imagination.

Our World

For more than thirty years, Bear Park has been a special place for children and whānau.

A place of wonder. A place where curiosity, excitement and spontaneous imagination are nurtured. A place of laughter and joy, of friends and memories. A place of endless opportunities. A place where children are celebrated for being exactly who they are – children.

The Beginning

In the mid-eighties, with seven years of primary school teaching behind her, our founder Sue Stevely-Cole had an idea. She took her love for children, her passion for education and her delight in all things bear and created the very first Bear Park centre in St Heliers. Four years later, as she opened the doors to Bear Park number two, Sue realised she was onto something. Something big.

Inside the brick and weatherboard walls of the Maskell Street centres, Sue’s mission – to create a home away from home for young children – was working. Everywhere she looked pre-schoolers were growing and thriving, exploring the world around them. With her innovative teaching methods and inspiring philosophies, the environments were encouraging quality and holistic learning, and the children were happy, confident, listened-to and valued.

Sue had always been drawn to the qualities of the bear – comfort, loyalty and friendship without judgement – and could now see these qualities fast becoming the foundation of the Bear Park Community.

"The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and richer their experiences."

Loris Malaguzzi


More than three decades later, with eleven unique centres throughout Auckland and Dunedin, Bear Park continues to provide children, teachers and whānau with positive relationships, deep connections and meaningful, respectful and richly-resourced learning environments. With the kindness of the bear, the authenticity of the child and the dedication and open-mindedness of the teacher, Bear Park remains a leader in early childhood education and will do so for many years to come.

Bear Park. A home away from home.

Teaching Philosophy

Bear Park advocates for the rights of all children, valuing and embracing the culture of childhood and respecting children as active members of society.

We base our philosophy upon te Tiriti o Waitangi; the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum, Te Whaariki; as well as the integration of a strong inspirational influence from the Educational Project of Reggio Emilia, in Italy.

Due to these above influences, we have chosen to write our Philosophy Statement under the four main principles of Te Whaariki, with our Bear Park Image of the Child, Image of the Parent and Image of the Teacher being incorporated within these.

Our Four Main Principles of Te Whāriki: