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Wellsford girl wins Top Outdoor Spot prize
Texas looked shocked when I called out her name in assembly. It had been several months since she wrote the prize-winning poem describing a Top Outdoor Spot – Cape Reinga. In the intervening time, she had grown a couple of centimetres, played a whole season of Rippa rugby, and had many great outdoor adventures with friends and family.
Wellsford School is the local full primary in a growing town at the northern end of Tāmaki Makaurau (the Auckland region). Many of the kids bus to school from farms on the nearby Taporapora peninsula, and the school serves a real mix of rural and town families. They’re proud of their sporting prowess (the school regularly represents the north at national Rippa Rugby championships), their manaakitanga, their town, and their school. Some of the issues of rural NZ are obvious: Calf and Lamb Day will be Lamb and Goat Day in 2018 (due to the threat of Mycoplasma Bovis). They’re also an Enviroschool – which means they are committed to fostering a generation of students who care about the environment, about indigenous culture and about each other.
When I arrived at the end of lunch break the school grounds were seething with activity. The raucous mass was quickly brought into an orderly single file when the bell rang for assembly, which is just as well – as the school population fills the hall to bursting point once everyone is seated, leaving little room for whanau to squeeze around the edges. Principal Dave Bradley admits that they need a new hall now – and that need will get even more pressing as nearby subdivisions are completed and the roll tips over the 400 mark. This is a reality for many Auckland schools, where the rate of urban growth is rapidly outpacing infrastructure. These kids are still fortunate though in being surrounded by treasured outdoor spots, including nearby regional parks (including Atiu Creek and Te Arai), beaches and local reserves. This school community invests in quality outdoor education, too. Senior kids get to go on two school camps a year – quite an undertaking!
The interactions between the pupils and staff were uniformly respectful and affirming. The DP greeted everyone with Tēnā koutou, and the National Anthem was sung in ngā reo e rua. Good citizenship (caring for others, taking part, supporting learning) is highly prized and certificates for this and a range of individual achievements were handed out by staff and students. It was such a buzz to have a special surprise award to give to Texas – though it was a challenge to explain to a bunch of discerning country kids why they might need help or encouragement to get outdoors! They were keen to tell me where the top outdoor spots are in their neighbourhood – swimming featured large in their minds with summer on the way.
The Osprey backpack, Kathmandu socks, microfibre towel, Potton publishing books, sunscreen, water bottle and Redband gumboot voucher for Texas were greeted with gasps of wonder and delight by the front row of juniors. The school also receives part of the prize - $300 towards an outdoor adventure. Dave Bradley thinks it would be good to use it in support of Texas’ class camp – as not all families have the same resources to enable their children to take part.
Along with Texas and her poem; rippa rugby, citizenship, fairness and inclusion were the winners on the day - and there will be some lucky additions to the school community over the next couple of years as Wellsford expands. I hope they continue to build on their close connection to learning, playing and growing up in the outdoors.
By Dot Dalziell, Regional Field Officer