Classrooms to go bush in Waitati

Two Dunedin teachers have teamed up to create Otago’s first nature school for primary pupils.

Lizzie Potter and Geoff Markby plan to use a 1.2564ha piece of land in Doctors Point Rd, Waitati, to offer a range of nature-based activities as an alternative to classroom-based learning.

Initially, it will host up to 12 children, two days per week, and introduce them to a range of skills involving the flora and fauna of the area which contains a significant amount of native bush and a small gully system.

At times, this learning may involve leaving the site to explore the estuary shoreline, which is within walking distance from the site.

Mr Markby said learning outcomes would include problem solving, resilience, communication skills and the building of emotional wellbeing.

"We felt there was a real need in education for this type of activity in this generation.

"It’s a level of education that’s not been tried in Dunedin before at primary level."

He said the programme would be offered on a Thursday and Friday each week, and pupils would be supervised at a ratio of one teacher to six pupils.

The school would also run two open days a year.

The only change proposed to the site is the installation of a portable ablution block.

It was hoped the first groups of pupils would visit the site mid-year.

The school had been granted resource consent, the conditions of which included: restricting its hours of operation to 9am to 2.30pm, Thursdays and Fridays, during the school term only; parents or caregivers not delivering children to or uplifting them from the site except in the case of an emergency; the consent holder planting native shrubs along the open boundary shared with Doctors Point Rd; and open days only taking place twice a year.

Mr Markby said they eventually hoped to expand the school to other sites around Dunedin and turn it into a full-time business.


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