School's farm impresses the minister

Education Minister Hekia Parata helps Kaikorai Valley College pupils Jack Hitchcox (12), Jessica Power (11) and principal Rick Geerlofs plant an apple tree on the school's urban farm. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Education Minister Hekia Parata helps Kaikorai Valley College pupils Jack Hitchcox (12), Jessica Power (11) and principal Rick Geerlofs plant an apple tree on the school's urban farm. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Seldom does Hekia Parata get an opportunity to wear gumboots.

She seemed to be relishing it yesterday, when she walked around Kaikorai Valley College's urban farm, observing some of the fruits of the Government's funding at the school.

In June last year, Kaikorai Valley College received an extraordinary funding boost of $217,000 from the Government's Teacher-led Innovation Fund which aims to support the development of innovative practices in schools.

The college received a $117,000 grant for its Science and Technology Learning Innovation in Agriculture programme, which is helping to establish an urban farm on school land.

Principal Rick Geerlofs said a key focus of the programme was the development of critical thinking in teachers and pupils as they analysed how and why humans interact with the environment.

That thinking would be developed by using science and technology in the context of learning in agriculture.

The project involved the college working in partnership with teachers and pupils from surrounding primary schools, he said.

He expected the project would improve engagement in learning for pupils in science and technology; improve recognition by teachers of how to develop and evaluate critical thinking skills in their pupils; increase the use of scientific and technological skills and knowledge by teachers and pupils in inquiry learning; target the development of critical thinking skills in pupils to take charge of their own learning; and create a wider awareness of career opportunities in agriculture.

The other $100,000 grant was for the school's Active Education Project, a joint initiative run by Kaikorai Valley College and Queen's High School.

The project aimed to extend the schools' learning from the Sport in Education Project, which has been running for the past four years.

It found that being active in the classroom helps engage pupils, which in turn helps lift achievement results.

The project now aims to find out whether the strategies can be adapted and used in other learning areas.

Ms Parata was impressed with the results of the projects so far.

''I've thoroughly enjoyed my visit here at Kaikorai Valley College, because I've been able to see a diverse range of options within which learning is happening.''

She was particularly impressed with the school's 2015 and 2016 Young Enterprise projects, which involved creating biofuel and liquid fertiliser, and beehives, both of which would be used on the urban farm.

''It truly has been very uplifting.

''I think they [the school] are absolutely a great role model for reaching into new ways of inquiring about learning, and finding exciting platforms that engage kids' interests.

''I think it's fabulous. It's been a great end to my day visiting Dunedin - and in gumboots!''

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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