LIMEHILLS School pupils not only learn life skills on a daily basis, they live them.
From learning how to develop computer games, gardening and volunteering at the local Hospice shop to farming, beekeeping and a medical team, anything suggested by the pupils could be taken to the school board for discussion, principal Jim Turrell said.
“The kids get to make decisions… they choose what they want to learn about, which means they are hugely engaged and they love their learning, which flows on to their reading and writing,” Mr Turrell said.
“The children tell us what they want to do or achieve, then we ask them to list the skills they think each job needs, and fill in an application form, and apply to the school board.”
Inspired by Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson, who organised volunteers to help after the Christchurch earthquakes, the pupils planned and managed everything to do with the projects, Mr Turrell said.
The aim was for every pupil in the school to take part in its own student volunteer army.
“We want all our students to participate in the community… and take an active part in the community that they belong and can make a really powerful contribution.”
Mr Turrell said since the programme began, he had seen more enthusiasm and a deeper learning in the children.
“Rather than sticking to the standard subjects such as English, maths or science, the children work on practical, hands-on projects, which is driven by themselves.
“It teaches them how to manage themselves, leadership skills, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, how to deal with real life problems and solutions.”
The school was a micro environment for how the real world should be, he said… “people working together to solve community problems”.
Every Friday, a group of pupils gather in the transformed school dental clinic, which is now a kitchen, and prepare meals for the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Southland Hospital.
Co-ordinator Georgia Hart (12) said the group had baked and cooked various recipes for the past 12-18 months for the support facility – not only during the school term, but sometimes during the school holidays as well.
Georgia, who co-ordinates the roster and organises the Facebook page, said people were very generous by donating many of the food items, such as bananas and eggs on the day the Southland Express visited.
Programme has nationwide potential
THE cooking group also received help from parents and other members of the community who donated items and help, Georgia said.
Vegetables from the school vegetable garden were also used and the group delivered a variety of food items, including pizza scrolls, scones, lasagne and soup.
“They love soup [at Ronald McDonald Family Room], and we also donate eggs to them for breakfast,” she said.
Mr Turrell said Limehills had always been an enviro school, and was now growing into a volunteer army school.
As well as raising chickens and sheep, the school also had bee hives, which were also popular.
“The kids researched bee flight paths and how to entice them back to the hive.
“The winning design was used and painted on to the hive.”
Mr Turrell said one of the real-life problems the “tech” [computer] kids identified for a science fair project was the dangerous turn-off from the main Winton-Centre Bush highway to Limehills.
Some of the tech kids designed a simulation programme to locate the problem by installing cameras at the intersection, then developed a computer programme to solve the problem, Mr Turrell said.
Another suggestion by a pupil was to develop a simulated computer game for foreign tourists who wanted to drive on New Zealand roads, which would be a way of testing their driving abilities.
The volunteer programme had been so positive that next year it may be rolled out to many more primary schools nationwide, Mr Turrell said.