We are currently accepting applications for younger tamariki turning 3 after April 2025.

The Kawakawa Outdoor Environment

By Sarah Jane Lambie – Kawakawa Teacher

To create a learning space that satisfies the characteristics of adolescents, Y8 – Y10, Dr Maria Montessori was very clear in her assertion that the best environment to meet their needs is on a working farm, away from parents and cultural obstacles. She wrote “. . . during the difficult time of adolescence it is helpful to leave the accustomed environment of the family in the town and go to quiet surroundings in the country, close to nature. Here an open-air life must be the first consideration in organizing a “centre for study and work.”” (Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence, 2007, p. 67)

Although our kura is in an urban setting, the position of the Kawakawa buildings and surrounding land provides kaiako with a great alternative for offering a programme that aligns with Montessori ideals for adolescent learning. We work hard to uphold a connection to the land, weaving into our programme, wherever possible, meaningful activity and project options in our outdoor environment.

For students Y8 – Y10, “The hand has now become the instrument of the brain; and it is through the activity of his [sic] hands that he [sic] enriches his experience, and develops himself [sic] at the same time.” (Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 112)

When first purchased, much of the High School land, and the stream that runs around the boundary, was overgrown with blackberry, gorse and other ‘unhelpful’ flora, and the land mostly consisted of ‘rotten rock’. Through occupations units, micro-economy, community work, and an established relationship with He Puāwai Trust volunteers, new, ongoing and completed projects feature in our outdoor space. We can genuinely claim that a strong base of work and study connecting the work of the hand to the development of the mind takes place outdoors providing students with a multitude of opportunities and projects encompassing designing, building, creating, restoring and developing our outdoor spaces; planting, growing, harvesting, preparing, eating, composting; experimenting, tweaking, succeeding, failing, completing, abandoning, starting and maintaining for future generations of ‘Kawakawians’ to continue should they wish.

We now have a hen run, a potting shed, an amphitheatre, a peace garden in the making, a wetland boardwalk, bush tracks, raised garden beds, flower gardens, a developing orchard… to name a few enterprises… all done by a collaboration of rangatahi and kaiako.

There are times when our adolescents are low on energy – their bodies are growing at a massive rate! – but with encouragement and the space to work at their own pace, they experience the joy of learning that comes through meaningful work which contributes directly to the kaitiakitanga of our grounds.

What a treat it was, during the recent holidays, to watch a former student visit and run from space to space exclaiming with delight at projects she had contributed to, flora she had planted and tended! Earlier in the year a student from Tāwari popped in and was thrilled to see the stream restoration work he began three years ago, succeeding and being further developed. On Friday, I watched as a student who had spent community work time creating and installing a system to protect the spinach he planted earlier in the day, return to the site to reflect on his efforts with a contented smile spreading quietly across his face.

It felt good… and I feel blessed to be working alongside our awesome Kawakawa rangatahi.

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