Kawakawa Odyssey on the West Coast of the South Island by Tanya Laybourn, EOTC Co-ordinator

The purpose of the Odyssey is two-fold – to build the sense of teamwork and community in the class of Kawakawa AND to learn something.  This year we went to the West Coast of the South Island, to learn about historic and modern coal and gold mining and also about pounamu.

We were away at the start of Term 1 for 12 days  of travelling, cooking, playing games, learning and experiencing new places together – enjoying the sun, battling the rain and sleeping in strange places.

In Westport we learnt about coal. We visited the old coal mine at Denniston and experienced mining back in yester-year.  We also visited the fully functioning modern open-cast Stockton Coal Mine.

In Charleston, we ventured underground to learn about lime stones caves while amongst the stalagmites and stalactites and glow worms.  It was beautiful, and we all loved tubing down the rapids.

Our stay at Arahura Marae was a life changing experience of manākitanga for the class.  We were the first large group to be hosted at their stunning new whare and we learned so much about generosity of spirit and stories of pounamu. Hokitika will always be a place of treasured memories for Kawakawa.

At Shantytown we dressed up as 1800s miners and learnt about the life and times of gold miners.  Then we had the privilege of being the last tour through Oceana Gold Mine in Reefton – there we witnessed the massive technology of modern gold mining.  In Reefton we also enjoyed the company of the “famous” Bearded Miners for billy-tea and scones.

Not all the lessons of the Odyssey are about learning ‘stuff’; in fact many of the more impacting lessons involve the skills developed in the area of living as a community – getting up early to prepare breakfast for the class, spending a chunk of your afternoon cooking dinner, washing the cook’s dishes, etc … There are also many lessons around care of self and respect of others – doing your own laundry, packing up your own bags, considering the needs of others around the time to sleep.

Adolescents are beginning the stage of development that involves testing out what it is like to move away from the direct influence and care of the family.  They are learning from others and about others, testing behaviour and opinions with both their peers and with the other adults in their lives.  The other need they have is to learn experientially.  For both these reasons the Odyssey is a great way to start the year – a good dose of peer interaction combined with solid learning from being at the mines and being able to see, touch, try and ask questions from those who really know.

And for me, it is always a privilege to take Kawakawa away on trips – we constantly get positive feedback from the people we meet along the way …