A change of occupation

By Richard Goodyear – Kawakawa teacher

A key part of our curriculum in Kawakawa is called ‘occupations’. I’m sure you’ve heard bits and bobs about this over the years or you may have children in the adolescent programme already so know quite a bit.

Occupations is one of the main pillars of our programme. It is both a collection of traditional subjects (science, technology, design, communication and more) and a mandate for a way of working (going out to meet professionals, seeing projects in society and inviting experts in to help us, and working on hands-on projects that serve the community).

Currently, the students get a lot of choice about what projects they join but once in that group, often the autonomy for the project sits largely with the adult guide. That model is not so different from what many mainstream adolescent programmes are doing around the country.

We are going to change that next year and at the same time expand the purpose of our projects. Projects will exist within themes that are both current and future-focused in Aotearoa.

The first of those is kaitiakitanga, the notion of guardianship. As our society comes to grip with the impact we have had on the land, we know we are going to have to adopt economic activities that see the land, water and life thrive while the people also thrive. Kaitiakitanga projects will be focused on this and other related themes and be based on the high school site of course but branch out into the forests and streams on this side of the Hutt Valley.

Manaakitanga is another occupations overarching theme. This uniquely Māori concept encompasses hospitality, respect, caring for others, hosting and many other ideas. It will look a bit like growing food and serving people lunch, but it will be so much more. We might put a hangi down but before we can do that we will need to investigate the soil chemistry of our site (it used to be a plastics factory after all). We might make a pizza oven and explore the physics of insulation and heat first. Ākonga will have the opportunity to follow ideas of their own and ones worked out by their teachers.

And lastly, we will have a good old-fashioned zone for tinkering and creating. We are calling it ‘Maker Space’. It will evolve into something we can’t imagine yet but no doubt it will be a place to build, create, code, solder, print 3-D models, solve problems and so much more. It will be full of tools and will be a place to try weird and wonderful projects. Some of which will have a purpose, some of which may just be created. Just because. One of my hopes for ‘Maker Space’ one day is to create a plastics recycling factory (designs are online). But we’ll see.

Exciting times in Kawakawa.