By Hilary Asquith – Kawakawa Head Teacher
The Odyssey is inspired by Maria Montessori’s vision of an adolescent farm school, where students would live, work, and learn together. While we can’t provide a full residential experience, our Odyssey gives our students a taste of what it’s like to live away from home for an extended period and be an active participant in a community.
During the Odyssey, our students will participate in activities like white-water rafting, bush survival workshops, and caving. These challenges often push our students outside their comfort zones, which can be anxiety-inducing initially but is often an opportunity for incredible personal growth. Ākonga learn to rely on each other and the adult team for support, which works to build a strong sense of trust, community, and appreciation of our interdependencies. Plus, they’ll learn valuable skills like problem-solving, adapting to others, communication, and collaboration that will serve them well in the future.
The Odyssey is also a chance for our students to appreciate our incredible New Zealand environment. They’ll learn about conservation and sustainability, and gain a deeper appreciation and respect for the natural world and our reliance on it.
I believe that the Odyssey can be a life-changing experience for our students. Over the course of the three Kawakawa years, students develop independence, resilience, and social organisation skills that will serve them well in the years ahead. They’ll learn to independently manage their own schedules, cook, clean, do laundry, and function as a cohesive group, even when tired and under pressure. They’ll also have the chance to explore their own identity and learn to communicate their needs and emotions effectively away from the regular security of their whānau.
At the heart of the Odyssey is the Montessori philosophy of education, which emphasises hands-on, experiential learning. We know that our students learn best by doing, and the Odyssey is a wonderful example of that. By engaging in emotional and physical challenges and working together, our students can develop skills and confidence that can last a lifetime.
We encourage all our Kawakawa students to take full advantage of this incredible opportunity. It’s a chance to strengthen friendships, develop leadership, learn new skills, and have a blast with good mates! We know that the Odyssey will be (possibly with time and hindsight) a highlight of their time at school, and the Kawakawa team loves to see first-hand the incredible growth and development that comes out of this unique and valuable experience. It takes an immense amount of effort and teamwork to make Odyssey happen each year and I am incredibly appreciative to work within such a wonderful community to make it happen – thank you.