Kawakawa Service Camp – why do we offer it to the Adolescents?

By Hilary Asquith –  Lead Teacher Kawakawa

Service Camp is an extension of the community work we do at school. However, it adds experiential layers to the complexity of working and living independently and participating in community life. The Kawakawa camps are an important feature of our Montessori adolescent education programme, an opportunity to live in a community with others and be required to make a contribution.  It is not uncommon for us as staff, and likely for you as parents, to hear that our community service mahi is some form of slave labour. Ākonga are often begrudging of their energy and efforts in these endeavours. So often is the case though, that once the work is complete, the students will often say things like, “that was actually quite fun” or “it wasn’t that bad.”

It is therefore important that we as the adults have a good understanding of why we ask what we do of our ākonga in order to help them reflect on these changing perspectives, and aid them to find satisfaction and accomplishment in the work they complete and the value they add. Additionally, we also want them to truly understand and appreciate that it takes the efforts of the collective to make the whole function well. Learning to tidy up after themselves, not keeping others awake at night, taking a turn to clean the bathroom, cooking a meal, doing the dishes, or vacuuming the dining room, are all parts of that shared experience. Learning to negotiate and challenge the fairness of others contributions is also an important learning aspect of that experience. It is a powerful, persuasive lesson when your friends call you to account about the mess you have made and failed to clean up, or your group notes that you keep skipping out when it’s your group’s turn to do the dishes. These are messages that ākonga are often not willing to hear from parents or teachers but they will take on-board hearing from friends and peers. These experiences aid the lived understanding that everyone needs to contribute to make community work well. It is also just as important to learn to advocate for yourself when you feel that you are doing more than your share or you need support for the mahi you are undertaking. Community works best when we are all heard, supported and compassionate to the needs of others and ourselves.