Adventure time at Opoutere School

Issue: Volume 96, Number 11

Posted: 26 June 2017
Reference #: 1H9dLK

An annual school adventure race that takes advantage of the beautiful and diverse environment around Opoutere School has now grown to include the wider community.

Scrambling up hills, biking across farmland and crossing streams is all in a day’s learning at Opoutere School.

The full primary is located near Whangamata, at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula. Nestled between native bush, farmland and sea, Opoutere is the perfect backdrop for a cross-country adventure.

Realising the vision of ‘character development through adventure-based learning,’ in recent times adventure learning at Opoutere School has become a significant and unique part of the curriculum as well as an annual community event, which is now in its third consecutive year.

“At Opoutere School we have incorporated adventure racing into the curriculum,” explains year 5–6 teacher Gina Kennings.

“Students spend a term learning skills, training and then compete in the annual adventure race.”

In its first year, the race was designed for teams of year 5–8 students in the Whangamata area. The following year, school families were invited to join in too, and the event is now open to the entire community: teachers, students and their whānau, teachers from any nearby school.

Held in late May, this year’s race attracted 140 competitors from the Whangamata area, many of them families, including young children and grandparents.

“It’s fantastic to see people of all ages taking part,” says Gina. “This year our youngest entrant was five years old, and the oldest was in their 60s. It’s a real community event.”

Adventure racing is a challenging tam sport involving trekking, mountain biking and navigation, explains outdoor education and te reo Māori teacher Ryan Thompson, who himself is a keen adventure racer and, at the time of writing, was competing in an international event in Asia.

Unlike a traditional school cross country, an adventure race is not reliant on physical ability alone but calls upon planning, problem-solving and teamwork skills – all important elements of the key competencies, he says.

“Adventure racing and the outdoors provides an authentic and meaningful context for students to develop the key competencies.

“There are real-life consequences and real-life successes which makes the learning worthwhile and lasting.

“We have noticed that students of all fitness and abilities participate and are engaged in adventure racing, even those who would usually struggle with cross country or traditional team sports.”

The Opoutere School Adventure Race involves working together as a team to navigate rugged terrain, trekking and cycling to collect checkpoints marked on a map.

Kept secret until the day of the race, the three-hour course takes competitors through lush native bush and rugged farmland, down hills and through streams.

Navigation skills and teamwork are extremely important, says Gina, who has so far competed twice in a team with her husband and daughters (aged 6 and 8).

“It’s an awesome thing for families to do together – you learn heaps about your kids – and yourself – that you wouldn’t otherwise know,” she says.

“We’d really like other schools in our area to enter teams next time, because it’s such a great team sport. You’ve got to be able to think on your feet, navigate and know how to use a map.

“You have to go as fast as the slowest person. You can’t go and get the checkpoints yourself, you have to collect them as a team, and so it does take the full three hours to complete.”

Gina admits her daughters had far fewer problems completing the course than their parents did.

“Because Opoutere School students are doing this type of learning every week, it wasn’t difficult for them at all – it’s just normal.

“We were like, ‘please wait for us!’”

Term themes

At Opoutere School, the school year is divided into four terms, each of which have a different learning theme that relates to adventure. These themes are explored in different ways across each year level.

Term 1: Te Moana – The Ocean

Kayaking / conservation / environmental studies / marine science / water safety

Term 2: Matariki – Māori New Year

Tikanga / te reo Māori / astronomy / leadership / Māori games and art / gardening / service

Term 3: Te Whakataetae – Adventure Racing (literal translation – competition)

Navigation / teamwork / fitness / leadership / strategy / maths / bushcraft / survival

Term 4: Te Haerenga – Expedition

Safety / risk management / planning / teamwork / leadership / geography

The Opoutere School Adventure Race comprises:

  • about 12 kms mountain biking on farm tracks
  • trekking about 5 kms over a mixture of trails: native bush, farmland and streams
  • navigation: participants are given 1:25,000 topographical style maps with checkpoints marked on them
  • fun, mystery activities to be completed during the race for extra points.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:00 AM, 26 June 2017

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