Heritage cements value into school build

Issue: Volume 97, Number 13

Posted: 26 July 2018
Reference #: 1H9jiz

From an area where Māori once rested, to farmsite, to modern school environment, Gilberthorpe School has a rich cultural history for students and staff to learn from.

In the small suburb of Hei Hei, Christchurch, the sound of the Gilberthorpe School community arriving on a Friday fills the air.

As people converge from all directions, greetings are called out between students, teachers, parents and friends.

The sense of belonging and shared cultural history is important to the school community, who were heavily involved in the school’s redesign over the last few years.

Gilberthorpe School Principal Andrew Wilkinson is amongst the conviviality most mornings and afternoons.

He says the care taken whilst updating the school’s buildings reinforces the values and learning outcomes for their students.

“We’ve worked a lot with our whānau around the types of skills that they want their children to leave with when they move on from here, especially in this day and age, so then what we decided to do was use those skills to name the spaces,” he says.

“Without question the skills that the parents were wanting were for students to be confident, collaborative and have good values.”

Each learning space and year level is named after attributes the school community agreed were important for students at different stages of their learning pathway.

New entrants are known as Te Rōpū Kura Pounamu, or little treasures, to remind the school community that these are the young students to look after and nurture, whilst the oldest students are known as Te Rōpū Whakamanawa, which means a group who encourages, inspires and instils confidence, because these students are expected to be role models to the younger students.

The schoolwide learning focus for this year is community, and the identities within a community. As well as their own identities and those of their peers, students have been learning about the meanings of the new names around the school and the values placed on the skills they will be developing.

Gilberthorpe School’s Māori name is Ara Tu Whakata, which means a place where people stop to refresh and revitalise before continuing on their journey.

Historically, Māori travelling between pā in Akaroa and Kaiapoi would stop in the area to gather and prepare for the journey ahead.

Students at Ara Tu Whakata are also on a pathway, Andrew says.

“We really like the link between the pathway from pā to pā and then the fact that all of our students are on a pathway. They might be at different places, but they’re all on that pathway somewhere.”

The rebuild has also had quantifiable benefits – the school roll has more than doubled in recent years from about 80 students to over 170, and overall student achievement results last year showed a 13 per cent increase for maths, 17 per cent  for writing and 16 per cent for reading.

By using online surveys and having open discussions with the whole school community during all stages of the build, Gilberthorpe has been able to ensure the outcome works for all parties, not least of all their students.

“Some kids were concerned at first, but it’s not a secret, everything’s open and discussed. They’ve got a chance to ask questions and the teachers respond to those questions to put them at ease. They know about the systems we’ve got in place and have had input into them where possible.”

The school now operates a flexible learning space, with a junior hub (Te Ara Whakatau – to settle, prepare and welcome) and a senior hub (Te Ara Takitini – many people working together in collaboration). The new spaces allow teachers and students to work collaboratively and build on the sense of community which is so woven into their cultural narrative.

“There’s lots of changes that we’ve made to the way that we approach education,” Andrew says.

“Students are currently building huts, making new bikes, painting and having the chance to simply be kids and problem solve along the way. They’re being creative, they are more engaged, we have quite extensive gardens, and honeybees. Just lots of things to keep the kids motivated and keep them engaged and connected to their learning,” 

What teachers are saying…

Jessica Hey, Junior Teacher

“To be able to come over here into this sound protected environment has made a huge difference to the kids. It’s let us all have our individual spaces for homerooms during the day, whereas we didn’t really have room to do that in the old building. I feel like we have more time for one on one with the kids and working with small groups. I think it’s just a warm and lovely atmosphere for the kids to be in.”

What students are saying…

Angus Warwick, 10

“I like teaching people, and you can role model for people. If all the five-year-olds are in one room then the teacher will have too many kids to show what to do.”

Marsali Garrick, 7

“I like having lots of people around me to help me. When I was new people showed me around.”

Chelsea Waho, 10

“My favourite thing about this hub is that you can collaborate with other people and you can know what other teachers have to teach you about and this hub just makes me feel happy. Also, the good thing about these new spaces is that we can do cooking and things like that because we’ve got an oven.”

Daisy Wells, 7

“It’s got lots more space than the old hub and we can fit everybody in so that we don’t get really squashed and it makes me feel happy.”

Nevaeh Garrick, 11

“I like the learning space because you can communicate with all the other teachers and different students for learning purposes. Some teachers know how to teach other things than other ones, so you can learn something different every day.”

Kylah Flutey, 5

“I like the junior hub because I always learn and write with my friends. I like the hubs because we have space to learn in.”


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:19 am, 26 July 2018

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