Kids learn from kids through seeds of learning programme

Issue: Volume 97, Number 20

Posted: 7 November 2018
Reference #: 1H9nw1

Swannanoa School students enjoy spending time with the school’s baby goats, but the goats are just one part of the school’s ‘Seeds of Learning’ programme.

Although she grew up in the city, 10-year-old Ruby Tappin now attends a semi-rural school in the Waimakariri district of the North Canterbury region.

“You learn some things that you don’t in the city about animals. We’ve got an incubator, we’re incubating chicken eggs and they’re going to make chicks.”

Chickens aren’t the only animal residents at Swannanoa School, which also houses goats and quail. The school has also recently welcomed a group of goat kids to their community.

“The baby goats love being cuddled and I like cuddling them and grooming the older ones,” Ruby says.

“You can just pull some fur out in moulting season. You can tell when it’s not moulting season; their fur gets thick and hard to groom and then when it’s moulting season you can feel their coat and it will just be all thin.”

The animals are part of the school’s ‘Seeds of Learning’ programme, which aims to provide authentic learning experiences to students and gives them the opportunity to embrace their rural environment.The programme helps students to learn communication, collaboration and critical thinking.

“Once those guys are six months old, they’ll be the same height [as the mother] but the boy will be a bit bigger and his horns will be massive. They’ll be able to bump a kid over, and an adult; so we’re going to sell them when they’re six months old,” Ruby says.

“We have to sell them in groups because if we sell them separate they might get a bit scared and frightened of where they are because they don’t have family around them, or friends. Unless the person already has goats.”

Key teaching philosophies

Principal Brian Price says a big part of the school’s philosophy is tuakana teina relationships.

“If you know something, the ultimate is to be able to teach it,” he says.

“You watch the older kids that go out there and the little five-year-olds want to come in and spend some time – they teach all that empathy and nurturing and caring, taking responsibility. They’re on-teaching all of those things that we teach to the wee ones.”

Another key teaching philosophy for the school is having a rich and responsive curriculum which nurtures whanaungatanga with the wider community.

“Our community would be described as rural-lifestyles, so how do we actually replicate our community so they feel there’s a real good sense of belonging here as well?” Brian says.

“The Seeds of Learning ticks all of those boxes around authentic learning, rich and real learning … it’s a natural way of learning – and shouldn’t learning be natural?”

Brian says the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We have an awful lot of parents coming in with the children to have a look at the kids. The excitement and that sense of belonging and ownership is just huge with everyone wanting to come and have a look and the kids, taking their grandparents over to show them the goats and tell them their names and what’s happened and it’s all those great discussions that go on.”

The programme includes an animal husbandry team who learn how to breed and raise animals; a marketing team who advertise, price and package produce; and a financial literacy team who keep track of income and expenses, while also investigating different ways to reduce costs.

Marketing team member Caleb Duffy says there are six people in the team who package and sell produce at the school’s produce stall.

“First you have to sort it all out, take the photos, figure out the prices. We figure out the prices from going online and seeing what the prices are from supermarkets and things like that.”

Fellow team member Sam Brophy says they have a variety of different produce available, though some items are seasonal.

“What we have at the moment is different kinds of fruit and we have eggs and we have been bottling worm juice and stuff like that. Most of the stuff we have, we sell it all year round.”

Authentic contexts important

Teacher Kenya McConnell says the programme provides a good context for many subject areas, such as mathematics links while weighing the goats and financial literacy learning through pricing and selling produce.

“I’ve got the littlies, we came out here and patted the baby goats and then did writing about it and they were just so motivated,” she says.

“And there’s the science of what happens in between the life cycle of a chicken and what happens in the egg when it’s being incubated as well.”

Another example of authentic context for the science curriculum is provided by working in the gardens, learning when to plant different varieties and why they have different planting seasons.

“The key competencies, the communication and the problem solving, that’s one of the important parts as well,” Kenya says.

“If a goat was limping, that’s problem solving; who do they come and tell? Then generally  [board member and community member] Sarah Robotham will come and help us and we trim them up. The students come and help us do that as well, so there is a lot of communicating and team work.”

During school holidays, the neighbouring preschool also has an opportunity to look after and learn from the animals.

Kenya has been impressed by the level of initiative shown by students in relation to the programme.

“The produce team wanted to build their own stall to put it out by the front gate for eggs so that even people in the community who are just driving past can buy their eggs,” she says.

“My dad works in town so the boys went and took pictures of all the chickens and made a sign, so we put a picture and a sign up at my dad’s work so we’re selling our eggs in town as well. We talked about the importance of having pictures so that people buying the eggs know what we were doing and what it looked like.”

Using a context that students find interesting encourages them to continue learning beyond the school gate, Kenya says.

“I had a parent come in the other morning and she was saying her daughter went home and she was asking all about the babies drinking from the teats and that for them was a really good conversation because she was like, well, did I drink from your teats? And the mum said it was just a really nice way to talk about it.” 


“We’ve got a roster on the walls of our classrooms, so I’m on this Friday, I’m on three times in four weeks. You can sign up and you get put on the roster,
so there’s about maybe 30 people.”
Abby, Year 7

“We’ve got to feed them, we check their food and play with them and brush them and clean them. We clip their hooves and check if they’ve got like worms or their eyes are okay. We got taught by [community and board member] Sarah and now we know how to do it, but the teacher also does help us.”
Lucinda, Year 6

“Ruby’s nana knitted those sweaters and the colours symbolise each house because we’ve got Rutherford, Batten, Shepherd and Hillary and the sweaters show the colour of each house.The sweaters keep them warm in winter because when they’re young they haven’t got as much wool, so they provide extra warmth.” – Adam, Year 7

“I just like watching the baby goats running everywhere playing around, it makes me feel really happy to see them enjoying themselves, having fun.”
Alex, Year 6


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:36 pm, 7 November 2018

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts