education.govt.nz

Rena – how a shipwreck inspired learning

Issue: Volume 100, Number 9

Posted: 21 July 2021
Reference #: 1HANMQ

The stranding of the MV Rena in 2011, widely acknowledged as New Zealand’s most significant maritime pollution emergency, has provided many teaching and learning opportunities in the years that followed.

The students showed the distress of the sea creatures as oil leaked from the shipwrecked Rena, threatening their marine environment.

The students showed the distress of the sea creatures as oil leaked from the shipwrecked Rena, threatening their marine environment.

Giant luminous jellyfish, penguins in bow ties and other sea creatures fell to the floor as dancers dressed in oily black swarmed the stage as part of Mount Maunganui Intermediate’s Showquest performance in June 2021. 

While the students performing would have been just toddlers when the Rena shipwrecked, it is an event they have grown up hearing about – and their creative message around the impact of the disaster and the ongoing care for their local marine environment resounded deeply with the Bay of Plenty audience.

What happened to the Rena

On 5 October 2011, the cargo vessel Rena struck Otaiti | Astrolabe Reef, approximately 12 nautical miles off the Tauranga coast, and grounded. The ship was carrying 1368 containers of cargo and 1700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of diesel fuel. Maritime New Zealand declared a tier 3 response, and mobilised the National Response Team for oil spill response.

Volunteers, the New Zealand Army and other trained responders spent days cleaning up oil from beaches, supported by local iwi and community. More than 1000 dead birds were found and 300 birds (mainly little blue penguins) were rescued and taken to the wildlife oil spill response facility.

Creating awareness

A decade on, the stranding of the Rena continues to provide teaching and learning opportunities – Mount Maunganui Intermediate’s Showquest entry is a good example. 

Principal Melissa Nelson says the Showquest team aligned their performance with a school-wide inquiry into ‘Human Impact on our Oceans and Ocean Sustainability’ in term 1 this year.

“The whole school learned about the ocean; how it provides for us and the issues that plague it. Teams came up with their own unique spin on the topic and the learning that occurred in our kura was amazing.”

Teacher Bronwyn Marshall worked with the students on their Showquest performance. 

“When the team of students and teachers were looking to develop a theme for our Showquest entry this year we looked at our localised curriculum and the stories of our area as well as trying to link with our term 1 inquiry,” says Bronwyn.

“The incident of the Rena and how it impacted our local marine area was of great interest to students. We had guest speakers and undertook much research in order to gain a greater understanding of how the crash into the Astrolabe reef occurred and what were the immediate, medium and long-term impacts of this local disaster on our wildlife, our coastline and our community. 

“We were able to determine that with time and energy nature can regenerate and we linked this with the force of nature through Tangaroa and his godly wife Te Anu-matao.

“We were so proud of our students and the energy, thought and commitment they demonstrated into telling this important piece of local history through drama, dance and music,” says Bronwyn.

Year 8 student Ramari played Te anu-mātou, and expressed sadness for the damage to their environment, while Tangaroa expressed hope for the future.

Year 8 student Ramari played Te anu-mātou, and expressed sadness for the damage to their environment, while Tangaroa expressed hope for the future.

Learning opportunities and resources

The Rena has inspired many opportunities for teaching and learning over the years. Soon after the disaster, School Journal articles appeared, with ‘The Port’ (2012) and ‘What a disaster!’ (2013) sharing children’s perspectives of the Rena grounding, encouraging other students to think about the impact of the event to the marine environment.

In 2013, the Rena inspired the winning entry for a group of New Zealand students taking part in a competition run by the Young Enterprise Trust. The competition was part of the 2013 Global Enterprise Challenge to develop a proposal for a sustainable tourism business that uses science and technology to manage environmental issues. 

The team developed a business plan for a company called Eco Dive, which would take dive trips on the site of the grounding of the Rena.

The three-year anniversary of the grounding was marked for Bay of Plenty schools with the gift of posters and picture books, M is for Mauao by Tommy ‘Kapai’ Wilson and Motiti Blue and the Oil Spill: A Story from the Rena Disaster by Debbie McCauley, as well as an educational poster with easy-to-understand information about the ship’s grounding.

Maritime New Zealand worked with the Ministry of Education to produce the resource ‘What now for the Rena?’ for a 2016 issue of the Ministry ‘s Connected series, which promotes the exploration and learning of ideas in science, mathematics, and technology for students in Years 4 to 8. Linking to the 2013 Connected article ‘After the Spill’, the resource focused on the long-term impacts of the grounding.

“The way this and the previous Rena article have been written, and the depth of ideas that are explored in both, provide great modelling on critical thinking for the students,” was one teacher’s feedback, as reported in The Bay of Plenty Times(external link).

Science Learning Hub | Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao(external link) showcased these articles and provided additional related content and a range of learning activities. It featured the article ‘Restoring mauri after the Rena disaster(external link)’, and the episode ‘The Rena Disaster(external link)’ that appeared as part of television series Project Mātauranga, both offering insights into how te ao Māori can be incorporated into the Rena disaster recovery operation.

 

Mount Maunganui Intermediate’s Showquest performance was inspired by the Rena shipwreck and the school’s inquiry into ocean sustainability.

Mount Maunganui Intermediate’s Showquest performance was inspired by the Rena shipwreck and the school’s inquiry into ocean sustainability.

Student kōrero

Mount Maunganui Intermediate student Ramari (pictured on facing page) played Te anu-mātou in the school’s Showquest performance. This is what she had to say:

“The performance meant a lot to me because of how tragic the Rena disaster was. It’s important that people can learn about our local history and make changes.

“Including Tangaroa and Te anu-mātou in our performance showed our culture, from the school, and how it means a lot to us. 

“The kapa haka moves showed the water going back into the river and showed how sad I was as Te anu-mātou. The words from the song I sang expressed the sadness I felt, while Tangaroa gave the hope.” 

Rena learning resources 

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

Posted: 10:51 am, 21 July 2021

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