Taking care of hauora

Issue: Volume 97, Number 12

Posted: 11 July 2018
Reference #: 1H9jaN

Introducing Zumba, cross-fit, boxing, skipping and a cooked breakfast on Fridays has helped a Hawke’s Bay school grow happy, healthy kids.

When Kimi Ora Community School Principal Matt O’Dowda started over two years ago, the school was on the brink. The roll had fallen from 300 to just 70 students and a Limited Statutory Manager was in place. The kids were not making healthy food choices, were showing up late to class, and getting into fights at lunch and break times.

Visit today and it’s a very different picture. The transformation started when Matt decided to take care of feeding students both breakfast and lunch, starting the day with exercise and teaching the kids about nutrition.

Matt is understandably proud of his students’ transformation.

“The fitness and wellbeing in the kids has changed remarkably. Our public health nurse has commented quite a few times that the kids and the school have changed,” says Matt.

“Initially when I said to staff ‘let’s have a crack at this’, some were a bit hesitant, thinking the kids will come back tired or hyped up after fitness, but it was absolutely the opposite. The kids were really focused and settled after it. And they were awake. A lot of our kids go to bed when they want to go to bed or when someone turns the TV off if they sleep in the lounge. And so to wake them up in the morning has been fairly beneficial. They’re coming in to class and they’re awake. They’ve got oxygen in their brains and they’re good to go.

”The first couple of weeks they found it hard because they were really unfit. And so to do
15 minutes of good fitness work was really hard for them but now they love it.

“Last year the Hawke’s Bay DHB spent $180 million on obesity-related diseases. We can’t afford as a country to keep doing that. If our kids aren’t healthy then they’re going to get sick. And there’s not much point being good at maths and being really good at reading if you’re on dialysis when you’re 20.

“The kids have learnt a lot about food and nutrition. They’ve done a lot of learning about their brains and their bodies. So they now know that if I drink a can of coke this is what’s going to happen when 15 teaspoons of sugar hits my brain. They can actually make informed decisions about these sorts of things.”

“They have a different timetable than our teaching staff. So with our support staff we’ve got six adults out at break and lunchtime not just on duty, but their job is to run games and play with the kids.

“So the kids are really physically active all the time. It got rid of any fights or problems in the playground because everyone is just busy playing.

“This is a good example of how a school can use their operational funding to support programmes that meet the needs of their school community.”

Leading the way

Providing good role models for the primarily Māori and Pasifika student population was another big focus for the school.

“We have six support staff who are all amazing; most are young Māori and Pasifika guys and girls. All of them are really talented sportsmen and musicians.

“I’ve spoken to other schools and they’re like, ‘you’re really lucky with your teacher aides’, but it’s not luck. You go out and find the people who have the skills that you want.

“What I want, for the boys in my school, who don’t have very many male role models out there, is young Māori and Pasifika guys, showing these boys how awesome they can be.

“And it’s something I think we need to do much better in New Zealand because there are thousands of talented Māori and Pasifika students who would be brilliant in our schools. They are really musical or really sporty but they haven’t necessarily seen teaching as a pathway.

“The more we can get young Māori and Pasifika people into teaching and leadership roles in our schools the better. It’s a great pathway. We’re talking with our guys now, saying ‘you’re doing an amazing job with what you’re doing here as support staff’. But what about that next step back into education and into teaching? We need more Māori and Pasifika teachers and leaders.

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

Posted: 1:00 pm, 11 July 2018

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