Diggers and dirt teach lessons
14 August 2017
How do children respond when surrounded by construction work in their familiar learning environment? Education Gazette visits two Auckland schools to find out.
The school patrol is a tried and tested way that students contribute to their school community. Education Gazette finds out how the task puts values into action for those students involved.
On a crisp morning, four students arrive at Onekawa School in Napier well before their classmates. They meet their adult supervisor, don vests and joke around a little – but only a little – because they’re on a tight schedule.
Recaro, Tristan, Keisha and James lift four large lollipop signs and head off. They’re the Friday team for the school patrol, which operates on a busy four-lane road.
Getting set up involves a strict sequence of moves, all with a watchful eye on the traffic. There are two stretches of pedestrian crossing from the school gate across Kennedy Road, with a pedestrian refuge halfway.
Like all school patrollers, these students are volunteers. And they are certainly needed. The next option for crossing the road – a set of traffic lights – is 400 metres away.
On the day this writer visited, the school was hosting the relaunch of the School Traffic Safety Teams Manual – the official guidebook for school patrols, school wardens and bus wardens. The updated manual is published by the NZ Transport Agency in association with the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand School Trustees Association.
The manual provides essential information for school trustees, principals and teachers (see sidebar). It’s important stuff, given that New Zealand law gives school patrols the power to stop traffic.
School patrols began in New Zealand in the early 1930s, with students waving flags from the footpath to alert oncoming drivers. They gained the power to stop traffic when government regulations were introduced in 1944. This brought about the school patrol much as it is today, with standardised practices and ‘lollipop’ signs.
Traffic levels are much higher today, and over 20,000 students take part in school patrols every year. A practical form of service, it also lets student explore and model values within their school community. The New Zealand Curriculum states that ‘every interaction that takes place in a school reflects the values of the individuals involved and the collective values of the institution’.
The curriculum lists excellence, community and participation for the common good, integrity and respect among the values to be encouraged.
Today’s students at Onekawa speak with a clear sense of purpose about being on patrol. Here’s what some of them say:
“I’ve learned responsibility – to be able to do it every morning, and perseverance – you need to keep going no matter what,” says Hannah. “Helping kids makes me feel really good.”
Jessica expresses similar thoughts.
“I most enjoy helping people and knowing they are crossing safely,” she says.
Richie says a fun day off school at year’s end will be a good reward, but he’s mostly there to help other kids cross safely.
“It’s been hard, especially last year when we had the training. Mr Marshall was real hard on us to get everything right but as I went through the weeks it got easier. I really know how to do it now.”
Last words go to Kee-arn:
“We had to learn to be responsible because there are people who are in our hands really.” Asked what doing patrol on an arterial road is like, his answer is short: “Busy. One word: busy.”
That we place such trust in our young people takes overseas visitors by surprise, says Onekawa School principal Wayne Keats. He recalls tourists pulling over in their campervans to watch the school patrol in action.
“They jumped out of their vehicles, cameras in hand and raced to the crossing. Children with the power to stop cars was something they had never seen before,” he says.
“I told them we believed it was healthy for children to be involved in a service such as this. As New Zealanders, we believe our children should be given responsibility and we trust they will carry out their duty well.”
At the relaunch, Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss told students that volunteering on school patrol contributes to the culture of the school and fits with the school curriculum.
“School patrol is a public service. You do it not because you have to, but because it’s the right thing to do. You help keep yourselves, friends, students, parents and other road users safe.”
School patrols and school wardens take part in a police training programme. Senior Constable Kevin Marshall trains school patrols and wardens in Hawke’s Bay, and says it is well recognised that students provide a service to their schools and the wider community.
He says students are assessed on decision-making, equipment handling, visual awareness, and calling out commands. He describes participation as an individual contribution that leads to self-development within a shared learning environment.
“I just can’t thank the children enough for what they actually do. There is a lot that needs to be learned and put together in a set sequence of events and they manage it really, really well.”
The School Traffic Safety Team Manual is online at education.nzta.govt.nz(external link)
The same website includes curriculum resources that utilise road safety as a context in education for citizenship, aligned with varied learning areas and year levels. It also hosts the Future Transport Competition 2017, which challenges students in years 1–13 to create a game or narrative.
BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, email@example.com
The Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero is produced by NZME for the Ministry of Education for teachers, leaders, and other education professionals working in New Zealand.
Posted: 08:11pm, 21 November 2016
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