Education Outside the Classroom – Aoraki Mount Cook

There’s nothing like nearly a week away with your class to both bring you together as a unit.

I can still vividly remember my standard four week-long trip to Camp Kaitawa in Te Urewera National Park. Based in a school built to educate the children of workers on the hydroelectric scheme built there. Obviously, after the infrastructure build was complete, not many stayed and the school became surplus and it morphed into a place for schools to experience one of the many remotely fabulous places we tend of have in abundance in Aotearoa.

“Camp” has now fallen under the umbrella term Education Outside the Classroom – EOTC. My school is incredibly lucky. We are able to head away for a 4-day camp once a year and then later in the year we head off for a night skiing & skating in Tekapo. This is far more than so many schools around the country and I am truly grateful to our Home & School team whose massive fundraising efforts throughout the year make these opportunities possible for the learners in my charge.

We rotate our travels. We alternate between the city and more remote areas. This year it was the turn of Aoraki Mount Cook to host us.

The weather was appalling. Well… for the first day anyway. Mountain times in near winter can be filled with moistly saturation. A short walk up the Hooker Valley track ended with many of us facing the tantalising prospect of ice-cold drips of hail down the back of our necks. We did not make it all the way up the track and turned back at the second swing bridge once the icerain decided to start slapping us in the face. Thankfully, the place we stayed was not off the grid and we were able to use the combination of two-dollar coins and drying machines to restore our clothes to a wearable state.

The Department of Conservation were our hosts and ran a programme highlighting their work as kaiteaki of the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Predator control and biodiversity were the main areas of learning, but since DoC are also the local body in the area, they are also in charge of things like refuse collection – important in a national park as all that you bring in needs to be removed. We got to hear about how they manage this.

DoC also showed us the Search and Rescue base. The students got a chance to play the roles of real SAR people – the operations crew, the search team, helicopter pilots, medics, media liaison – every part of the process was covered in our little fake rescue of an injured German climber.

What a week! So much learning in so many different contexts. Such a valuable week and not a maths book, writing pen or school journal in sight.

Next week we’ll be back to our “usual” programme (usual-ish as we are currently studying Bigfoot & Loch Ness Monsters in our Unsolved Mysteries unit). I imagine that the kids will still be buzzing for a while.

Please enjoy some of the photos of our trip…


Mmmm… weather


A possum made from lake-side bits during a “Make Stuff from Lake-side Bits” competition


A lizard made during the same competition


Lake Tasman for lunch


Mountainy mountains

Search and Rescue activity