How Raglan Area School students went wild with Wintec

When Raglan Area School wanted to develop an engaging, dynamic and safe outdoor education programme, they turned to Wintec and the results are getting a big thumbs up from their adventurous rangatahi.

Wintec Outdoor Adventure Education educator Dave Williams moved to Raglan in 2018 and loves the challenges and the outdoor diversity on his doorstep. He says, “Raglan Area School had wanted to deliver outdoor education for a while, but they needed some assistance to make sure it was delivered in a way that achieved their kaupapa [objectives] well, and where students were safe”.

“I had an existing relationship with the school, so we discussed at length what it would take to build a programme to best suit their ākonga [students] and kura [school], and the values they have.” 

Once they established that, Williams and the Wintec Outdoor Adventure Education team worked with Raglan Area School Lead Teacher Outdoor Education,  Matua Liam Coulden-Lavers at Raglan Area School to build a Level 1 and 2 Outdoor Adventure Education programme. The Level 1 programme was launched in February this year and Level 2 will launch in 2022.

Matua Liam, Wintec tutors, Wintec students and local crew, Raglan Rock are collaboratively teaching the students rock climbing, abseiling, sea kayaking, bush survival, mountain biking and navigating on land to develop their physical and personal skills.  An important aspect of the programme is enabling students to take on challenges and build transferrable skills outside the classroom.

While Raglan is the perfect environment to develop outdoor education skills, Williams says a highlight has been teaching the students new experiences and taking them to places they have never been before.

“The response from our Raglan rangatahi has been really rewarding. We recently went kayaking for a few days in Tāpapakanga Regional Park [Auckland] and paddled to Waitawa Reserve to stay overnight,” Williams says.

“It was amazing seeing the students on the water having the time of their lives in a place they’d never been to before. Quite a few of them said ‘this is  awesome, I want to sea kayak all the time!’”

Matua Liam delivers the Level 1 and 2 programme for Year 11 – 13 students and has also developed an introductory programme for the Year 7-10 students. He says outdoor education is a highlight for many students at the school and it’s providing a platform for success. 

“One of the most rewarding things for me so far this year has been the impact the contact with Wintec students has had on the rangatahi at our school. Working with these young adults has shown them there is a pathway for them that can lead to an exciting, rewarding career.”

Raglan Area School Principal Louisa Barham says outdoor education is an opportunity to live their values of manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga and poutama and she is “rapt with how far they have progressed the programme for year 11,12 and 13 students”.

“Embarking on this ambitious decision to get a more formalised Outdoor Education programme in our community was a “no-brainer” to me. The speed with which this programme has begun and is evolving with limited funding is so exciting to see. Dave Williams, Matua Liam and the Perry Outdoor Education Trust have proven that where there is a will, there is a way,” says Barham.

“At first, many of our students were hesitant to sign up but we now have a waiting list and there is no doubt the programme will continue in 2022.”

The end goal for Raglan Area School is to become accredited. 

“We are helping to develop Raglan Area School professionally so they can work toward taking over the programme when the school gets accreditation. This also involves professional development for teachers which Matua Liam has fully embraced. Raglan Area School is fortunate to have such passionate staff to drive this initiative,” says Williams.

“There  will be a handover process and that’s our objective to assist where we can and how we can. So if over time we are redundant then that’s our job done for now. If in turn we get a few students wanting to continue their programme at Wintec, then that’s awesome.”

Outdoor Adventure Education includes discovery, experimentation, learning about and connecting to the natural world, and engaging in environmental and adventure activities.

At a professional level, qualified Outdoor Adventure Education specialists learn how to guide people safely in outdoor pursuits and there are opportunities for employment in adventure tourism and the  environmental sector.

Q&A with Matua Liam

How long have you been teaching at RAS?

I’ve been at Raglan Area School for about 8 years now. I began working with the new entrants, then year 5 & 6’s and now I work with students from year 7 through to year 13. I currently teach Maths, coach the senior boy’s football team; but most of my time is spent teaching and setting up the new Outdoor Education programme.

How did it come about that you would be involved in the Outdoor Education programme?

I’ve always enjoyed doing Outdoor Education as a component of my teaching. We would go surfing, hiking, survival style camps, collecting bamboo, and harbour floats. It is the type of thing I was engaged in when I was a student and still enjoy now. There are so many valuable skills to learn, challenge ourselves physically and make connections to the natural world. Raglan Area School is an ideal location for this programme – with a boat ramp to the harbour, Karioi a stone’s throw away, and set within a sustainability-minded community.  I reached out to local educator David Williams who runs the WINTEC outdoor education course and we put together a proposal for Raglan Area School. Louisa thought it was a great idea and has been supporting us from day one.

What are the challenges you face as a school setting up the course?

Starting a new course has had many challenges, but I’ve had a lot of help; WINTEC, Harry & Gareth at Raglan Rock and my colleagues at school particularly Te Whaiwhaia Ritchie and Briar Heinrich supporting the 9-10 course. TJ Pemberton has supported me from the beginning and has been able to secure funding for the programme to purchase sea kayaks, camping gear and climbing equipment for our students to use. This year I’ve had a lot to learn, doing a fair amount of professional development to earn some guiding qualifications to be able to deliver this course and assess our students.  One of our major challenges is with transport. We rely heavily on the school vans to get to our locations but they are in hot demand at the school, so we are beginning to fundraise for our own van. The Year 11’s will be running a ‘taster to climbing’ day in Waitetuna where the students will be the teachers. The Year 9-10’s will be organising a ‘rubber duck race’ raffle. Look out for these events and get involved however you can, or please contact me if you have any ideas, or are keen to support in any way.