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Omarumutu School – New opportunities through an old tradition

The annual agricultural day is an important event on the calendar for many rural schools in New Zealand. Students at Omarumutu School in Opotiki harnessed this opportunity to develop key competencies.

Omarumuku School.

"I was challenged, because I haven't done something like that before, but by the end of it I thought that I could get my Dad to buy some wood and I could use the same design to build a shelter for my motorbikes. We worked out we had to work as a team for certain parts of the project, like when we were up to putting the iron sheets up and the three main frames."

Kailin Mareroa, year 8 student

Connecting with the community

With the backing of teachers, the Board of Trustees, and a supportive farming community, students reared fourteen calves within the school grounds. Businesses from throughout the district donated a wide range of products and services to support the project, sparking students' interest in learning more about scientific aspects of agriculture. They found information about the importance of providing shelter for young lambs and calves, then contacted kitset building company OutPost to discuss their ideas. The company generously donated a Borderland Livestock Shelter to the school, and the school's seventeen year eight students constructed an animal shelter.

Authentic contexts

This project provided an ideal context to develop students' awareness and understanding of the key competencies. Principal Courtney Andrews took photographs to document the project, and recorded student voice as they constructed the shelter.

Omarumuku School.

"This experience gave me the opportunity to stand back and take snapshots of the student practicing the key competencies. Later on the students could see themselves doing this and having the discussion with one another about what they were doing."

Courtney Andrews, Principal

At the end of the project, students reflected on their learning by aligning their comments to the photographic records relating to the work they were involved in at each stage. Facilitated by their teachers, students became aware of the language associated with the key competencies and how they had used them within a related context. They solved problems, read instructions several times over or organised tasks with others.

Relating to others, participating and contributing, managing self, thinking, and using language symbols and texts all contributed to a successful outcome:

Unloading the trailer required sharing ideas and negotiating the most effective way to transport the timber into the calf paddock.

Omarumuku School.
Students carrying wood.

Working as a team required lots of discussion about the best approaches, ideas, and ways of thinking to make sure they got it right. No matter how old they were, all students saw themselves as capable learners.

Omarumutu School.
Omarumutu School.


Omarumuku School.

"We had to think, read the instructions, measure out the measurements right, and we had to understand builder's talk. You had to try and keep the boards straight so everything lined up when it came to adding the next piece. A trick I learnt to make it easier was to hold the drill at 90 degrees so it guided the screw in. I never thought that I would get to build a shed at school – it was something different."

Fenix Moana, year 6 student

Courtney reflected that she hadn't realised the scale of the project they were undertaking nor the potential it had to integrate a range of cross-curricular learning opportunities. This experience enabled teachers to see first-hand how authentic contexts for learning enhance the development of the key competencies. It offered opportunities for students at all levels to discuss and understand them. Their goal now is to ensure they plan for more authentic learning opportunities and in doing so, further develop connections with their community.  

Maintaining and creating new relationships

The project created an authentic context for networking between the whole community, from the Board of Trustees and the business community to the parents and wider whānau. Caring for the animals and constructing the shelter enabled the community to be actively involved and drew them together for the purpose of learning and celebration. The school hopes that the relationships developed through this experience will continue to evolve as new learning opportunities arise. Omarumutu students were supported in this project with funding from the Fonterra Grassroots Fund to purchase equipment to establish their student-led inquiries. This also assisted them to promote science learning throughout their community.

Omarumuku School.

Throughout the construction process, students learnt to be enterprising, resourceful, reliable, and resilient. Best of all they learnt that they could build an animal shelter that looked just like the one in the catalogue!

community engagement
key competencies

Updated on: 14 Feb 2012