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Oturu School – Authentic learning in our community

Oturu School encourages hands-on opportunities for its pupils – focusing learning through connecting to the community, authentic learning, place-based curriculum, and Community Problem Solving (CmPS).

Oturu School website banner

When I first arrived at Oturu 15 years ago, I saw opportunities to reconnect kids to their country experience. I was originally a bee keeper so I used my skills in this area. We went from rabbits in hutches, to bees in hives, and then on to chickens. Macadamia trees were planted in the early days, then olives, lemons, mandarins, and guava trees. We now have 200 fruit trees and five vegetable gardens!

Oturu School Principal, Fraser Smith

Connecting to the community | Authentic learning | Place-based curriculum and Community Problem Solving

Connecting to the community

Through community meetings and informal consultation the local, mostly Māori, community participated in and encouraged the school initiatives.

The community and school developed the overarching concept of Oturutanga – Learning to live, living to learn / Me mahi tatou, kia kaha te iwi.

Oturutanga poster

Authentic learning

We believe that if anybody is connected to the reasons for learning and can plan how to use the tools well, they will succeed.

Oturu School Principal, Fraser Smith

The Oturu School Graduate Student Profile is a collaboration between staff, whānau, and students. It was developed as part of reviewing the school curriculum and very much underpins the school vision and values.

Oturu School Graduate Profile poster

Oturu has fruit trees and gardens and works hard to make learning authentic by making real-life connections. The students can see the value of their work through activities such as making guava jelly, olive oil, and honey.Some students wanted to have a shop to sell their produce, so the school used property funding to build a registered kitchen.

Place-based curriculum and Community Problem Solving

About 10 years ago, Oturu School started taking part in Community Problem Solving (CmPS), which is part of the Future Problem Solving (FPS) programme.The students are encouraged to make a difference through applying the FPS problem solving process to authentic problems in their own community. This fits very well with the Oturutanga concept.

What’s happening to the bees?

Bee on a flower.

One school inquiry centred on the issue of diminishing numbers of bees.

The bee inquiry included research into the problems facing the bees, such as the varroa mite and the disappearance of suitable nectar sources.

The bee inquiry team:

  • shared information with other classes in the school, with a neighbouring school, and with adults at the local Saturday morning market
  • found out the types of flowers that attract bees to gardens, fundraised to buy seeds, and gave out hundreds of packets of seeds with a brochure about the importance of bees and the problems they face
  • planted bee-friendly flowers in the school property.

School rebuild plans

When the school was notified that it was to be rebuilt, their problem solving focus moved to redesigning the learning areas of the school.

The students looked closely at what they wanted to retain about the school character. Plans for the new build were linked with their key value of sustainability.

The first project they identified was to adapt one of the classrooms into a kitchen – where they could cook the food from their gardens as well as make their olive oil and kawakawa ointment.

A pop-up library

Oturu school library.

The school rebuild was delayed so students looked for ways to keep up the momentum while they waited.

The students had been left without a library until the rebuild because the library had been repurposed as a classroom space. 

They decided their priority was to establish a pop-up library in the meantime. This became the catalyst for their next community problem solving project.

The students came up with an action plan and a timeframe – and then set about implementing it.

They started by surveying students and teachers to see how they felt about books and reading. Next, they researched why it is important for children to read. They already knew from parent  feedback on the Oturu graduate profile what the parents thought was important for their children.

We want students who have a thirst for knowledge and who reflect our school values.

Oturu School Parent

The students worked with a National Library advisor – who loaned them books to stock their library and helped with ideas to engage readers. Then the students developed a pop-up library space and began to issue books.

The students were highly engaged throughout the inquiry and have created resources that will support the development of the new school library. The school community has embraced the pop-up library and are enthusiastically using it.

PDF icon. Oturu School Students Problem Solving Slides (PDF, 9 MB)

The students were runners-up in the national finals of Future Problem Solving New Zealand in Auckland. This earned them an invitation to the United States where they placed fourth in the Junior Division of International Conference of the FPS Program at the Michigan State University.

See also:

More information on place-based education from gettingsmart.com

future focus
inquiry learning

Published on: 07 Nov 2016