Our new Programme Coordinator, Brian Connelly joined the POET team earlier this year and by day 20 had already attended 5 camps, phew! Brian checked in to let us know how his first month went:

Its been an exciting start to the year for me as a fresh, brand-new POET camp coordinator. I started with a mountain bike ride with Huntly College year 13s from the start of the Te Awa River Ride trail in Ngaruawhaia to Hamilton where we stayed at the Wintec Marae. From there I headed to my old home town of Tokoroa to help organise the Forest View High School Year 13 camp at Mangakino. We stayed at the beautiful Mangakino Marae adjacent to Lake Maraetai. This was another citizenship camp where the Year 13s learned through outdoor activities and sequenced adventure games about becoming an effective, contributing citizen in their communities.

The next camp was at Pirongia Lodge and Kaniwhaniwha with the Year 11-13 students from Raglan Area School. Raglan hadn’t had a camp for a while so there was some anxious, home-sick people on the first day but once they got into the swing of camp, they were loving it. I followed the year 12s; we started at the lodge with a reflective walk and talk around the nature track followed by an exciting mountain bike session at the Pirongia tracks. The next day included rock climbing, outdoor first aid and bush survival training, and group activities to reinforce school values.

Paeroa College was my next destination with their Year 9 students. They have developed a place-based camp going down the road to the inspiring Maratoto Valley on their back doorstep. The sun was shining bright for the week, so we were grateful for the water holes and the water-based activities. There was also a big hike on the programme as well as some great bivy building, practicing an emergency evacuation, pa-site building, and a lot of group development games. Some of the students were apprehensive about using a composting toilet and having a cold shower at the campground, but after a couple of nights in the bush they all adjusted and were loving their new home.

My latest camp was with Forest View High School Year 9s and a journey to Raglan beach. We had some exciting outdoor learning rotations including building confidence surfing with local legend Daniel Kereopa, developing endurance biking around Raglan, improving teamwork and skills, raft building and racing in the harbour, and a beach walk learning about the local, history and ecology. The senior students ran an entertaining concert on the last night that was also designed to help reinforce the school values they learnt at camp. On the last day of camp, we were treated to an awesome BBQ from Ingrid and the Perry Metal Crew who came out to finish off a very enjoyable week.

There were more camps planned but covid-19 has put a halt to our plans for now. We are busy rescheduling for the end of the year when the sun will come out again and we can enjoy learning, growing, and being together sharing the great outdoors with our students and teachers from our wonderful POET schools in the Waikato.

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