Ari’i James Kawamura is a POET Head Start Scholarship recipient who studied at Melville High School.
Ari’i shares how her connection to the outdoors has shaped her life and career choice.
For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed being outside, especially with my family. Growing up, some of my favourite things to do was spend Saturday’s and school holidays at the beach boogie boarding, riding bikes and eating fruit from our fruit trees in our backyard. Once I got a little older, I began to find joy in hiking, particularly my Maunga, Pirongia, and spending time at the Taitua Arboretum. I loved hearing the different birds and finding new bugs and plants.
While I have always loved the outdoors and science separately, my love for them together was first realised during one of our field trips in my biology class in high school. We were required to survey the Kaniwhaniwha stream, collecting data about the organisms and the type of substrate in the area that we found them. Being outside in the stream collecting our own data really started to open my eyes to a world of science that is not in a lab and that meant that I could be outside enjoying te taiao. I loved that being in nature and learning about the world around me were seen together in the same trip. POET camps in high school helped me to spend time outdoors, and foster a greater love for spending my time outside.
My time outdoors during my Outward Bound course was a big influence in my journey towards environmental science. In 2020, I was fortunate enough to receive an Outward Bound scholarship which sent me to Marlborough Sounds for three weeks and helped to push me out of my comfort zone, learn more about myself and also helped me to realise how important nature and the outdoors is to me. Prior to Outward Bound, I was set on going down to Otago to study medicine and then specialise in oncology, and did not think that three weeks in the Marlborough Sounds could change that. This course helped me to better realise and remember the greater love I have for the environment, and how important outdoor spaces and our taonga species are. This time helped me to realise how I want to be spending my time out here, and doing what I can to ensure that it is maintained or improved for many generations to come.
Spending time outside really grew my love for the whenua. Realising this made me want to help protect and create solutions to the problems that face the ngahere and our taonga species, and do my part to better the world around me.
Neil Callaghan, POET patron and passionate supporter of outdoor education, passed away in April 2023
Neil’s daughter Jane has shared a few words about her father’s involvement with POET.
Neil was very passionate about his involvement in POET. From a young age outdoor activities such as water skiing, snow skiing, tramping and fishing were a big part of his life. He believed that all young people should have the opportunities that he experienced to be able to thrive in whatever they choose to do, as outdoor adventures were the driving force of his life. He thoroughly enjoyed his visits to Kawerau to see the positive impact that POET was having on the students, allowing them to develop their life skills.
Our amazing supporters and community stepped up for us following the theft of our gear.
One of the reasons we can do what we do effectively is that we have built up an extensive range of equipment which can be used to accommodate large groups of students.
It was a real blow for us when we discovered we had been the victims of theft and had had many backpacks, camp cookers, tents, compasses, as well as a heap of other items stolen. Individually, each item did not have had a high dollar value, but collectively to replace the items was going to run in to the thousands of dollars.
As gutting as it was we hadn’t factored in the wonderful community we connect with. Word quickly spread and the response was amazing. Well-wishes expressed their support, our existing sponsors, Kiwi Camping and Outfitters, stepped up straightaway. We were also offered help from Golden Homes and the NAR Foundation who offered us a donation so we could purchase replacement gear. The Hamilton Tramping Club and Clare Lindsay from The Empowerment Project also reached out to us and lent a hand.
Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of our supporters, we were able to replace the stolen equipment and get back on track. The experience not only restored our faith in humanity but also reinforced the significance of the work we do. It served as a powerful reminder that even in the face of adversity, there are always kind-hearted individuals ready to lend a helping hand. With our community’s unwavering support, we have not only recovered from the setback but also emerged stronger and more determined to continue making a difference in the lives of young people.
In early September 2022 we were privileged to host the charismatic Beau Miles.
Beau the backyard adventurer is a bit of a character and describes himself as spending his childhood looking for golf balls, secretly hoping to find a body part in the swamps and marshes.
He still looks in odd places for much the same thing (and feeling). Being redhead means that sunscreen, big hats and old business shirts cloak him during outdoor life. He likes baths more than showers, homemade wine and licorice. By God he likes licorice!
When Beau agreed to help us with our annual Lodge Real Estate fundraiser we never guessed that he was quite the celebrity. Probably should have though as his YouTube chanel @BeauMiles attracts more than 618K subscribers. Some of our guests queued for an hour to get their books signed or take a selfie with the man himself.
Glad to report that Beau, ‘the man’, was gracious, entertaining and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all. Special mention to Leah Gordon and the team from Lodge for their on-going support.
Another year has flown by as we strive along with our POET schools to ensure equitable access to high quality outdoor learning experiences.
With our students enjoying 3,738 days in the outdoors, and our POET teachers attending 121 days of Professional Development and our POET staff taking on multiple opportunities to upskill we have certainly been kept busy.
Karen and Brian completed Mana Taiohi workshop (thanks Sport Waikato), a principle based framework for those working with rangatahi, Karen attended Embrace the Challenge Conference (thanks DV Bryant for sponsoring this), Pete and Brian attended Ha Hauora Tangata NZAEE Conference, Pete has worked on his practical skills in SUP, mountain biking and swimming (to name a few).
The Board and staff all thoroughly enjoyed the learnings we gained from a day with Lizana Tuake from Oho Mauri around Te Tiriti o Waitangi and have been steadily implementing changes at all levels of our organisation as a result.
We have had a few “clouds” during the year, but in typical POET fashion we were quickly able to find the silver linings.
We were sad to lose Sophie Milne after an injury over the summer break meant she was unable to continue in her position but were thrilled to welcome the energetic and enthusiastic Pete Guyan to the POET team. We are lucky to still get to work with Sophie on occasion, and with Gemma Periam and her wealth of knowledge – once a POET team member, always a POET team member!
We were disappointed to not be able to run the NZ Mountain Film Festival this year after many successful shows but were privileged to host an evening with Beau Miles. It was an enormous success, and we are hoping to lure Beau back to the Waikato for another event soon. Thanks to Leah Gordon and Lodge Real Estate for supporting this.
Disappointingly we were hit by the current crime wave and our containers were broken in to. We lost backpacks, tents, cookers, along with a heap of other items, all vital for the running of our camps. The silver lining came in the form of amazing generosity from Golden Homes and the NAR Foundation who funded our replacements. We are also super fortunate to have great sponsor suppliers in Outfitters and Aber who worked quickly to replace the items and minimise disruption for our schools.
We have also started to work in the Primary/Intermediate School space, assisting Horotiu School in a fun night under canvas on their school grounds. Looking forward, we are excited to do more in this space, laying the groundwork for what we do at the secondary school level.
We continue to be supported by a great group of sponsors and partners. Thanks to sponsors NZ Carbon Farming, Les Harrison Transport, Fairview, Perry and community partners Lion Foundation, Grassroots Trust, Sport Waikato, Trust Waikato, WEL Energy and Lottery for working alongside us, and providing vital support.
A big thank you to our wonderful POET staff for their continued hard work and enthusiasm – manager Karen Singers and Coordinators Brian Connelly and Pete Guyan.
And a big thank you to our Board Members Craig Blackmore, Mike Brown, Emma Burke, and Vicky McClennan who continue to give so generously of their time, energy, and knowledge despite all being super busy. We are also truly fortunate to be able to welcome David Bradford to our Board and look forward to his contribution. David was the very first principal we worked with over 20 years ago at Ngaruawahia High School, and he remains a driving force in education in the Waikato today. Welcome David.
We are looking forward to continuing and expanding our work in the Waikato over the next year, and who knows, perhaps we will even see some sunshine!!
Board Chair POET
Somaya Tenana Sharp 2022 Ngaruawahia High School POET Outdoor Excellence Award recipient shares the following…
While studying Outdoor Education at Te Pūkenga (WINTEC), I’ve had the opportunity to experience and do things I never thought I would be able to do.
I’m having so much fun canoeing, sea kayaking, caving, rock climbing, hiking – just to name a few! The outdoors has become my classroom, and I am learning a lot from the experiences I am having. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the POET award which has helped me with my course at Te Pūkenga (WINTEC), and I am grateful for receiving it. Every cent counts especially with the price of outdoor gear these days. Before I started studying at WINTEC I didn’t have too much proper outdoor gear so the POET prize was great. I was given a Kiwi Camping Kea 3 tent, which has honestly helped a lot especially when we’re out car camping. It saves us from sleeping cramped in a one man tent!
The POET board and staff believe there is an obligation to strengthen our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and integrate the principles (partnership, participation and protection) into our ways of working.
We have embarked on a culturally responsive journey which will provide us with a greater understanding of issues for Māori and ensure we can respond appropriately.
We are making a sustained effort this year to identify and implement ways we can promote the principles and values of the Te Tiriti o Waitangi into our outdoor education programmes. This includes recognizing and respecting Māori culture, language, and tikanga; promoting kaitiakitanga on outdoor camps and activities and incorporating matauranga and local stories that foster a deeper connection with the natural world. We are currently making connections with local cultural experts and looking at connecting with a local marae to build our cultural capacity.
Through our belief in kaitiakitanga we are responsible for ensuring our environment is looked after and treated with respect for future generations to enjoy. We have a strong commitment to ensuring that we practice a sustainability that considers the environmental, social and financial impacts in all parts of our operation.
While we continue to partner with secondary schools (Huntly, Paeroa, Ngaruawahia, HJHS, Melville, Fairfield, Raglan, Putaruru, Matamata, Morrinsville & Tarawera) in the Waikato region POET is diversifying to work more with the primary sector.
We’ve started with the Ngaruawahia kahui ako (Horotiu, Glen Massey, Ngaruawahia, Te Akau, Waingaro, Waipa and Ngaruawahia high school).
We are slowly gaining traction in this space as more primary schools become aware of what we do.
There is plenty of evidence that outdoor experiences are important for the healthy development of young people. Spending time in nature and participating in outdoor activities can improve mental health, physical health, academic achievement, creativity, critical thinking skills, and social competence. Studies have linked outdoor experiences to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improved self-esteem, resilience, and social skills, as well as better physical fitness, lower obesity rates, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
It’s imperative that we all work together to ensure quality, safe, fun and equitable access to outdoor learning remains available to all our young people.
Raglan Area School (RAS) and POET have been collaborating since 2018 when RAS decided to be very deliberate in its approach to including Education in the Classroom (EOTC) as a part of the school’s local curriculum.
Critical to the development of this relationship was our awareness of the need to build staff capacity to enable any progress to be sustained.
RAS began by identifying a staff team who would work alongside POET to set goals, select key teachers and establish programmes of learning, processes and systems that reflect current best practice in EOTC.
Over the last 5 years, The POET team has supported our school team to be more explicit with our long term planning, (including clearly identified budgets) and to keep all stakeholders informed. The provision of POET funding to enable additional professional development (e.g. Comprehensive First Aid) and POET expert practitioners to physically be onboard and present with the EOTC experiences has been hugely beneficial to supporting and growing the confidence and expertise of the RAS teachers.
We now have a comprehensive EOTC schoolwide programme that includes annual camping experiences for Years 3-13 students; and an Outdoor Education specific learning programme available for students at Years 9-10 and an NCEA programme at Years 11-13. Moving forward POET are continuing to support and provide professional learning opportunities for new staff. This focus of support has moved towards the primary area of the school and supporting those staff to deliver these camps.
Louisa Barham Tumuaki
HOD Outdoor Education