Let's Go Learn!

Our Field Trip class of International Boatschoolers! English, Kiwi, and American students.  

New Zealand's Northland Field Trips - Part One

Between book reports, irregular plurals, and long division, we somehow managed to get off the boat for a few field trips.  In fact, New Zealand offers so many learning opportunities that we’ve found it hard to buckle down and maintain our core curriculum.  Who wants to do school inside at the salon table when we could be walking through a cave or exploring hobbit holes?  So, true to our name, we set out on a few learning expeditions.  After all, students just want to have fun, too!  (check out my previous blog post)

Kawiti Glowworm Caves

Near Kawakawa, we were lured to the Kawiti Caves , where glowworms can be seen twinkling like stars in the Milky Way on the ceiling above us.  As we were led along the wooden walkways between stalactites and stalagmites, the guide told us about the life cycle of the worms and how they dangle sticky lines to catch insects that fly into the cave, attracted by the lights they emit.  Turns out, the hungrier the worms are, the brighter their light.

At one point, with lanterns turned off, in complete darkness, the kids gazed up at the cave ceilings, dotted with green, glowing worms to play connect-the-dots.  “I see a unicorn!  Look! A wine glass!”  Of course, because it was pitch black, no one could see where anyone was pointing, but that didn’t stop the fun! Who knew we’d have a creative art class in the middle of the dark?  Can’t get that sitting at the salon table!  For this trip and the next, I did make an activity sheet for them to complete back at home.  Nothing fancy, but I wanted to ensure that we covered certain learning objectives through this experience - this is school, after all.  

Our glowworm hunters at the mouth of the Kawiti Caves
A tree integrated into the design

Hundertwasser Toilets

We’d continue our creative art learning in the town center of Kawakawa.  Our goal?  To check out the toilets.  Yes, toilets.  A German artist, Frederick Hundertwasser, visited New Zealand and decided that it needed a beautiful throne.  His reasoning was that “…a toilet is very special because you meditate in a toilet. Like a church.”  He was quite the colorful character who lived a very interesting life and died an interesting death.  This was a tourist attraction that could not be missed.  

Toilet Design presentations 

Finding a matching handprint on a mural as we walked through town.

After finding all of the up-cycled materials that were used to create the artsy loo, the kids worked together to imagine how they would design a toilet.  Michael and his buddy dreamt up a treehouse toilet. (Don’t stand under those branches for shade on a hot sunny day!)  Elizabeth and her group created a floating toilet with portholes. (What else could we possibly expect from boat kids?) There was plenty of potty humor being passed around, and we all had a good laugh.  

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

For New Zealand history, we headed just up the road from Opua to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.  This was where a treaty was signed between the British and the Māori people to work together and compromise as the British moved in to settle on Māori land.  On their website, we found great educational resources and even links to videos on youtube produced by local schoolchildren to explain the relevance of the treaty today.  During their first day at the local primary school, the kids discussed the treaty, and today is a national holiday to commemorate this important event in New Zealand's history.  

Also on the treaty grounds, sat two impressive war canoes, called waka.  Later, we would see forests of the enormous trees that were used in their construction.  Today at the Waiting Day Celebration, these waka will be ceremoniously hauled into the water and paddled by local Māori men.     

Their canoes had from eighteen to twenty-two men in them, and were adorned with fine heads made out of a thick board, cut through like fillagree work, in spirals of very curious workmanship. At the end of this was a head with two large eyes of mother-of-pearl, and a large heart-shaped tongue. This figure went round the bottom of the board, and had feet and hands carved into it very neatly, and painted red. They had also high-peaked sterns, wrought in fillagree, and adorned with feathers, from the top of which depended two long streamers, made of feathers, which almost reached the water (Parkinson, cited in Elsdon Best, The Māori Canoe. Dominion Museum, Wellington. 1925:53)    

A favorite portion of the tour was a Maori performance of the Haka and Poi. Inside an intricately carved wooden meeting house, we sat mesmerized by echoing music, thrusting spears, warrior chants, and twirling poi.  No video was allowed in this sacred place, but here is an example of these cultural shows I found online.

A Motley Māori Crew!
Our next set of field trips will take us a bit further away from our boat - to dive-bombers on the west coast, giants in the forest, and reeking cisterns.  Stay tuned!


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