Rural campus offers new way of learning

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Many people will have heard of Hotel du Vin, south of Auckland, off the main highway to the Coromandel, but not many will be aware of its more recent incarnation.  Starting its life in the late 1980s as the de Redcliffe winery, it passed through a number of hands before its purchase by the Dilworth Trust Board in 2009, as a means of expanding the school.

Situated next to the historic and beautiful Mangatawhiri River at the base of the Hunua Ranges, Te Haerenga as the new Dilworth Rural Campus is called, aims to utilise the natural, rural environment and the outdoors to enhance the learning of Year 9 boys. Here they participate in an extensive curriculum across three equally important strands; academic, outdoors, and spiritual/social life. Students undertake a year-long journey, likened to that of a waka, relating to these three distinct phases.

Along the way, students from the class of 2013 became the first to participate in the Trees for Survival programme, acquiring invaluable horticultural skills and environmental awareness. After consultation with Auckland Council members, students identified issues around their local waterway, the Mangatawhiri River, a 20km river which flows from the Hunua Ranges, past the school and on to the Waikato River near Mercer.

Students reported their concerns about erosion of riverbanks and pollution of the waterway. Then led by teachers Mr Onyett and Jamie L’Huillier, TfS was contacted with the intention of setting up a nursery to raise native seedlings for planting alongside the river.

 

Working with their seedlings
 

Shade house created in the horticultural area

The students also plan to talk to local farmers and neighbours bordering the river, in the hope they may be able to help with fencing to keep stock away from the waterway, and with supplying and planting out seedlings.

With help from staff members, part of the horticultural area has been converted to form a shade house with a sprinkler system on an automatic timer, which ensures that the tiny seedlings supplied by TfS have optimum conditions for growth. Of 1,734 supplied, 1,420 seedlings were successfully pricked out into Root Trainers, and some of these have now been potted on into planter bags.

 

Healthy specimens
 

The river well-protected from stock and ready for planting to control run off

Last year’s students benefited from the involvement of TfS Field Officer Dianne Patterson who taught them the necessary horticultural skills, including how to identify native species and each type’s common, Maori and Latin names. She reports they worked hard, showed keen interest and were proud to participate in the TfS programme. Acknowledgement, too, must go to groundsman Richard Wilson who pitched in, sharing his skill and nursery knowledge.

Dilworth’s website states: “Boys who leave Te Haerenga will be active learners, confident and resilient, with a strong understanding of their strengths and their place in the world.” There is no doubt that, along with their overall education, the TfS programme contributes in spades (pun intended) to their ongoing appreciation and understanding of the environment, in particular the health of their special waterway.

Teacher Stephen Onyett, left, and principal John Rice with proud students

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