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Kids help kids in intermediate-school ‘passion project’

Flagstaff Team

Caring quartet… TNIS Year 8 students (from left) Damindi Weerapana Hewage, Jamie Choi, Anika Sison and Alanah Barwick

A school project aimed at engaging students in big global issues is having a positive community spin-off.

Four Year 8 students at Takapuna Normal Intermediate School (TNIS) who were exploring poverty and inequity in education chose to do something about it by arranging a collection of reading and text books, games and backpacks to be delivered from their decile-nine school to a decile-one school in South Auckland.

The girls, who worked on the project during their school holidays, say the thinking and planning took more time than the collection of donated items which was done over a week.

“Coming up with ideas was the hardest bit,” said Alanah Barwick.

Once the topic of study and action was decided, Anika Sison said the group prepared flyers and took to social media seeking donations.

They got in touch with the Blue Light charity organisation which works with police to deliver youth programmes. Blue Light arranged for their collection to go to Leabank School in Manurewa, and shared photographs from the delighted students.

“We felt really good about it,” said Damindi Weerapana Hewage.

Teacher James Wheaton said the project was part of the school’s International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, which all students undertook. The inquiry-led programme has been used at the school for more than a decade. It encourages learners to choose a passion project to study and action in depth.

This year, the starting point was United Nations sustainability goals, with groups of students looking at varying topics including climate change and global warming.

Year 8s worked towards what was called an exhibition, presenting a summing-up of their inquiry. “We try to encourage kids to understand concepts behind the big ideas, but to have some local impact.”

Wheaton said he was proud of the results, which this year also took in topics ranging from Covid-19, to plastic and pollution and homelessness.

The quartet studying poverty and inequity had brought this into focus by considering other children with fewer opportunities than they had.

Although Anika says they would love to repeat the exercise, the students are now looking ahead to the challenges of attending Westlake Girls High School next year.

Says Jamie Choi: “I learned that small things we do can impact on other children a lot.”

This article originally appeared in the 27 November 2020 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.

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