Hamilton students heightened appreciation for the great outdoors

“The best thing to experience in a lifetime” was how students Olivia and Arland summed up having watched the “star-dusted Milky Way and shooting stars, along with waves crashing onto the shore all through the night.”

An enhanced appreciation of our country’s fantastic outdoor opportunities was the result for Melville High School students when they recently spent a week at Hillary Outdoors Great Barrier Island.

Ten Hamilton based students who were part of a Year 11 sports class took part in a five day Outdoor Education programme on the remote island, which allowed them to deepen their connection with nature as well as get active.

These students were able to attend the programme thanks to a community partnership between Hillary Outdoors and Torpedo7. The partnership involves fundraising in Torpedo7 stores and via the Torpedo7 website to help students in challenging financial circumstances have the outdoor experience of a lifetime.

The week on Great Barrier Island challenged students physically and mentally as they developed skills via a range of activities from snorkelling through to coasteering. These activities helped them work together as a team and grow as individuals. Whilst there, students were also able to complete a NCEA Level 2 Sea kayaking assessment.

The week culminated in an overnight stay at the end of a tramp from Karaka Bay to Onewhero Bay. As night fell, the students were so blown away by the amazing starry sky, they decided to move their sleeping bags out of the tents to sleep under the stars.

Before the trip, teacher in charge, Michael Edwards explained what he hoped students would glean from the experience; “A greater appreciation for the environment that they have available to them; to explore the great outdoors and adventures, but recognise that we all need to do our part to look after it.”

When you hear what the students have to say about their week, it is clear that the programme delivered on Michael’s expectations. Before the trip a couple of students expressed that they hoped that the programme would be “as good as everyone makes out” and were largely looking forward to the physical activities without too much consideration of the natural environment and interactions with class mates.

One of these students was Olivia, who was optimistic and open-minded before the trip “It’s about enjoying the experience, not many people get the opportunity to go, so I may as well make the most of it” she said. Reflecting on her experience, Olivia believes she acquired skills that will be applied to everyday life, including “being able to step up and take leadership of a difficult situation.”

The students’ teacher, Michael, commented that the programme “enabled students to experience a part of New Zealand that is hard to access and to understand the importance that Great Barrier Island plays in protecting endangered birds.” One of his students, Lachlan, mentioned that he now has a “better understanding of the need to look after our environment through recycling and use of water and electricity.”

Michael acknowledged how meaningful it was to have the fantastic support of Torpedo7 given that their head office is just up the road from Melville High School “it is great to be associated with a business that is a part of our community, that employs parents and students of this school. Students have developed a greater appreciation for the outdoors and some students are now keen to explore careers and opportunities further in the outdoors.”

Torpedo7 Brand Manager, Michelle Macdiarmid is delighted with the partnerships progression “it’s going from strength to strength. The crew relish the opportunity to get behind Hillary Outdoors and help more students attend these incredible programmes. We look forward to supporting more schools going forward.”