Kimi kids planning great outdoors

It would be hard to find kids more excited than the youngsters at Flaxmere’s Kimi Ora Community School.

A $6 million rebuild of the school is due to start in May, with the school responsible for fundraising and designing the new outdoor learning environment.

That might sound like a hard ask but the school has a raft of youngsters more than ready for the design challenge, and the school has help on the fundraising front as well.

Andru Kopelani (12) and Megan-Stanley (11) were very excited about including water features in the playground. Given the school had an existing bore, that would be easier than for most schools. In particular, they were keen on a rambling stream over rocks “reflecting the riverbed of Flaxmere”.

Maleta Pailate and Janet Vaiusu, both 11, were working on “loose parts”. The idea was to further develop the range of objects that children, particularly the juniors, could use to build with. “It’s about letting them use their imagination. ”

About 130 people attended an open day on the project, said principal Matt O’Dowda. They placed yellow dots on their favoured parts of the children’s designs.

A great deal of thought had gone into how the outdoor spaces, including how they could be used by the wider community, Mr O’Dowda said. “It’s about creating beautiful, challenging natural playscapes, grounded in Te Ao Maori.”

The list of goals that the design needs to achieve is impressive but achievable, said Mr O’Dowda. “As well as being a space that contributes to learning, we want it to reflect our rohe, our people, and to have spaces for different activities, including being somewhere beautiful for our whanau to connect.

“We asked ourselves, parents, teachers and the kids, what this could look like. We want it to be challenging for the children, but we also want somewhere where nanny and koru can sit in the shade and watch the kids playing.

“We want this to be an extension of our school community, for our wider community.”

While the Ministry of Education would pay for the rebuild of the school, it relied on each school’s community to design and fund the outdoor spaces. The Ministry-funded school rebuild includes six classrooms, a half-court gym, music room, administration area, outdoor fale and kitchens.


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