Year 2 teacher Mr Andre Jay believes strongly in integrating real world events into his students’ learning.
Over the course of this year the Tahatai Coast School teacher has had his class of six and seven year olds writing to Team New Zealand in the build-up to the America’s Cup, writing to fallen soldiers around the time of Anzac Day, and recently looking up the countries that have been affected by Hurricane Irma.
So naturally the upcoming General Election gave the perfect opportunity to make New Zealand’s electoral and Parliamentary systems the subject of more learning for the class.
Jay staged a Parliamentary debate as a way for the students to put their persuasive writing into practice. They were encouraged to clearly articulate and justify their arguments and emulate the rowdiness of Parliament. A fortunate few had the chance to be the Speaker and call the debate to order by tapping a ruler on a chair.
“It is important that they understand what is going on in New Zealand and how it affects them,” says Jay, “We discussed the education policies that would impact them, like National’s policy for primary kids to learn a second language and Labour’s policy for every child to have a device.”
But the icing on the cake was a special visit from Bay of Plenty Labour candidate Angie Warren-Clark this week who talked to the class about what it is like to be a politician, and the values you need to be an effective debater and communicator. The children asked Warren-Clark about the policies, including a tricky question about how Labour would fund the new devices.
“She was nice,” says Year 2 student Emily, reflecting on Warren-Clark’s visit. “She said she will be at the back of Parliament, but not because she’s a naughty kid, but because she’s a new kid!”
“I wish I could vote on Saturday,” she added.
The very next day, the class along with the rest of Tahatai Coast School were treated to more special visitors – members of the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens teams. The Sevens team members were proudly sporting their silver medals from the 2016 Olympic Games for the kids to admire. They talked to the students about the values you need to be successful in sport and in life.
“I think it’s important, regardless of their age, that kids know what’s happening in their world,” says Jay, “It puts their learning in context and leads them to inquire into things that they’re interested in outside of school.
“It also reinforces those home-school partnerships and emphasises the importance of community in school life.”