Schools keep their connections strong

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Connecting online . . . Waikaka school pupils (top left) James Curley (7), principal Browwyn McCall, Noho Tahi room 3 Vanessa Rufford, Zac Miller (7); (middle row) Erica Byars (6), Helena Bayrs (7), Ruby (5) and Kaitlyn (7) Wilson, Max Weir (7); (bottom, left) James Hall (6), Briar Reeves (5), Georgia Hall (5), Emma Clyne (5). PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The shift to Delta Alert Level 2 means pupils will be back to school today. The Ensign reporter Valu Maka spoke with primary schools about the online learning they have been doing.

Primary school staff supported pupils and their families with a range of learning tools during Alert Level 3 last week.

Schools used online content and sent out activity packs for pupils to keep them engaged and busy.

West Gore School principal Linda Fraser said some pupils got creative with the optional home challenges teachers had organised.

“We have really seen our school’s play philosophy coming through, but [have kept] in mind what children might have at home.”

Some of the activities children had got involved with were: learning their pepeha (how to introduce themselves in Maori) and posting videos of them, making themed family meals, Lego challenges and creating artworks.

Gore Main School principal Glenn Puna said pupils had adjusted well to the circumstances.

“We did have a difficult start just because it was an abrupt decision but once the staff members could come back to school we were able to prepare hard packs, devices and books for parents to safely pick up for their children.”

Mataura School principal Susan Dennison said the teachers had set up opportunities for children to engage digitally.

“We have tried to help families to get their children engaged with no pressure at all, so we have set up a time where children can Zoom call with their teachers.”

Staff had made the most of being at home in their bubbles and had posted videos, she said.

“We had one reliever share a video of herself on her farm as it is calving season, and she taught the kids all about it.”

The school’s kapa haka group had also practised on video chats.

“We are still hoping to be able to attend Polyfest this year, so the kids have still been practising through Zoom.”

Waikaka School principal Bronwyn McCall said pupils were learning digitally and in other ways.

“We really believe children can learn from anything, so nothing is wasted.

“We have had some children spending time with their families and learning how to bake, spending time … in the workshop or being out on the farm.”

East Gore School principal Wendy Kitto said the school was more prepared this time than it was for last year’s lockdown.

“We sent two weeks’ worth of work out to our students because we were not sure how long lockdown would go for.”

There was a good turnout for virtual classroom chats, she said.

The pupils had been excited to see each other online.

The school’s staff had started reading books to the pupils through livestreaming, she said.

“Last time in lockdown I had felt disconnected from our community. So I was thinking of ways that we could stay connected with the school community which is why I decided to livestream reading books.”

She had heard good feedback about the support families had received from all schools.

School staff had done “a wonderful job in trying times”, she said.