The Western Bay of Plenty Life Education mobile classroom at Pyes Pā School
If you grew up in New Zealand between the 90s and today, you were likely lucky enough to have experienced the joy that is Harold the Giraffe. The resident mascot of the Life Education mobile classrooms, Harold makes learning fun.
For over 30 years, Harold has been putting smiles on Kiwi kids’ faces while empowering them with knowledge to make positive choices.
Equipped with the tried-and-true fuzzy walls, glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars, and pull-apart human body models, as well as the more recent addition of digital technology, the Life Education bus is a contender for most kids’ highlight of the school year.
Chantelle Smith, Life Education Educator for the Western Bay of Plenty region, says Harold is as popular as ever.
“When the children see the mobile classroom parked at their school, they are super excited! They love seeing Harold and will often write him letters or make him cards and pictures. Even the Year 8 students still want to see Harold.
“The mobile classroom is a bit of a novelty for new teachers too – they like to reminisce on the time they spent with Harold when they were a child.”
Life Education Trust Western Bay of Plenty recently received a TECT grant of $23,000 to support the continued delivery of their educational programmes across the region.
The teaching modules cover identity and resilience, relationships and communities, food and nutrition, human biology, and substances. These have been developed based on the four main health challenges tamariki face while growing up: mental health and wellbeing, bullying, obesity, and substance use.
The curriculum adapts to changes in society to cater to new challenges tamariki might be facing. Educators are supported with professional development opportunities to support their own learning and delivery of these new topics.
For example, Chantelle shares that resources have been made to support learning around vaping. There has also been an increased focus on mental health, which has been received positively by schools and parents.
“Sometimes a school will ask me to hold a parent meeting so I can share with them what their child will be learning. After an anxiety-based parent meeting, a parent came up to me and said how amazing it was that we are teaching them this at primary age because it's definitely needed.”
The mobile classroom has also evolved to make use of modern technology.
Chantelle explains: “The classroom is set up with some really cool technology, such as screens for videos and colour changing lights, which I can use to enhance the learning and make the lessons engaging.”
“I had always wished that I had a classroom like Te Papa Museum and now I feel like I do!”
Chantelle Smith and Harold the Giraffe
Chantelle develops a tailored lesson plan for every school she visits, based on the school's objectives or needs at the time. A qualified teacher, she breathes life into the curriculum, creating a fun and safe environment for students to participate and share their thoughts.
A teaching day usually consists of four to five sessions and, depending on the size of the school, Chantelle can be stationed there anywhere between one day to four weeks.
There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved in being an Educator, Chantelle says.
“Outside of the classroom, I am communicating with the school's organiser, planning meetings with staff, and creating lesson plans and resources, as well as staying on top of classroom maintenance like getting electrical cords and the fire extinguisher certified, and the carpets cleaned.”
Life Education Trust Western Bay of Plenty Executive Officer, Helena Brocket, says funding is essential to delivering the educational programmes throughout the Western Bay of Plenty.
“Funding ensures the security of our Educator's role and the ability to deliver the Healthy Harold programme, as it helps to cover the shortfall of the actual cost of the classroom visits, while the schools are charged less than a third of the actual cost.”
TECT is pleased to be able to support Life Education so the programmes can continue to empower our tamariki and rangatahi to make positive choices.
TECT Trustee Mark Arundel says: “Harold continues to captivate tamariki, as he did with my own children a generation ago! Life Education does a fantastic job of teaching youth how special and unique they are, and the magnificence of the human body and its systems through engaging, interactive lessons.
“Life Education offers a truly special educational experience that is remembered fondly by Kiwis for years.”