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Makaraka School aims for healthy bodies and minds

A MULTIPLE-challenge cycle trail is what Makaraka School students will first encounter when they return for term one, but the facility is not just a recreational accessory.

It is part of a broader, healthy body-healthy minds educational philosophy that by mid-year will include a multi-purpose, covered outdoor learning area with artificial turf.

“Research shows active students are not only healthier and have the opportunity to achieve in sports and culture, but there are also significant transferable skills into literacy and numeracy,” said school principal Hayden Swann.

A plethora of electronic devices, gaming machines and TV has cultivated a sedentary way of life, he said.

“Our purpose is to fight this trend with a healthy, active curriculum linking academic achievement to sport and movement.”

Mr Swann harks back to pre-screen childhood days involving eeling, biking and climbing trees.

“We want to bring reality back in. It’s all right to take risks. You will get some things wrong but you get back on your bike.”

The two-part track runs around the school grounds’ perimeter. The skills trail features a balance track, see-saw, hump, judder bars, bridge and scenic features. The more advanced pump track includes dips, mounds, berms, chicane and a variety of levels.

Outdoor learning areaThe circuit links with the outdoor learning area that will function as a covered sports field for the school and community, classroom and theatre.

The covered outdoor learning area will provide much-needed space for gymnastics, dance, drama performance, kapa haka practices and assemblies, Mr Swann said.

The facility also offers a full-size netball court and will be used by neighbouring schools and sports clubs for football, rugby, tennis and cricket skills training, and hockey.

Roll-down sides make an all-weather facility. Lighting and a sound system will be installed.

Behind the innovations is educationist Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” philosophy.

Growth mindset is based on the concept that people are not put off by fear of failure because they realise their learning comes from failure and their performance can be improved.

“It fits in with the philosophy of the covered outdoor learning area and bike track,” Mr Swann said.

“One of the main things is to bring in some risk. We seem to have mollycoddled kids so much they don’t understand consequences.

“We are never going to put a student in danger but we want our kids to be active. Part of that is risk-taking and problem-solving. That flows through teaching and learning in class.”

Crackerjack KidsGrowth mindset ties in with a programme called Crackerjack Kids, which was developed to provide primary schools with tools to deliver foundational elements of the health and PE curriculum. Crackerjack Kids is based on the concept that positive attitudes towards physical activity are created through games that involve modifications and questioning.

“It’s a philosophy you integrate with everything you do. It’s not something that sits in isolation,” Mr Swann said.

The landscaped bike trails are almost complete and the school is not far from reaching its full funding target to install the covered outdoor learning area.

“I want this to be a lighthouse school, a beacon to inspire other schools,” Mr Swann said.

“This is one of the best places in the country to live. We have to accentuate that.”

HEALTHY BODIES, HEALTHY MINDS: Research shows active children learn better, which is why Makaraka School is soon to install a multi-purpose, covered outdoor classroom/sports space. The school recently built a two-part bike circuit that principal Hayden Swann’s children Bella (left), and Hamish have tested and approved. Picture by Liam Clayton