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Up, up and away

A Kiwi entrepreneur’s vision to open a pathway to STEAM careers for all children is taking flight.

Andrew Parker launched the Flying High project this week, with Muriwai School students among those to be a direct part of it.

Mr Parker, a businessman and hot air balloon pilot, landed his Czech-made Kubicek balloon in the school grounds on Wednesday morning.

What followed was an experience all 30 Muriwai students will never forget, as they were taken up, up and away over the course of his visit.

“It went very smoothly — lots of happy kids,” Mr Parker said

The Flying High project is aimed at promoting the importance of education, innovation and sustainability to years 5 to 10 students at low-decile and rural schools around the country.

Mr Parker is using his balloon, coupled with educational activities, as an interactive way for children to create a personal connection between careers and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) learning.

“The New Zealand Government has identified STEAM subjects as being important for the future of the country and it’s predicted that almost all future jobs will require some STEAM knowledge,” he said.

“However, Maori, Pasifika and rural schools in particular are under-represented in the uptake of STEAM careers.

“Making learning more accessible and creating pathways for future job security are key to changing that dynamic so I wanted to see how I could use my skills and experience to help.”

Mr Parker is the former owner of Hamilton-based Kiwi Balloon Company and the director of the global Flying High For Kids (FHFK) not-for-profit project.

FHFK combined his passion for flying and desire to highlight the importance of accessible education for children around the world.

A five-year adventure began in 2014 and by 2019 he had flown his balloon to schools and events in 87 countries, many of them Third World or developing nations.

Working with various international children’s organisations such as UNICEF, he reached more than 60,000 children, achieved international media coverage and was even listed as No.1 on travel guide Lonely Planet’s list of “10 people who went on epic journeys around the world in 2017”.

“My career choices have been unconventional but sustainable innovation and STEAM learning have really helped me,” he said. “I’ve followed my childhood dream and worked hard to make it a reality so I’m hoping I can encourage others to do so, too.”

To help guide the Flying High project, Mr Parker formed a trust and brought in six board members with expertise in matauranga Maori, the environment, education, science and finance.

The four-month Flying High roadshow will reach 30 schools and more than 6000 students from Kaitaia to Invercargill.

More Flying High initiatives will be rolled out including collaborating with education providers, businesses and the Government to further research and promote sustainable innovation and STEAM learning and showcasing the work of sustainably innovative companies, people and community groups.

“I really want to help Kiwi kids create a stronger, more sustainable future.

“I love getting kids to think creatively about environmentally sustainable living and how they can be part of the solution.

The next stops for Mr Parker and his balloon were Wairoa and Nuhaka schools.”

■ For more information about the project and schools involved, go to flyinghighproject.com — Mr Parker and his support crew are also posting updates on Instagram (flyinghighprojectnz) and Facebook (Flying High Project_)

Flying High project founder and balloon owner Andrew Parker fires his hot air balloon up. With him are, back row (from left): Williams Fonohema, Caedynse Pohatu, Don Mclean (parent), Dalton Clarke, Cassidy Clarke, Jayden Cruze Ngaarangione and Abel Temata (matua). Front: Mariu Mackey-Gilroy and Kaiarahi Pohatu. Pictures by Liam Clayton
What a view: Muriwai School students Jayden Ngarangione and Morgan Pou take in the view from a hot air balloon which visited the school yesterday as part of the Flying High project that encourages students to connect with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) learning.