Build a house and they will learn

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It’s not every day that you can say you’ve built a house, but for 11 Te Paepae o Aotea ākonga the proof is sitting in the back field of their school grounds.

For the third year in a row, Te Paepae o Aotea ākonga have had the opportunity to take part in the Trades Academy Hanga Whare (Build a Bach) project that sees them build a three-bedroom house for sale over the course of the school year.

“The Build a Bach project in South Taranaki is a wonderful example of community education at work with secondary and tertiary working side-by-side in the learners’ community,” says WITT Te Pūkenga Director, Teaching Partnerships Ben Naughton.

The Trades Academy ākonga gain NCEA credits and attend school alongside their building commitments while developing the foundation skills needed to progress to further learning or move directly into employment.

“Students are given a taster of the trade and they can decide whether it is something they want to pursue as a career through an apprenticeship or further education,” says Ben.

Through the programme, ākonga not only learn the ins and outs of how to use tools and work safely and efficiency in a building site environment, they learn things that are harder to measure like teamwork, communication skills and time management.

Te Paepae o Aotea ākonga Aaron Mason and Cheyanne Cavery both said how good it was to learn new things outside of the classroom even though the build was challenging at times. Both are returning to school next year and Aaron hopes to get into a trade following his secondary schooling.

At the end of year celebration event South Taranaki Mayor Phil Nixon said how much he loves seeing young people achieve. With a background as an electrician himself, he spoke of the lifelong benefits of having a trade.

“Ākonga would be surprised at just how much learning falls out of a practical project like this, including plenty of literacy and numeracy skills,” says Ben.

Fellow students can also see the project progress and are often inspired to take part in the programme the following year.

“Research says the longer you stay in education the more doors that stay open and better outcomes there are. We commonly hear reports of high engagement in our Trades Academy programmes, reinvigorating learners and, for some, it even gives them a reason to stay at school,” says Ben

Graduating ākonga have not only picked up a wealth of skills and opened the doors to new pathways at school and in the community, they can see a visible reminder of their hard work every day.

“We are delighted to see the progress our students have made in the Hanga Whare build programme. Most of our students involved have not only learnt useful skills but have gained a significant amount of credits which will count towards their NCEA qualification,” says Te Paepae o Aotea Leader of Learning – Tumuaki Rachel Williams.

The Build a Bach programme is also run at the WITT campus in New Plymouth and both houses are sold at the end of the year to cover costs.

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