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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

19 mins ago

The Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre is open for bookings.

EIT’s Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre is celebrating a year since launching the first programmes. The “green classroom” is located adjacent to the Ōtātara Pā, overlooking the Hawke’s Bay campus. It includes an impressive flax “plantation” (pā harakeke) featuring various collections donated from different marae around Hawke’s Bay. The EIT team has also planted a broad range of natives, and a refurbished log cabin is open for interactive learning and research. Currently, the centre is being upgraded with an outdoor shelter and a toilet.

In June 2019, EIT and the Air New Zealand Environment Trust signed a partnership agreement expressing their intention to further develop the centre. The trust has also provided significant funding for a wider regional project involving the Department of Conservation, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, and Predator Free Hawke’s Bay to provide ‘learning in nature’ spaces for local schools and for the professional development of teachers. EIT students studying for their teaching qualifications as well as many other EIT departments already use the “green classroom” for outdoor learning and teaching.

Kaitiaki of the area, Chad Tareha and project manager Emma Passey.

Project manager Emma Passey is passionate about growing the project. “We want to provide an inspirational nature based learning area where the cultural and creative connection to the land, sustainable use of resources and the restoration of ecology and biodiversity management can be taught. There are boundless opportunities to use the environment to teach any kind of subject – from arts and maths to storytelling and English.”

Emma says that the learning centre is attracting more and more schools and community groups – also thanks to the valuable input of Ngāti Pārau, kaitiaki of the area.

A rongoā (Māori medicine) garden has been planted at the centre. Rongoā Māori is the traditional healing system that uses plant based remedies. “It is an honour for us to be a part of this revitalisation of rongoā thanks to an exciting collaboration between EIT staff and students of Te Ūranga Waka (School of Māori Studies), School of Nursing and School of Primary Industries,” stresses Emma. “The garden provides an opportunity to link knowledge with practise. Our nursing graduates, for example, will be able to better engage with patients who use rongoā in managing their own health.”

Schools and community groups are able to book and explore the space and make use of the teaching resources. Emma is available to help with any requests, or 0800 255348.