It is important that within the context of school that students know that they have a voice. To know that they will be heard and people will listen. It is also important that they realise that in having a voice there are protocols which need to be adhered to in order for their voice to resonate.

There are times when a conflict may arise in the playground that requires adult intervention, or a student finds something they feel compromises student safety. I have students come to my office to share their ideas, opinions and perspectives on a range of topics that are important to them and this goes way beyond asking me to help resolve a problem. They are aware that there are effective ways to communicate starting with being polite, respectful, and sensible – basic protocols.

There are instances where they come to share initiatives that require a decision from me and at these times I am reminded of a comment made by Monte Selby, an American educator and musician I heard speak at a conference……”When kids come to your door with a proposal, an idea, or an event that they want to organise don’t just say no. Ask them ……”What do you need to do to make me say yes?” Wise words when giving students a voice that can ultimately translate into positive action.

At the moment I have two groups considering what they need to do to make me say yes. One group is keen to play rugby with slightly more physical contact and the other group are aiming to reinvigorate the Matahui Pet Day. In both instances I believe they know that they have been heard, that I have listened and am prepared to support them in making their ideas a reality.  But, they are also aware that they need to demonstrate considerable responsibility to ensure their voice translates into action, by finding out what they need to do to make me say yes.

So next time your children come to you with a proposal, an idea or event they want to organise or see happen, ask them ….”What do you need to do to make me say yes?”


posted in: Principal Blog, Teacher Blogs | 0

I often write about learning and the focus tends to fall on the qualities or traits our students exhibit so, by way of a change, I thought I’d share some thoughts with you about adults as learners. The following ideas came from an eLearning Industry paper produced in 2013 which centred on how to create and structure the right course content for adult learners. Take a moment to read through these and see whether or not the characteristics we display as adult learners bear any resemblance to those we might demonstrate as children. This would make a great dinner time discussion. Have the children ask you……… “What did you learn today?”

Adult Learners’ Traits

  1. Self-direction
    Adults feel the need to take responsibility for their lives and decisions and this is why it’s important for them to have control over their learning.
  2. Practical and results-oriented
    Adult learners are usually practical, resent theory, need information that can be immediately applicable to their professional needs, and generally prefer practical knowledge that will improve their skills, facilitate their work and boost their confidence.
  3. Less open-minded
    Adults are more resisitant to change. Maturity and profound life experiences usually lead to rigidity, which is the enemy of learning.
  4. Slower learning, yet more integrative knowledge
    Aging does affect learning. Adults tend to learn less rapidly with age. However, the depth of learning tends to increase over time, navigating knowledge and skills to unprecedented personal levels.
  5. Use personal experience as a resource
    Adults have lived longer, seen and done more, have the tendency to link their past experiences to anything new and validate new concepts based on prior learning.
  6. Motivation
    Learning in adulthood is usually voluntary. Thus, it’s a personal choice to attend school, in order to improve job skills and achieve professional growth.
  7. Multi-level responsibilities
    Adult learners have a lot to juggle; family, friends, work, and the need for personal quality time. This is why it’s more difficult for an adult to make room for learning.
  8. High expectations
    Adult learners have high expectations. They want to be taught about things that will be useful to their work, expect to have immediate results, seek for a course that will worth their while and not be a waste of their time or money.



posted in: Class Blogs, Principal Blog | 0

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
Pablo Picasso

I recently read an article by John Spencer centred on imagination and how, though it changes over time (as we grow older) it should never shrink, diminish or disappear, rather it should be something that expands and continues to evolve.

So the last couple of days I have been a “Manny” or the Poppa equivalent of one. The sense of wonder, delight in exploring, creating and inventing that I was exposed to in following our grand- daughter gave me the opportunity to be part of the imaginative worlds she created. She gave me a mandate to “tetend” with her – how special.


She also gave me a chance to heighten my imaginative skills in terms of how I engaged with her in “play.” So when it came to dinner time and encouraging her to eat vegetables, it seemed the most natural thing to do was to create a vegetable animal – so successful I might add that she ordered a second though did not really like the “ears.”


At Matahui School we actually have students who ooze imagination and creativity (and actually, so do their parents).After our earthquake evacuation practice drill a week ago, a question was asked – What do we do if there is a Tsunami warning? The answer – We move to higher ground which means we adopt a different structure for this evacuation. The following day our Year 3 and 4 students filled a wheel barrow with water and built from wood, what in essence was a tidal wave maker. They subsequently asked for white dye to help simulate waves and red dye as there would be blood if people got hurt – the power of imagination – brilliant.

Here is the thing – you don’t need to be a grandfather to reconnect with your imagination. Albert

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”

Albert Einstein


Quotes on imagination

John Spencer article


The first part of our school mission statement says ….”Inspiring creativity…” Well I was recently treated to a wonderful example of that whilst spending time in a mathematics class. The students have been learning about number – addition and subtraction.  One of the students was so excited to show me a new form of mathematics she had created…..”Real Fact Art Maths.”


If you look carefully at the graphic depicted you should notice the beehive from whence the bee came – note how it is hanging from the branch of the tree. The bee subsequently flies to the house where it happens upon a finger (obviously attached to a human though it is just the finger you can see along with the bee’s stinger). So why the broken heart you might ask? Well here is the equation…..Bee + stinger in finger = dead bee (hence the broken heart). A wonderful combination of mathematics and science.

It is such creativity that leads to new understandings. This student clearly understands how mathematics works, especially addition. Moreover, it is such creativity that leads to new ways of looking at the world and sophisticated discoveries. I hope that you will be inspired as much as I was when I Emma Poppy shared her “Real Fact Art Maths” with me.


Parents are genuinely interested in what and how their children learn at school. In the past two weeks at Matahui School parents/caregivers have been invited to visit and observe the students learning during an Open Day. We have also had two camps, one for the students in Room 3 and the other, for all our Room 5 and 6 students. In both instances parents have been actively and directly involved in supporting our curriculum and student learning within very specific outdoor learning environments.

However,  learning outside the classroom takes yet another form and one that is incredibly exciting. It occurs when what is being focused upon in the context of the classroom environment spills out into the playground. Two examples follow.

During our bicycle safety programme the students used all the knowledge (both practical and theoretical), and skills they were presented in class to create their own off-road cycle track which they designed, built and managed with remarkable success.

As part of a recent science investigation Room 3 students developed marble runs whereby they needed to think about all factors that would affect the distance a marble could roll – the goal being to see who could get a marble to roll the furthest. Well, this experiment that also involved a high degree of mathematical understanding, morphed into playground play.





Remember playing a game at school called “ Stuck in the Mud?” Well at Matahui School we are about to give you the opportunity to do this for real. Yes, this year we are set to launch the first ever Matahui School Mud Run on Saturday 7 November 2015 so set aside the date.

Mud 1

Matt Griffiths (with the support of our wonderful neighbours at the school, Terry Hobart and Peter and Hana Sherwin), has developed a course that will provide everyone participating with the chance to get muddy as they manoeuvre their way through a course that will provide both challenge and excitement.

Mud 7

The emphasis is less on making this a highly competitive event – though there will be prizes – rather, an occasion that caters for families and teams of enthusiastic “mud people” as a community event that will raise funds for charity and the school. Taking part in a mud run may be a new experience for you, but don’t worry. It is more of a “wade” than run and whilst you might feel it is a challenge,one of the benefits is that you get a cost effective beauty treatment that has no rival!  Mud 15

Additionally, on the day of the Mud Run we will be hosting approximately 100 motorcycle enthusiasts who will roll into school on their classic motorcycles for a lunch break. This “stopover” will certainly add an interesting dimension to the day, especially if anyone is keen on classic bikes.

All you need to do at this point is keep the date free, think about a “costume” for the day that will handle a mud bath and wait for additional information we will send out in the near future.

Mud 16



This week I had the privilege of teaching the Year 7/8 class at Matahui. Spending time with them in an environment that provides them with relevant, challenging engaging learning was both insightful and rewarding.

At the beginning of the day the students focused on reading using an online resource that the school is trialing. It focuses on acquiring a range of reading levels and skills  including – scanning; reading speed; information retrieval; vocabulary extension and comprehension. The motivation, concentration and application and level of skill the students displayed was exemplary. They had a clear understanding of the tasks they undertook and were constantly “testing” themselves to achieve even better results. In one instance, the student I sat alongside scored 45/45 – my score was 3/45. Granted the task was new to me, but clearly I hadn’t reached the same level as the student.


Subsequently, Christine and I watched as a group of senior mathematicians interacted with the students in Room 1. Using playdough the “munchkins” demonstrated and taught the seniors what they had learned about fractions. The way in which they were able to manipulate the dough to show a range of fractions was impressive, but even more outstanding was the level of understanding the juniors displayed through the carefully phrased questions and discussion the seniors led. I felt the urge to sing the Lego song – “Everything is Awesome.”

P1090802     CAITLIN &JAMES

What also impressed both Christine and I was the way in which the seniors listened to the juniors and helped deepen their understanding of fractions by posing additional problems for them to solve using the playdough. This was an educational experience that strongly displayed how “nurturing” builds confidence, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Hats off to Year 7 and 8 and their smaller mathematical buddies.

This is the reason why we have issued an invitation to our parent/caregiver community to attend an Open Day of Learning so that they also have the opportunity to experience such wonderful moments of learning at Matahui. Awesome!


Often we have positive perspectives shared with us by parents, caregivers and students about aspects of school life, relating especially to the ways in which this school enriches the lives of learners.

This week I would like to share a cross section of “voices” with you that strongly echo the ethos of the school.

“Clara finds she is much more creative in finding solutions in general, and specifically now that they are preparing for Kahunui. She is more self-confident, speaking up and sharing her ideas about big issues (Hiroshima for e.g.) than most other girls. And she is not obsessed to the same degree as her peers with self-image and her profile on social media.” Claudia Remus

“Thanks so much for having Sam and me to visit last Thursday. It was great to see the class ‘in action’ and Sam had a great time – commenting twice during the afternoon that ‘Matahui School is so much fun.’ I was very impressed with the friendliness and inclusiveness of the children. Just awesome! We immediately noticed an improvement in how Sam interacted with his little sister at home – hardly any squabbles since we visited …. I’m calling it Matahui magic!” Danielle Ellis

…. “other Rm 5 students hop into the school van, dressed in thermals and tramping gear, faces glowing with excitement. They are off on an expedition to see what possums, rats and pests have been caught by the “Bring back the Birds” volunteers. They are contributing to a real conservation programme, and learning scientific methods (recording bird songs, recognising paw prints of different pests etc) in real life. They learn that ordinary people can achieve big things by working collectively, and that our community contains many unsung heroes (including them). I watch their teacher set up this activity with the parent helper that will accompany them, and allocate responsibilities within the group. It may seem an ordinary moment, but to me it is very moving. It is so normal for our children to feel valued, safe and nurtured and for adults and peers to act responsibly and cooperatively, and look after each other.”  Anne Templeton

And lastly, a letter from Emma Poppy, who wrote the following letter to Kumara and Rodney, the rats that share my office with me. They often visit the classrooms to see and hear what learning is taking place.

“Dear Rodney and Kumara…..At school I have been working on fractions in maths and we are doing narritive writing. I am having fun at school. I hope you like my gifts!” Emma Poppy


Please note the following: Emma Poppy’s gifts were a gold coin and a chest containing two marbles for each rat – gleaned from her collection of at least 1000 marbles. Also note the clothing adorning the rats – an example of student initiated soft technology. The same students who designed and made the garments also created small desks and provided learning materials for the rats.

Ka kite




I have begun to take the camera outside with me when I am on duty so that when opportunities arise to photograph our students in action (and there have been a number I have missed), I can capture them as a tangible record of just have imaginative they are.

In the past I didn’t take photographs – the boys who built a working roller coaster over in the hut building area; the vast number of students who played “Pee Wee” without any disagreement over rules; the student who designed and built a small chair complete with leaning backrest or the students who went from using slats of wood to modifying skateboards without wheels, then adding Velcro straps to the boards so that their feet wouldn’t slip whilst zooming down a huge pile of wood chips. This must have been a New Zealand first – if not a world first!

This week the ball swing provided an opportunity. An opportunity to swing through a sawdust gouge that had filled with rain water. Of course, when the rain water ran thin the problem was promptly solved by ferrying water to the area via wheelbarrow.


At  Matahui School  the staff give the students some freedom to explore, within reason, these opportunities, so “Day 1” saw us providing some dry clothing to the bedraggled ball riders – “Day 2” the students brought a change of uniform from home. So if the washing pile at home increased you will understand why and if you felt a little annoyed, take a moment to reflect on a playground where students continue to learn through play and can be children.


This game will cease and another will take its place as is the way in the playground. We look forward to the next imaginative, inventive activity that will engage and entertain as our students seize the moment.


Ka kite




posted in: Principal Blog | 0


On Friday 10 July we hosted a mid-winter alumni gathering here at Matahui School. In attendance, we had families whose children had recently left the school to transition into secondary education and a number whose children had long since passed through the school. In both instances however, what was significant, was the fact that they all had wonderful memories of the time they spent here as part of the community.


What was also obvious was the enthusiasm with which our alumni recalled experiences they shared, many of which pertained to aspects of the outdoor education programme the school has developed and received national recognition for in 2012. “Mission Impossible” was a constant source of discussion during which specific moments were vividly rekindled.

As I listened to the conversations evolve it was absolutely apparent that our alumni feel a strong and tangible connection to their school. It was equally apparent that they were well-balanced individuals who had strong self-esteem, were confident, capable, interesting individuals able to engage easily with anyone.

So many of the students who leave Matahui School demonstrate a level of resilience, optimism and motivation to reach their goals and this results in a diverse range of accomplishments. What we would appreciate is hearing more from you all as to what you are currently doing. We would like to continue to celebrate your successes and accomplishments by featuring you on our web site and Facebook. As far as we are concerned you are all shining stars.


On that note, you may be interested to learn that  Toby Cunliffe-Steel recently won a silver medal in the lightweight single sculls at the World University Games. If you would like to read more please access the following link. You will be inspired.’t-stop-nz-rower

We would also like to showcase both our existing and past parents on the website and Facebook. Many of you have successes that highlight the level of entreprenurialism and creativity that thrives in our community. Don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can  share your achievements globally.

Our  thanks to Helga Campbell and Kate Bruning for the extra personal time they put into organizing the alumni evening. To those families who brought along food and drink – our thanks. Most importantly, thank you for maintaining your connection to the school. You will always be part of our whanau.

Ka kite