Many families found that Covid-19 Alert Level 3 lockdown brought them closer together and this was no different for Sacred Heart College and St John’s College, with cooperative learning taking place during that time.
Around the country, essential workers’ children in Years 9 and ten who did not have anyone to look after them at home, were able to go to school where they were cared for by teachers and in many cases their school’s principal. They participated in their school’s online learning programme but were kept in their own bubbles at the school. For many schools, there were often under ten students coming in each day, with some schools reporting one or two.
This unique situation called for strategic thinking, which is why the principals of Sacred Heart College and St John’s College decided to pool their resources. The idea was that any St John’s College student who lived in Napier and needed to attend school would do so at Sacred Heart College. For any Sacred Heart College student from Hastings, her new temporary place of learning was St John’s Collge.
The idea worked well, with up to seven students in total attending both schools each day, including one St John’s boy, Devon Williams, at SHC.
Having attended St Patrick’s School up until moving to St John’s this year, Devon is no stranger to a co-ed environment. Despite being “forced” by his essential working parents, Devon says he “thoroughly enjoyed” being at school.
“I had loads of fun. I got to hang out with some of my old friends from primary school and we did lots of learning,” the 14-year-old said. Because I have 12 or so friends at the school but sadly only one of them turned up but I wanted to catch up with them all because I hadn’t seen them in a very very long time.
Each morning, Devon, along with his seven-year-old sister, Autumn Sobek would be dropped off at St Patrick’s school from their home in Pirimai, where SHC’s deputy principal would then pick him up and take him to his temporary school.
At school, each student had their own desk, appropriately spaced out from each other.
Despite slightly different timetables, Devon was able to join the girls’ in doing PE and have lunch with them.
Year 9 SHC students Makaela Fisher, Arliyah Rangiaho-Clay along with year 10 student Bella Leonard joined him. While they all enjoy “normal school” more as they get to see their friends and teachers, the students said it wasn’t too bad.
Bella said it was a "lot more" structured than when she was at home. She was still able to call her friends to "check-in" with each other.
For Makaela, going to school during level three was non-negotiable, but it was made better by having her primary school friend, Devon with her.
“He was like you’ve got to go because he didn’t want to be alone at a girls school and I was his only friend who was a girl,” she said.
Being the only students at school proved to have its perks. “We got to go on walks with the teacher and explore the hill and other areas,” she said.
The online learning environment provided a prime opportunity for the two school’s Māori departments to collaborate for the first time.
Whaea Henrietta Hillman, T.I.C Te Reo Māori and St John’s College’s H.O.D Te Reo Māori, Maia Solomon, discussed student motivation just after Anzac Day and decided that by hosting a combined lesson this would “hopefully” improve student motivation.
On May 13, after a week of studying Kīwaha – proverbial sayings, on Education Perfect, with both teachers' guidance, they had a zoom conference where the 20 students competed in a Kahoot quiz.
“We kept it very simple,” Whaea Hilman said. “It was about introducing the students to each other, to new learning and this current form of learning which is online.”
The group comprised of year 10 to 13 students with a mix of ability in te reo. Whaea Hilman said it was a “nice competition” between the students.
In the combined class, they even had a brother-sister combination. “That was quite cute. They were both in separate rooms in their house and they were certainly competing against each other,” she said.
Year 11 SHC student Aroha Tawhiri won the quiz. “I found it pretty easy and it was a really fun experience to do it with the boys,” the 15-year-old said.
Having attended a Kura Kaupapa before high school, Aroha is currently doing NCEA Level Two in te reo Māori. “I knew some terms from my old school because we used to say them all the time. I was kind of nervous but then I was kind of not.”
She says she found online school “good” and noticed that she had been finishing her work “a lot quicker than usual”.
He hopes this is the “start of something”.