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Learning through sport

As the country hosts a series of major sporting events over the next few years, Sport New Zealand is leading a project, called ‘In Our Backyard’, with four national sporting organisations to further shape learning through sport in schools and kura. 

Maiden overs, dive passes, penalty shootouts and foiling gybes are set to enter our daily conversations as New Zealand hosts three Women’s World Cups and the Sail Grand Prix over the next two years. 

The excitement generated by these major sporting events is often intoxicating, and with a bit of imagination and steering in the right direction, they can provide a real motivation for ākonga to learn. 

“We saw with the America’s Cup earlier this year a surge of interest from schools and kura wanting to learn through the context of sailing. Yachting New Zealand did a great job of delivering a programme called ‘Kōkōkaha’ that supported tamariki to learn about wind and to design technologies to harness its power,” explains Raelene Castle, chief executive of Sport New Zealand. 

In our backyard 

“To build on this momentum, we’ve set up a project called ‘In Our Backyard’ to help cricket, rugby, football and yachting to reinvent how they engage with schools and kura as a legacy of hosting their respective major events in Aotearoa.” 

Insights from previous work, including the Sport in Education project ‘Staying the Distance’, have clearly demonstrated the value of using sport and physical activity as a context for learning and student engagement. 

However, education programmes generated for major sport events have tended to sit in isolation, and seldom lead to opportunities that endure beyond the event itself. 

‘In Our Backyard’ takes a different approach with schools, sports and local communities working together in a collaborative way, to consider what value and opportunites can endure as a legacy of hosting events in New Zealand’s ‘backyard’. 

It also complements the Healthy Active Learning initiative, a joint government collaboration between Sport New Zealand and the Ministries of Health and Education, within the context of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, to improve the wellbeing of tamariki through healthy eating and drinking and quality physical activity.

Different approach 

In Our Backyard project lead Dean Stanley says the sailing experiences in the Genesis and Emirates Team New Zealand Schools’ Programme, Kōkōkaha were embedded as part of a full term of work focusing on the science, technology, engineering, and maths involved in harnessing the power of the wind. 

“This was quite different from the traditional approach of simply having a go at sailing,” he adds. 

“We’re aiming to make the same shift with cricket, football and rugby by working with them and clusters of teachers to design, test and ultimately deliver quality local experiences that focus on learning through sport, rather than learning how to play sport. 

Solving challenges 

Dean says the idea is that sports provide a context for ākonga to help solve challenges faced by New Zealand society. 

“In Kōkōkaha, the challenge was how can we harness more power from the wind to help reduce the impact of climate change. The sailing experience supported tamariki as they completed their inquiries and designed their technologies. We will identify similar society-level challenges as a focus for the other sports’ programmes.” 

Four clusters of teachers have been established by Healthy Active Learning advisors in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, and Wellington. Each cluster is participating in workshops in which they help design ways for the four sports to engage with schools and kura, and support learning across the curriculum. 

During term 4, the various activities and experiences will be tested and piloted with ākonga before they are turned into services that all schools and kura can access and use, not only during the upcoming major events, but well into the future. 

Term 4 and beyond 

Schools and kura can start getting ready now as the new services will be coming onstream from term 4 this year. The upcoming world sporting events are: 

  • ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup: term 4 2021 and term 1 2022. 
  • Sail Grand Prix: term 1 and term 4 2022. 
  • Women’s Rugby World Cup: term 4 2022. 
  • FIFA Women’s World Cup: term 3 2023. 

Read more about the ‘In Our Backyard’ projects: 

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