Outdoor education course in Taranaki is a success

Posted on 2016-11-10 by CM

The call for adventure in the outdoors is an ever beckoning presence at St Mary’s Diocesan School in Stratford, which is located under the shadow of Mount Taranaki. This year St Mary’s Diocesan School successfully trialled a senior outdoor education course involving the school, TSB TOPEC and the International Travel College of New Zealand. This has produced a wonderful outcome for Year 13 student, Heavenly Kieft.

Heavenly has combined two days a week at TSB TOPEC, her online interactive work through the International Travel College of New Zealand, and her in school passions of Fabric Technology and Photography. At TSB TOPEC she has completed components of the National Certificate in Outdoor Leadership course, featuring standards in rock climbing, bushwalking and bush survival, while at the International Travel College she has gained Level 3 Tourism Standards.

Heavenly’s folio board (illustrated) unpacks all of the outdoors elements she has encountered this year and highlights the wonderful synergies of working across three providers to produce a unique and personally tailored result.


Heavenly Kieft presenting her folio board

Coming from a dairy farm on the outskirts of Stratford, Heavenly had identified farming as her vocational pathway and she completed a Gateway programme exploring this possibility last year. However, while working in the outdoors on a daily basis appealed to her, the relative loneliness of farming life did not gel with her strong interpersonal and people skills. The TSB TOPEC programme offered her the opportunity to explore the outdoors within a people oriented industry, and Adventure Tourism now beckons. 

Heavenly's teachers are delighted that the mixed programme allowed Heavenly to remain engaged with school. Her strong interpersonal skills saw her voted by her peers and staff as Head Boarder in the boarding house, an opportunity that she may have missed out on had she left school at the end of year 12. Heavenly was also captain of the Hockey First XI and this responsibility has provided an opportunity for her to be mentored through the inevitable challenges that come with leading peers.

Working with a range of providers in different settings and with different requirements has broadened Heavenly’s appreciation of learning environments and has allowed her time to make informed decisions about her next steps.

Heavenly sums up her year: “This year at TOPEC spending two days out of school weekly has been an amazing experience. I have loved being able to spend time out of school and go out to try new things in the outdoors. Having the experience is awesome and something I will always remember. I have enjoyed meeting new people and being able to overcome challenges that I have been scared of facing, such as flipping kayaks, and jumping from heights. I have overcome a lot of challenges this year thanks to the TOPEC crew. They have taught me a lot and have given me a lot more experience and knowledge. They have helped me find what I love and now next year (2017) I am carrying on with an Outdoor Adventure Tourism course.” 


Heavenly Kieft photography from her Level 3 Photography board

Steve Ralph Director of TSB TOPEC says, “At TSB TOPEC we believe that the Level 3 course fulfils an important role for Taranaki senior school learners who are looking to develop leadership, self-confidence and outdoor skills. We have been developing this course format over a number of years with this year’s group being the first graduating group. The three days in school and two days with us has been a successful format. TSB TOPEC has worked in partnership with St Mary’s Diocesan School to facilitate meaningful and relevant learning opportunities for students. We have been thrilled by the progress, achievement and leadership qualities shown by the students. Heavenly displayed significant achievement in her studies with us. She has strived for success throughout the year and has excelled in the leadership opportunities provided. There is no doubting the personal growth that Heavenly has demonstrated.  She is poised to make a real impact in whatever she chooses to do in the future.”

Working digitally with the International Travel College of New Zealand has been an exciting new experience for the senior girls, including Heavenly. She has independently been able to email her tutor, Judy Webster, and get wonderful online support and feedback. Judy says, “Heavenly used the International Travel College online distance learning programme. She worked steadily through the programme, completing all the online assessments on her first attempt; which is a great achievement. This meant that she achieved an 8 credit, Level 3 unit standard. When she needed assistance she made contact by email and the question was resolved immediately. I was very pleased with the way Heavenly approached the course and the timeframe in which it was completed.”

St Mary’s Diocesan School's Principal, Fiona Green, is delighted that all elements of the programme fitted and that all girls on the course have achieved their NCEA Level 3 through a combination of school subjects, online learning and TSB TOPEC outdoors standards. “I am very proud to be attending the graduation ceremony for our girls. They have all gained so much knowledge and importantly they have had a chance to relate to others, manage their own learning, and participate and contribute in three different learning settings. The success of this pilot mixed setting programme means we have established a strong platform for this vocational pathway into the future. The Outdoor and Adventure Tourism industry is one of New Zealand’s growth areas and having confident and competent girls able to progress into this industry is wonderful.”

Three current Year 12 students have been accepted into the TSB TOPEC and International Travel College of New Zealand outdoor education programme for 2017. “Their learning journeys to date are quite different,” said Fiona. “As well as Outdoor Education they are all taking Level 3 Business Studies in 2017 and have studied Level 2 Drama this year, including being regional winners and representing Taranaki at the National Sheliah Winn Shakespeare Competition. With tourism, outdoor experiences, business and drama skills combined we are in for another year of exciting outcomes.”


Author: Fiona Green, principal of St. Mary's Diocesan School, Stratford