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Turning buddies into whanau

Douglas Park School pupils buddying up for whanau day. PHOTO/WILLIAM HEATH

ELISA VORSTER
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The importance of creating meaningful relationships and embracing cultural diversity is a concept which hasn’t been lost at Douglas Park School.

“We have a saying here – ‘Know me as a person, then grow me as a learner’,” principal Gareth Sinton said.

The school sets aside 30 minutes every Friday for ‘whanau day’ where young pupils are buddied up with older pupils to share cultural stories, games and build friendships.

“We have 350 kids here so building a sense of family is very important,” he said.

Each class had the opportunity to do something different, with some groups practising the word ‘talofa’ ahead of Samoan language week next week, while others took part in a game they learnt from the Ka Rewa resilience programme.

Each group of buddies are three school years apart and stay together for three years.

“It gives the Year 6 kids an opportunity to be leaders for Year 3 kids they’re with,” Mr Sinton said.

And the buddy system was already working in the playground as Mr Sinton saw five-year-olds playing together with eight-year-olds.

But the benefits of whanau day extended further than just the pupils, as the teachers get to connect with pupils outside their own classrooms.

“The teachers are building powerful relationships as they get to know more about a student’s family, where they come from and what they like.

“The first Friday we did this, I wandered around and saw smiles on the teachers’ faces, really happy kids and parents commenting on how much the kids enjoyed it.”

Mr Sinton was looking forward to expanding whanau day to include things such as a service day in the community.

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