Western Bay kids focus on core values

By Teuila Fuatai

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The final day of the week is always a challenge - it's the last hump before the weekend, the emphatic sprint to the finish and the day where many people drum up ideas about how to spend those two glorious days of freedom.

Well, that's what I tend to do on Fridays, anyway.

So when I was sent to a primary school lesson about focus yesterday, it seemed like payback for all those wasted hours.

I, along with about 50 excited 8, 9 and 10-year-olds - who made me look like Oscar the Grouch with their cheery smiles and youthful enthusiasm - were put through our paces by the Cool Bananas team at Bethlehem Primary School.

Cool Bananas, a Christian-based values programme, visit schools in the Western Bay and run 30-minute sessions based around a different core value each week.

They hit headlines earlier this week after the Secular Education Network accused them of using lessons to promote Christianity.

While the group denied this, they confirmed that Christian values were used as a basis for their lessons, but they insisted beliefs from the religion were not pushed on to students.

My job was to head along and see if this was true.

The lesson started out well - "Focus" was introduced to the crowd of Year 3 and Year 4 pupils (and one 23-year-old) as this week's value.

I have to admit that several questions around how best to dedicate your spare time and attention even had me thinking.

The children were encouraged to take part, yelling out what they had learned from last week's session, which was about teamwork.

And a girls vs boys game demonstrating how teamwork and focus went hand-in-hand managed to get everyone riled up.

As things progressed into the more serious stuff, three different stories were used to show why focus was important. Cool Bananas staff member Dave McNeilly told us about American shooter Matt Emmons, who missed out on a medal at the 2008 Olympic games after shooting at the wrong target.

The message from Matt's story - pause and find your focus.

The next story was from the Bible, which was when things became dicey.

According to the book of Matthew, a boat of Jesus' disciples had been caught in stormy weather.

Jesus appeared on the water, encouraged disciple Peter to leave the boat and walk over the water towards him.

In the Bible story, Peter becomes afraid and begins to sink. He is rescued by Jesus who calms the storm and returns him to safety.

Staff member Tammy Bicker said Peter sank because he lost focus on Jesus.

However, it was hard not to miss the correlation between focus and faith in the story.

But true to their word, the Cool Bananas team balanced it out by finishing this section with the story of an Indian chief and his grandson, which also demonstrated the importance of focus.

The lesson was wrapped up just after 9.30am with a karakia, where the children prayed for their principal Brian Field, who underwent bypass surgery yesterday after a cardiac arrest during a soccer match on Monday.

Having a programme based on Christian values has undoubtedly influenced the content in the Cool Bananas programme.

It would be wrong to say nothing happened which did not promote Christianity. But, apart from that aspect, the lesson was entertaining and educational, and most importantly highly valued by all the children who attended.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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