THIS SIDE OF TOWN

If you were to drive past Onerahi Primary School these days, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd stepped back in time. In a good way.

I'm sure kids hanging out of trees like monkeys is a welcome sight for many but, for the most part of two decades, the trees have remained barren of kids. Until recently.

It's probably become fairly obvious I'm not a fan of all these new-age PC regulations so, when my children came home telling me they are now allowed to climb trees, I was thrilled.

Some trees are just meant for climbing and to deny that is not natural. As the deputy principal Danny Hamilton says, tree climbing has many benefits.

"We had a discussion at a strategic leaders' meeting about the benefits of climbing trees. We have many kids that can learn through this process, be it challenging themselves, understanding consequences, minimising risk, etc.

Advertisement

"Some of our children find being in a tree quite soothing and a way to quickly regulate their emotions. We all agreed that the key to having kids climb trees again was that this would be a learning opportunity.

"When you climb a tree, it is an act of care. Your goal is to look after yourself and the tree."

Reece Jennings, Carley Clarke, Lucas Witehira, Kenzy Gardiner and Luka Broughton at Onerahi Primary School, where they are taught which branches are safe to climb on. Photo/Supplied
Reece Jennings, Carley Clarke, Lucas Witehira, Kenzy Gardiner and Luka Broughton at Onerahi Primary School, where they are taught which branches are safe to climb on. Photo/Supplied

Who would've thought something we took for granted from our own childhood could have so many benefits that subsequent generations have been missing out on?

The ban, common at many schools, was due to environmental education and health and safety regulations. Onerahi Primary School's recent decision was the result of internal conversations, followed by teachers creating safety guidelines and identifying with students which trees are appropriate to climb — while pointing out that children are only to climb on branches thicker than their arm.

Part of the philosophy is teaching actions leading to outcomes, which can have a flow-on effect into bigger decisions later in life.

"Being able to predict what's going to happen and make safe choices is at the heart of being able to minimise risk for yourself," Danny said.

"It's not about removing risk completely from our children's lives but supporting them to develop the skills they will need for the rest of their lives, skills that will help them to be happy, healthy and successful in whatever they set their mind to."

And so far, results have been positive with teachers reporting happy kids challenging themselves in trees. My monkeys are certainly delighted — and me, I'm just pleased to see a slight resurrection of yesteryear.

Advertisement