A Whangārei Boys' High School social studies project has provided more than just a chance for students to gain credits - it's helped a primary school in Kenya get a block of toilets.
It all started when Jay Warren, Whangārei Boys' High School head of social studies, received an email early last year from Beyond Water - a charity working across East Africa to provide access to safe, clean drinking water and sanitation facilities.
Warren said that email came at the perfect time as he was looking at making some positive changes in the social studies curriculum.
"I thought I'd fire a quick reply and see if I could get some more information because I thought it would tie in quite well to what we were doing around human rights and social action and it sort of blossomed from there."
In May last year the team from Beyond Water visited the school to do some workshops with the students.
Warren said at the school they look at how best to prepare students for NCEA level 1 - typically gained during year 11 - so they offered them NCEA level 1 social studies standards to earn credits. One of those standards was participation in a social action.
He kept in contact with the Creans and it was decided two of the year 10 classes would raise money for Beyond Water to build toilets in Tumaini Primary School in the North Rift Valley in Kenya.
"It is a two bird one stone thing. A big focus for me as a teacher and head of department is I'm all about alignment. We can take one topic or shared experience and we can do so much with one thing rather than lots of things."
Warren said the boys worked in groups and came up with ideas on how best to raise funds. The next step was getting approval, so Warren organised for the boys to present their ideas to our principal and deputy principal.
"The range of fundraising ideas and activities was quite extraordinary, from possum trapping and skinning to the classic car wash. The boys began to get excited and a touch competitive to see who could raise the most money," he said.
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As a group they raised just over $1000 to build a functioning block of toilets equipped with composting toilets which generates fertiliser for local farmers, and has running water for washing hands.
Last week Sharon and Pete Crean sat down with some of the students involved and discussed the results of their work, and showed them clips covering the building of the toilet block to the celebration of the school once it was officially opened.
Year 11 student Leo Palmer said the most rewarding part of this experience was knowing he had made a difference.
"It feels great knowing we have helped the school because the 200 students, aged 5 to 11, who attend Tumaini Primary School used to share one little shack for their toilet facility."