A project that educates Kiwi school children about the wonders of wool has notched up its 25,000th student this month.
"Wool in Schools" uses two converted 20-foot shipping containers as "Wool Sheds".
The containers travel the country visiting schools and sharing knowledge about wool, aiming to inspire students to use the sustainable, natural fibre in the future.
The project was set up by Campaign for Wool, a global initiative spearheaded by The Prince of Wales to raise awareness of the uses and benefits of wool.
Prince Charles opened the first Wool Shed at Tawa Intermediate in 2015 and interest from schools snowballed from there.
Chair of Campaign for Wool NZ, Tom O'Sullivan, said that while it was a "fantastic milestone" to educate 25,000 school students, there was still "a long way to go" for the project.
"[We] would like every school student in New Zealand to have the opportunity to experience the Wool Shed and learn about wool in this way."
How does Wool in Schools work?
Wool Shed visits are free, and schools can apply via the Wool in Schools website.
When there is enough demand in an area, a shed is dispatched, spending between one and two weeks at each site.
Demand for Wool in Schools became so high, that in 2018 a second container was created to better support South Island schools.
The Wool Shed experience takes approximately 30 minutes, where kids pass through a series of interactive stations where they learn about the different uses and benefits of wool, along with its processes.
They can also have a go at weaving on a mini loom.
A tennis ball exhibit was particularly popular with students, Wool in Schools' project manager Vicki Linstrom said.
People didn't realise tennis balls were covered with wool, she said.
"[They] are delighted to learn that New Zealand wool is chosen for the tennis balls at Wimbledon, due to its 'crimp' factor which gives the balls the best bounce.
"It's fantastic to see young minds starting to think more broadly about wool as a truly versatile fibre, with far greater uses and benefits than just making their clothes."
Moving outside the Wool Shed
The students' wool education continued outside the Wool Sheds at their school libraries as well, O'Sullivan said.
"Jock Visits The Neighbours," a children's book by Geraldine farmer and author Christine Taylor, follows the adventures of a highland terrier who visits a nearby sheep farm.
Campaign for Wool recently partnered with Taylor to send the story to schools for their libraries.
It was important to find "creative and inspiring ways" to share the message about wool with young people, O'Sullivan said.
"The younger generations are really tuned into the need for more sustainable ways of living, including moving away from cheap products made from plastic fibres which are doing so much damage to our planet.
"We hope we can help inspire them early on, to create and innovate with wool for a better future."