Harold the Giraffe turns 21
It's been 21 years since Harold the Giraffe rolled into West Auckland on a mission to teach kids some of life's most important lessons.
And equipped with his star-lit ceiling, punchy one-liners and pull apart body organs, the Life Education Trust mascot Harold and educator Murielle Gill are still spreading the word in their mobile classroom.
"It's a very high energy job," Mrs Gill says.
"We create a unique atmosphere that a teacher would never be able to create in the classroom so kids still get a buzz from it and seeing Harold is still a hoot."
Mrs Gill has been a Life Education Trust educator since 1995 when the primary school teacher felt like a new challenge.
"I like the variety and I know I'm directly helping kids learn about ways of looking after your body by staying healthy. I also like the variety of children who come through here."
The mobile classroom travels around West Auckland schools and takes five classes a day.
The charitable trust is celebrating 21 years teaching in the region and is expecting to have about 7500 kids on board this year.
Educators such as Mrs Gill teach kids everything from healthy eating to the effects of drugs and alcohol.
"We even teach kids about friendships, social relationships, nutrition and how the body works," she says.
"And they really do love it. We get letters all the time from children."
Executive officer Catherine Mackenzie-Simpson says many people don't realise the mobile classroom is funded by a charitable trust that heavily relies on sponsors, grants, donations and fundraising.
Money raised locally goes towards Life Education in this area so a week of classes that would usually cost West Auckland schools $19.45 per pupil now costs between $4 to $5.
"We're always looking for people out there who can help us out," Mrs Mackenzie-Simpson says.
"It's such a valuable resource and while it's wonderful that we've been able to go this long, support to keep us going is always appreciated. "
Summerland Primary School deputy principal Barb Dysart says Life Education Trust plays a very important role in a child's education.
"The mobile classroom started coming here about 10 years ago and I think it's that novelty of going inside something a little different that makes it so attractive," she says.
"The other benefit is things are explained to children in simple terms and I really think the lessons learned make a huge difference in the choices they make."
Go online to lifeeducationtrust.co.nz to see how you can get involved.