Child abuse may not be a topic at the top of the curriculum, but talking about it in class has opened minds and changed perspectives for a group of Manawatu high school students.
A handful of Hato Paora College students have this week been studying empathy, relationship building, brain development and child abuse.
The discussions are part of the Brainwave Trust programme, which is aimed at building students' understanding of how parents can make a big difference to their children in the first few years of life.
The goal was to reduce child abuse, neglect, poor decision-making during pregnancy and improve understanding about what being a parent involved, Brainwave executive director Sue Wright said.
The programme follows case studies of children struggling with the effects of neglect - the students work through problems and figure out what caused them.
The trust runs the programme for secondary school students in New Zealand, including about 15 schools throughout the Manawatu, Rangitikei and Whanganui areas.
Hato Paora principal Deb Marshall-Lobb said it was a positive intervention that had students considering how they cared for others.
"It gets the boys thinking on a deeper level and taking some of those messages back home."
Year 9 student Dillon Myers, 14, said it gave him a fresh perspective on fatherhood, and his younger family members.
"It's made me think about what I am going to do and how I am going to care for my babies one day," he said.
Teacher Ken Mihaere said there were greater life lessons for the students.
"It's made them think about how to treat one another here around the school and what they can do to grow up and be a good dad. From time to time we all need a refresher on those things."
Brainwave schools presenter Maria McKenzie said the latest studies in brain science showed that experiences in the early years of life affected how people's brains were wired, and what sort of adults they became.
People were born with a genetic blueprint, but reaching their potential was influenced by early childhood experiences, such as abuse and neglect, she said.
"If kids understand how their brains develop in the context of relationships, whether it be as a brother, sibling, teacher, father or a student, they then realise they have an important role with babies and young people."
- Manawatu Standard
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