School's out: what kids do on holiday

Last updated 00:00 25/09/2007
Guy Frederick
LOADED: 13-year-old trap shooter William Rooney never gets bored during holidays.

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So what do youngsters do when the classroom door closes and they're left to do as they - or their parents - choose? Rose Hoare asks six primary and secondary students from around the country how they'll be spending the next two weeks of holiday.

WILLIAM ROONEY, 13, is in Year Eight at Waimate High. Apart from his mum, his whole family is into trap shooting. This holiday William will be helping out on the family farm and chasing neo-Nazis on PlayStation

Here are some facts and figures. The shotgun William uses, which has a 30-inch barrel, is roughly 122cm long. William is about 1m 60 tall. He stands 15m away from the trap, which shoots clay targets out at about 50 to 60 km/h, and 95 percent of the time he hits his target.

Last March he won a national title - handicapped by distance - for shooting from 17m away, instead of 15.

"I started when I was about 11 or 12. My brother's in a wheelchair and there weren't many sports he could do, but trap shooting was a good one. The first time I hit one was about my fourth target. If you hit it good enough it normally busts. Sometimes it's just chipped."

This weekend, his other brother, who's 17, will compete in the secondary school championships, held at the Waikato Gun Club but William's not going.

Sunday: How come?

William: No point.

Sunday: But you're better than most of the kids your age?

William: Yeah.

Sunday: Do you wish you were competing?

William: Yeah. I reckon I'd go quite well. Next year I'm allowed to go in it.

Sunday: How come you're so good?

William: 'S'pose practice.

Sunday: Do you practise at home?

William: There's normally club shoots every weekend. Normally go to them.

In any case, there's the whole farm to range around on and in his economical way of talking, William claims to "always love holidays". There's a duck pond and William's got a licence to shoot ducks. Dad keeps the family in ammunition ("he's quite good for that") and Christmas usually brings gun oil. And there are chores to do: William has to feed the calves in the milkshed, and take his black labrador, Jack, for a run on his bike every night.

"If I'm allowed to get my friends over, I'll get them over. Fishing's coming up, and whitebaiting. There's a creek on the farm that runs into the sea and whitebait come up that."

Regrettably, rugby (he plays for South Canterbury) has finished for the season, as has duck-shooting. Still, there are usually club shoots at the weekends and sometimes they'll go on a night shoot with rifles, taking out possums and rabbits from the back of the ute.

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He's into PlayStation games - "the hard ones", such as Conflict: Global Storm, in which you chase neo-Nazi terrorists around the world and, more to the point, shoot them.

"He's not actually a violent person," says his mother. "The club is very safety-conscious and it does teach them how to handle guns properly and maturely." William bears her out. When asked flippant questions, he says, "It's not really a sport that you can just play around with 'cause it's actually live bullets and stuff. I don't normally just go out shooting. We plan it all out.

"I don't get bored on holidays, there's always something to do," he says. And there's always next year's competition to think about. "I know that I could beat quite a few people so? I can do it next year. Just got to go out and show them that I can."

JAQUES KEMP, 14, amateur astronomer, moved to Arapohue, Dargaville from Pretoria a year ago. He'll be spending time at his teacher Mrs Hambly's star-dome observatory

"There's a dark room and it has a funny-shaped roof. You pull a lever and the roof opens, and you press a green button and it turns left, a red one and it turns right. There's a big yellow telescope inside and you look through it and see the belts around Jupiter. Saturn's got the ring, which is formed out of rocks and ice. It was going to be a moon but it never formed."

With Mrs Hambly's help Jaques has also studied the moon's craters. "There's two holes in the moon -she calls it two balloons. It looks exactly like two balloons, with the strings and stuff."

He's asked Mrs Hambly whether there's life on other planets. "She says they're just watching and trying to see if there's life on Mars. It's too cold on Jupiter," he says, giggling inexplicably, "but maybe Mars."

Jaques watched the Transit of Venus from South Africa in 2004, and saw the lunar eclipse last month. He'd like to stay up later to watch the night sky, but he knows his parents would say no. They'd let him stay up for a special astronomical event, though.

"I'm the only one in my class who's into astronomy," Jaques says. "My brother is into it as well, but I liked it before him. He just does it for credits."

As well as visiting the observatory these holidays, Jaques will likely play golf ("I haven't got a handicap yet, I just started") and skateboard on a ramp he's built in the wool shed. "I can do an ollie, a kick-flip, a heel flip and a pop-shove-it. Still learning the other stuff."

He's not the sort of kid to plop down in front of the TV and mow through bags of chips. "Sometimes I cook spaghetti or make a nice sandwich, but I'm not a big fan of eating. I don't like watching TV. I just like building stuff in my room - electronic stuff, like a doorbell and a flashing light. I like doing stuff with my hands."

He occasionally hunts Indian mynah birds with his pellet gun. His dad, an electrician, still lives in Pretoria and when Jaques visits him in the Christmas holidays, he hopes to go hunting over there.

Jaques wants to be an electrician, but all the same, he has glow-in-the-dark stars on his bedroom ceiling, and says he used to want to be an astronaut. "That was my dream."

Maybe it's a language thing - Jaques' first language is Afrikaans - but when I ask what made him want to be an astronaut, he says a wonderfully strange thing: "I just wanted to be lonely, to fly up there."

Half-Persian, half-Niuean SHADIE LUPO, 10, lives in Auckland and usually stays with her grandmother in the holidays. They play cards and hangman, and her "Mamanjoon" makes chicken, rice and kebabs. But Mamanjoon is ill, and Shadie's mum is starting a new job, so she might have to amuse herself

Shadie is a busy kid. She takes martial arts lessons, piano lessons, drama classes and goes ice skating. "She doesn't get much sitting around time," says her mother, Gitti Asadyari-Lupo. "She's very bubbly, very friendly, but being the only child she can be bossy at times. They put it nicely as 'she has leadership qualities', whatever that means. But she can easily entertain herself."

"I normally finish two books a day, normally," says Shadie. "My favourite author's Joy Cowley. She has funny stories. She came to our school opening. Or I think that might have been Margaret Mahy. I'm not quite sure.

"Sometimes I like going with my books and sitting outside on the tramp, bouncing up and down while I read. That's what I like to do if it's a nice sunny day, but my mum's got a new job and they have a pool. I might take a book and read by the pool."

Shadie's favourite school subject is drama and so far this year she's been in two productions, playing both a policeman and a maid in the musical Annie. "I'm at the end when I turn in the people who were using Annie to get the $50,000." She loves High School Musical, watches it repeatedly and, as well as choreographing her own dance routines, she sometimes uses My Sky to rewind things on television so she can learn them.

She is endlessly amused by Luca, her bichon frise. "He's very curious," she says, intrigue brimming in her voice. "We put him in a cage when we go out and he seems to find a way to get out of the cage and sniffs around the garage and rips whatever he can get into. He's very cheeky, actually. He takes your socks and everything."

Shadie is in Year Five at Willow Bank school in Dannemora, Auckland ("The first time we got flip-up desks, in Year Three, we were so excited," she recalls) and has been looking forward to the holidays because, lately, school has been "madness", what with portfolios due.

"Our portfolio is a little folder where we put all our - well it's actually not little, it's A4 - we put all our work we've been doing for the past term or two terms. My best friend Chloe - we're so naughty together we're not allowed to sit together any more. We're forbidden! We were talking too much and if Chloe did something crazy, then I would do something crazy. I was like her sheep." Next year, Shadie hopes they'll be reunited.

"Once I was at a sleepover and we all stayed up until 2 o'clock in the morning. We were all so hyper! We went to Pizza Hut but I don't like pizza so much so I just had two bites. Then we got Coke and put icecream in the Coke and had this fizzy thing, and then it spilled all over the seat and we took pictures of it. It was so funny.

"Sometimes I stay at my auntie's house for the night and my mum can go stay with my grandma. I find I do miss my mum because she normally comes and gets me as soon as she's finished with my grandma, but I don't mind so much because all my cousins are there. And I'm not bored because I bring all my things with me.

"And I play piano as well. Right now I'm working on a song called Amazing Grace. I've been working on my own song, but I haven't quite figured up a name for it. I know lots of notes but I'm not very good at drawing some of them properly."

Shadie is a busy kid. She takes martial arts lessons, piano lessons, drama classes and goes ice skating. "She doesn't get much sitting around time," says her mother, Gitti Asadyari-Lupo. "She's very bubbly, very friendly, but being the only child she can be bossy at times. They put it nicely as 'she has leadership qualities', whatever that means. But she can easily entertain herself."

"I normally finish two books a day, normally," says Shadie. "My favourite author's Joy Cowley. She has funny stories. She came to our school opening. Or I think that might have been Margaret Mahy. I'm not quite sure.

"Sometimes I like going with my books and sitting outside on the tramp, bouncing up and down while I read. That's what I like to do if it's a nice sunny day, but my mum's got a new job and they have a pool. I might take a book and read by the pool."

Shadie's favourite school subject is drama and so far this year she's been in two productions, playing both a policeman and a maid in the musical Annie. "I'm at the end when I turn in the people who were using Annie to get the $50,000." She loves High School Musical, watches it repeatedly and, as well as choreographing her own dance routines, she sometimes uses My Sky to rewind things on television so she can learn them.

She is endlessly amused by Luca, her bichon frise. "He's very curious," she says, intrigue brimming in her voice. "We put him in a cage when we go out and he seems to find a way to get out of the cage and sniffs around the garage and rips whatever he can get into. He's very cheeky, actually. He takes your socks and everything."

Shadie is in Year Five at Willow Bank school in Dannemora, Auckland ("The first time we got flip-up desks, in Year Three, we were so excited," she recalls) and has been looking forward to the holidays because, lately, school has been "madness", what with portfolios due.

"Our portfolio is a little folder where we put all our - well it's actually not little, it's A4 - we put all our work we've been doing for the past term or two terms. My best friend Chloe - we're so naughty together we're not allowed to sit together any more. We're forbidden! We were talking too much and if Chloe did something crazy, then I would do something crazy. I was like her sheep." Next year, Shadie hopes they'll be reunited.

"Once I was at a sleepover and we all stayed up until 2 o'clock in the morning. We were all so hyper! We went to Pizza Hut but I don't like pizza so much so I just had two bites. Then we got Coke and put icecream in the Coke and had this fizzy thing, and then it spilled all over the seat and we took pictures of it. It was so funny.

"Sometimes I stay at my auntie's house for the night and my mum can go stay with my grandma. I find I do miss my mum because she normally comes and gets me as soon as she's finished with my grandma, but I don't mind so much because all my cousins are there. And I'm not bored because I bring all my things with me.

"And I play piano as well. Right now I'm working on a song called Amazing Grace. I've been working on my own song, but I haven't quite figured up a name for it. I know lots of notes but I'm not very good at drawing some of them properly."

MORGAN FIGGINS, 15, figure skater of Waititi, Dunedin, will spend part of her holiday competing in Europe

"Normally at the beginning of the year it's better for holidays," Morgan says. "Sometimes I do get, like, at least one week of a holiday, but the ones at the end of the year are always competitions. This is our busy season right now. I don't really get a break.

"When I come back from skating I'll probably hang out with my school friends. We go round the Meridian, the shopping mall in Dunedin. We go into different shops and we'll, like, try all the clothes on and take pictures of them sometimes and then only buy one thing. Most of my friends go to McDonald's and stuff but I don't eat that kind of food, so I'll just have a tea or a hot chocolate or something. It's just one of the places we always end up going.

"I have a lot of boy friends; like guys who are my friends. I get on better with boys than girls, normally. I don't know why. They're just not as moody. I like people who are more? straight, you can talk to them easy and talk about? nothing stupid, because I'm sick of hearing about formals."

Morgan counts her boyfriend, Jason, as her best friend right now. An apprentice mechanic, he's into rally racing and spends all his money doing up his car. Does he miss her when she's away for competitions? "Yup," she laughs. "It's quite funny actually."

When she's not away, Morgan works at the skate rink, teaching small children. "It's fun because they actually can skate and you'd never think they'd be able to. A three-year-old - they've pretty much just learnt how to walk. Now they're skating."

On Saturdays she works the till, chooses the music and gets to tell people off over the loud-speaker. But on Saturday nights the rink is one of the main destinations for Dunedin's unruly teenagers so it's overseen by the senior ice hockey players, who work in exchange for "ice time". The Saturday night crowd don't skate, Morgan says, they just meet up outside and hang around getting drunk. "Some of them do a bit of drugs as well. A lot of people, my friends and stuff, they may do that kind of stuff and they think it's cool. I don't agree with it."

The upcoming competitions in Bulgaria and Germany are all part of her build-up towards Vancouver, 2010. "I just want to go to the 2010 Olympics then I'm going to stop. After that, I don't know. I wanted to do something to do with sport but I'm also into makeup and hair. But I also want to do a bit of modelling."

Morgan missed her high school's formal this year because of a skating competition, she can't take drugs or even some cough medicines because she's liable to be drug-tested, and she routinely takes her school work home so she can get ahead. But overall, she doesn't feel like skating is too much pressure.

"If I'm not going to enjoy it I'll just quit," she says. Besides, "it's not like every day you get to go, 'Oh guess what? I'm going to Germany or Bulgaria tomorrow.' Most people I know are just, like, 'Oh my God, can I come with you?'"

GABRIEL POLLARD,17, of Christchurch. will be busy editing Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia. He's also a frequent contributor to Wikinews. It's a hobby that he expects will become his profession. His email signature reads: "Gabriel Pollard (Mr.), Wikinewsie, Photographer, and Blogger"

Over the holidays, Gabriel expects he'll probably stay at home "probably on the internet". "I'll probably meet up with some friends at the mall. We just hang out and talk and grab a bite to eat, but they're not into the same sort of stuff. Like, I'm into news and Wikinews and Wikipedia and they might use Wikipedia but that's about all that's in common. I've made quite a few friends over the internet through that, but none of my friends from school do that sort of stuff.

Last holidays Gabriel was "quite busy" playing games on his friends' networked computers, but generally the holidays are quiet for him, he says. He's just finished reading Harry Potter and a Jeffery Deaver book called The Blue Nowhere: "There's these computer hackers and they get into the computers and find out all about the other people and then go and kill them."

Gabriel isn't concerned about internet privacy breaches. "I'm not part of those services like Bebo and MySpace and Facebook where there is a greater danger. Also, I don't ever put my photo on the internet, so that gives more security, unlike other people who put up millions of them."

Gabriel first read of Wikipedia in Netguide, the technology magazine. "I decided to have a look and I quite liked the idea of having a free and open encyclopaedia." He discovered that it wasn't overly complicated. "To write an article, you not only have to write it in an encyclopaedic style," he says, "you also have to write it in a special code they have - media wiki code or whatever - but it's fairly simple to get a hang of."

He's authored about 10 Wikipedia pages, including one on Steve Spangler, a TV scientist who popularised the "Diet Coke and Mentos eruption". (If you drop a few Mentos, the chewy, mint-flavoured drag?, into a bottle of Diet Coke, gum ingredients in the candy react with carbon dioxide in the pop and a geyser of foaming Coke explodes out of the bottle.) He has also made more than 700 edits, but is cutting back on his Wikipedia hours. Lately he has turned his attention to Wikinews.

To begin with, Gabriel compiled stories for Wikinews with facts from news sites and other sources. Recently, though, he's been doing his own research, emailing and phoning interview subjects, a task that became easier after a fellow online journalist supplied him with a Wikinews email address. This month, for example, when the anti-spam legislation came into effect, Gabriel published an interview with the head of the Department of Internal Affairs' anti-spam compliance unit.

"I tell my parents about it. They don't really seem to mind. If I write a news article and I think it might interest them, I'll send a link or print it out and let them read it."

Gabriel also likes photography, and sometimes takes pictures to accompany his stories. "I went to the Boobs on Bikes parade this year and took photos for Wikinews and put those online for a story." The National Business Review used on its website a photo Gabriel took of politician Clayton Cosgrove. "They did credit me, so that was pretty cool."

He isn't always credited for his work online but, says Gabriel, "It's just the satisfaction of having my own work available on the internet for anyone and everyone anywhere in the world to come and have a look at, and I know that I wrote that.

"I don't usually mention my age, nor has it come up, if I remember correctly. But it is on my Wikinews userpage. When I interviewed John Key [about his video-blogging], they knew my age from my user page, and I don't think they mentioned anything about it to me."

ALICIA HELLYER lives in Kaukapakapa. When she's not on the family farm, the 14-year-old will be doing a modelling course in Auckland

Alicia has already done level one of the course run by modelling agency Vanity Walk, in the July holidays. She was one of 22 students aged 12 to 16 who learnt hair styling, natural makeup, deportment, grooming and how to do the catwalk. She's going back for level two, where she'll learn about acting, photo shoots and "advanced walking".

"It was really fun," enthuses Alicia. "I loved it. It was so cool. The people we met there were really awesome and I still keep in touch with the friends I made there. It boosts your confidence so much and it emphasises what you've got and makes you happy with who you are."

Alicia lives on a 283 hectare sheep and beef farm, so when she's not learning half- and quarter-turns these holidays, she'll be doing farm work. "I'm docking lambs on the first week. I feed out hay all the time as well. I do it early in the morning in the cold, wet mud. The cows like it though. They get nice fresh hay.

"I have to say, I don't like seeing the little lambs getting their tails cut off. I prefer other jobs. Docking the lambs is sort of a hassle."

Weather permitting, she'll head to a pond on their property to swim or go eeling, but more likely she'll be walking the neighbour's border collie, Max. She has two huntaways of her own, but they're working dogs. "They're really awesome but they're a bit smelly."

If it rains, she and her neighbours and older brother will make mud slides down a hill, and Alicia likes heading out on a farm bike to the trig above the airstrip. "You can see way out to town and way out down the other way. You can see the Sky Tower through the valley and it's a really nice place to be."

Generally when the holidays roll around, Alicia likes to stay up late and sleep in late. She makes nachos and packets of two-minute noodles and instant-messages her friends over the internet. "That's a bit of a bad habit. Especially when I just saw them all today and I'm going to see them all tomorrow!"

Alicia is full of admiration for Tyra Banks, creator of America's Next Top Model. "She was sort of looked down at because of her skin colour, but I think she's the most gorgeous model out there. When she had to go and do her makeup, there'd be a huge range for white people but not for the darker people but she just kept doing it. Sometimes she got turned down but now she's famous."

Like Banks, Alicia feels she is in danger of being marginalised by the modelling world because of her atypical colouring. "I sort of hated having red hair and freckles," Alicia admits, "and I had no confidence. I wanted to go blonde or brunette and have tanned skin, but it sort of helped me to be happy to be different; not to be the same. But blondes and brunettes are really pretty."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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