Sport draws teens in to learn

Last updated 08:04 15/02/2014
Sports in Education project
Stacy Squires/Fairfax NZ

CALCULATE THIS: Brooke Maxwell-Smith prepares to throw the javelin while Jibraan Safi, left, Kirsty English, sitting, and Matthew Clarke watch at Hillmorton High School.

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Sporty teens who had never read a novel are now begging teachers to let them read every day under an initiative using sports as a focus to their learning.

Hillmorton High School in Christchurch was one of eight schools chosen by Sport New Zealand to begin the Sports in Education project last year, as a way to improve achievement by using sport as a context for learning.

The Education Review Office noted in September that the pilot initiative encouraged a high level of participation and engagement among students at Kaikorai Valley College in Dunedin.

Participating students were also reporting dramatic improvements in their results, leadership, and confidence, according to Sport NZ.

Hillmorton High principal Ann Brokenshire felt lucky to be part of the initiative heading into its second year.

Last year, the school taught a group of year 9 pupils using a sporting context for English, maths and physical education.

Social studies, science and health were added this year for the 24 mixed-ability year 10 students chosen for their attitude and interest in sport.

"For some of these kids, they had never read a novel," Brokenshire said.

"In terms of engagement, it was an achievement for those kids to read a book, that sort of stuff was fantastic to hear."

Project leader and head of physical education Melissa Ruscoe said it gave learning meaning, especially for the school's star athletes.

They would record data from their athletics results in physical education, then take the figures to study in maths. An English class might study Cool Runnings for a film report and read about similar sporty teens in Kiwi author Fleur Beale's novel, Playing to Win.

"Kids get sport, so why not use it? I think it's just Kiwi kids, they just get it."

It was also changing the culture of the whole school, Ruscoe said. "It's bigger than just this one year 10 class."

Brokenshire said physical education was now a compulsory subject for the school's new year 7 and 8 pupils, and year 13 pupils now coached the younger students as part of learning leadership. Sport NZ funding allowed them to hire an extra staff member, so teachers taking part in the initiative had the time to dedicate to it. If it was proved to work, she would consider other learning contexts too, like music.


Hillmorton High School, Christchurch; Aotea College, Wellington; Howick College, Auckland; Kaikorai Valley College, Dunedin; Papakura High School, Auckland; Queen's High School, Dunedin; Tauranga Boys' College, Tauranga; Te Kuiti High School, Te Kuiti.

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