Shed serves up lessons on value of wool
No matter who is crowned champion at Wimbledon, New Zealand wool is a star performer on centre court every year.
Good crimp characteristics give wool more bounce than synthetic alternatives, making it the obvious choice to cover the 54,000 tennis balls used at the sport's glamour event.
To cover that many balls, nine tonnes of New Zealand wool is shipped to Gloucestershire in England and woven into felt before being flown to the Philippines factory where Slazenger tennis balls are made.
The key role of Kiwi wool at Wimbledon was one of the standout lessons for Waitara High School students during a visit from the Campaign for Wool's interactive learning facility, the Wool Shed.
The 20-foot shipping container arrived in the North Taranaki town last week and will be visited by more than 20 groups from surrounding schools before moving on to Stratford later this week.
Packed with interactive learning tools, the Wool Shed supported learning across technology, maths, science, economics and english and had been a hit with students, said Okoki sheep and beef farmer and former WHS teacher Sue Brooks.
"The kids are interested in the dilemma of plastics and the natural alternatives, which is great to see," she said.
"They're really engaged with the whole experience and surprised to learn that we can use wool for a lot of reasons."
Although he had a handful of sheep at home, year 11 student Sam Williams was still surprised by the number of products in which wool was used.
"I didn't know it was used on tennis balls or inside softballs," he said.
"Or that you can make shoes out of it."
Employed by the school to guide students through their Wool Shed experience, Brooks said many of the visiting primary, intermediate and high school students had no idea how many everyday products were or could be made using wool.
"They might have had no idea where it came from to begin with," she said.
"Times have really changed from when New Zealand had 70 million sheep. Today we're down to about 30 million and it's not so easy to find wool products - and when you do, they're often very expensive.
"That's not going to change until the price of wool comes down for consumers or the price paid to farmers goes up."
Part of a global Campaign for Wool, the Wool in Schools project aims to help students understand the importance of wool.
The Wool Shed was opened in 2015 by the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, who is the patron of The Campaign for Wool New Zealand Trust.
It has been touring the North Island in partnership with PGG Wrightson and is mainly aimed at intermediate level students but all ages, including parents, had the opportunity to visit free of charge.
Campaign for Wool New Zealand Trust chair Renata Apatu said it was a great way to make younger generations aware of how versatile wool could be.
"Wool is an amazing fibre and has many unique and wonderful properties that our younger generation are generally unaware of," he said.