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Room 4 with their display. Photos: ALICE PARMINTER

Connecting community through ‘Connections’

The gallery room at Waihī Museum has received a youthful, whimsical makeover with the introduction of Waihī East Primary School’s Connections exhibition.

The display “celebrates the relationships and connections between people and across boundaries that have shaped us all”.

Every class in the school contributed a piece, with different themes reflected in each work.

Teacher Dorette Hartley said the exhibition was an innovative way to get students engaged with the new histories curriculum.

“We started looking at whenua, and from there we looked at ‘where did we come from?’ and ‘what are our connections to the land and to each other?’ and that’s why we called the exhibition Connections,” she said.

School principal Briar Scott said the project gave students and their whanau a way to understand their own histories.

“We don’t often know our own
stories so it prompted a lot of us to start digging,” she said.

Stepping away from the traditional dense textbooks and rote learning, the students instead embarked upon learning a variety of new skills for the exhibition, including cross-stitching, videography and a range of art mediums.

Josiah and Jimi with their class’ handmade cross-stitch quilt.

“It builds a rich context that makes sense to each of them, in whatever way works for them,” Dorette explained.

“The learning just makes more sense. It can link back to their individual previous experiences and the knowledge that they already have.”

Dorette said the students were learning just by being in the gallery space – seeing things differently, finding out things they didn’t know about their classmates.

“For us it’s quite important – the whanaungatanga [kinship] connections, the networks, and making those links between the people.”

Briar floated the idea for a formal exhibition with the museum coordinators after seeing a similar display on a study trip to the South Island.

“The ladies at the museum were all quivery about how cool it is to have the [youthful] energy and everyone here enjoying and being exposed to it,” she said.

The teachers said it was exciting to be able to share their students’ work with the wider community, as well as being a unique experience for the kids.

“We always do these amazing things and then no one sees it,” Dorette said.

“I just think we’re really really proud to be able to share this with the community, because our learning is so much richer when it’s not just confined to the four walls of our school. And the whole of Waihī can enjoy it and be part of it.”

Student Jimi Randall, 10, was excited to welcome people into the gallery.

“It’s pretty cool, they can come specifically to see our school stuff,” he said.

His classmate Josiah Matautia, also 10, said they put a lot of effort into creating their works.

“The cross stitch took really long, it took ages,” he said.

“It was hard work [but] it was relaxing.”

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Journalism funded by NZ on Air

Ambre and Jenica explore a work.
Charlie engrossed in the exhibit.
James shows his handiwork.
Katalina and Dorette Hartley.