BLAKE Explorers – a look into BLAKE’s newest programme.
May 31, 2023

Tūrangawaewae is the Māori concept of place. It means standing place (tūranga) and feet (waewae); and is translated as ‘a connection to the place you stand, a sense of belonging’. This concept is the foundation for BLAKE’s newest programme, BLAKE Explorers.

BLAKE Explorers is a three-day immersive experience for intermediate aged students. We invite 20 students and 2 teachers from a school that has experienced NZ-VR and select students that would not otherwise get the opportunity to experience Aotearoa’s natural environments. The camp involves challenging students through activities such as snorkelling, surfing, and hiking nature trails while instilling a deeper understanding of kaitiakitanga.

Initially, BLAKE Explorers was established to connect students to the natural environment and show that they are part of it. However, we soon realized it was deeper than that.

As well as the educational benefits, we have noticed a change in our students at school; they have stronger friendships, their confidence has sky-rocketed and they have become leaders in their own right. Something we didn’t expect to see was a shift in attendance. We had a few students who were rarely at school prior to the trip, and since coming back they have been at school every day. Weeks after BLAKE Explorers they are still talking about the amazing time they had and all the incredible things they did.” Lydia Shoebridge – Sylvia Park

BLAKE Explorers connects these students to the whenua, it gives them a sense of belonging – their tūrangawaewae. It is a programme that gets them out of their comfort zone, but teaches them to be more observant and respectful within the environment. This allows them to understand themselves, physically, mentally and emotionally to connect deeper within their own culture and beliefs. It is within this challenge that they learn so much about themselves and just how strong they are … and they thrive.

During one of our snorkels, we were already 150m off the beach when one of the students turns to me and says, ‘I can’t swim!’. I told her to turn around and look back at the shore. I then asked her ‘how do you think you got here?’. She said it’s because of her fins and her wetsuit. I then told her that these are just tools and that these tools needed someone to use them … ‘that someone is you! You did this! You swam all this way by yourself without anyone else’s help. You can swim!”. Thomas Morris – BLAKE Senior programme manager

In addition to all the physical activities that the students participate in, we also guide them through some activities that allow them to reflect on their experiences. One of those activities is water colour painting. We provide the students with an introduction to what kaitiakitanga is and then ask them to paint what that word means to them. See below to see some of their beautiful work.

So far, since our two pilots at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, we have run 19 Explorers camps. We intend to keep growing our programme, by expanding to Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington region) and futher south into Ōtautahi (Christchurch). We will be encompassing aspects of te ao Māori in each activity within Explorers.

BLAKE have given our students an opportunity to be part of Tūrangawaewae and to gain confidence and inspiration to carry out action for the future [of] Aotearoa.” Allison Croxford – Marcellin College