I first heard of the BLAKE NZ-VR programme at BLAKE Inspire for Teachers that I was fortunate enough to attend in September 2022. The whole Inspire programme was inspirational in the way it supported the development of new understandings, interwoven with practical experiences that could be replicated in any local school environment. The BLAKE NZ-VR programme was one of the many amazing activities and experiences we were given during the week. The quality of the Inspire for Teachers experience reminded me how important it is to impart passion through experiential learning.
For me, teaching is about using all of the tools available to support understanding and connection, especially when it comes to our environment. Virtual Reality is an amazing tool which can take us to places we could never go. It has the ability of providing means for connection with environments and sea life that we know exist, but can’t experience ourselves. It is an effective tool for learning, which provides an exciting means to connect with marine conservation.
As part of the NZ-VR programme students are taken beneath the surface to gain a deeper understanding and connection with our marine environments. Our student’s eyes are opened as to what lies beneath; both the majestic and the harm we cause. The NZ-VR programme presenters are knowledgeable, and they bring energy, passion and enthusiasm which inspires the students to want to learn more and engage in the kaupapa. It inspired a sense of hope in terms of the actions we can take at a local level to support healthy marine environments.
Our kaiako have used this kaupapa to inspire learning in a range of curriculum areas allowing an environmental thread to emerge through all learning. Below are examples of some art inspired by the kaupapa.
The students have been able to make connections with other learning they have been doing around, sea safety and surfing. Through their experiences they have developed a deeper understanding of the marine environment, how they connect to it, use it, and the impact human behaviours are having on our wider environment.
Having participated in the BLAKE Inspire for Teachers programme in 2022, I was given the opportunity to apply to go on BLAKE Expedition. I was chosen to participate in the 2023 BLAKE Expedition to Campbell Island – Motu Ihupuku and the Southern Ocean onboard HMS Canterbury. Being part of the expedition team, made up of secondary school students, primary/intermediate school teachers, scientists, and BLAKE staff, was an unbelievable experience.
The inspirational opportunities BLAKE are providing for both students and teachers in the environmental education space in New Zealand are the best I have seen. Everything I have experienced with BLAKE has been of the highest quality, combining both state-of-the-art technology and meaningful experiential learning opportunities to promote the kaupapa of environment leadership. I would highly recommend their programmes to other teachers.
– James Souter (Assistant Principal Te Waka Unua School in Ōtautahi)