The future of Papakura is in good hands if Opaheke School’s students are anything to go by.
Years 7 and 8 students explored the idea of ‘Deciding the Future’ and set about talking to residents about what they liked about the area and their hopes for the future, before turning their attention to Papakura Local Board’s plans.
They used the information gathered and their own experiences to come up with ways to improve their community.
Board chair Brent Catchpole and member Katrina Winn visited the school to judge the projects and Mr Catchpole says the ideas were creative, future-focused and insightful.
Teacher Dylan Marshall said the board should be congratulated for deciding to listen to young voices in the community. “Our young people see the issues and the joys around them and are keen to make a difference in their portion of the world, they just need the support to make that happen.”
The students visited the board offices this week and heard the winning project was about establishing a learning centre for people with disabilities.
“The students have identified an opportunity to help people with challenges and the concept and designs produced are innovative as well as understanding of the special needs involved,” says Mr Catchpole.
A trampoline centre was awarded second place, with a design incorporating chill-out areas, trampolines, dodgeball, foam pit and walking wall. The students were inspired by watching their friends travel to other parts of the city to access similar facilities, and to help the board reach its goal of having fit, active and engaged residents.
In third place was a combined exercise area for people and their pets that the children believe could be sited in Ray Small Park to help people lead active healthy lives. The students say it would not be too expensive, would add value to an existing amenity, and provide a tangible benefit for those who could not afford gyms.
Other projects advanced by the school were for an animal shelter, improvements to drains to prevent pollution, an adventure park based around existing trees, plans to reduce food waste and the development of a ‘fantasy’ play area with indoor online gaming and outdoor sports brought inside so they could be played year-round.
Adding value to the community
Board deputy chair Felicity Auva’a encouraged the school to continue with its think tank idea next year.
“The ideas that these young people have submitted perhaps challenge conventional thinking and they certainly show us there are new and untested ways of approaching problems and adding value to our community,” she says.
Mr Catchpole said the board would include some of the ideas presented in its planning. “These things can take time, but good ideas are always good ideas, and it would be brilliant for you all to see some of your work come to fruition.
“As young people, Papakura is already your community so your ideas can guide its future.”