Ao Tawhiti Newsletter 26th August 2022

Upcoming Events

  • Staff Only Days – 1st & 2nd September 2022 (school not open for instruction)
  • IEMs – 30th September 2022 (school not open for instruction)
  • School Holidays – 1st October – 16th October 2022
  • IEMs – 17th October 2022
  • First day of Term 4 – 18th October 2022
  • Year 4/5 Camp – 17th-19th October
  • Labour Day – 24th October (school closed)
  • Graduation – 4th November
  • Canterbury Anniversary – 11th November (school closed)
  • Last day of school – 16th December

Messages From Anita

Welcome to the middle of term three. This is a great time of year as the days get longer, the sun starts shining and summer fast approaches. Thank you Beth, who does a great job putting this newsletter together, so we have an opportunity to celebrate the learning of our tamariki and rangatahi over the last few weeks. I presented at the New Zealand Area Schools’ conference last week. It was a great reminder of how important our kura is in providing an opportunity for education that sits outside traditional models. I was proud to advocate for our Special Character by drawing attention to the emphasis we place on children directing their own learning pathways.

Ao Tawhiti means ‘distant worlds in time and place – an unlimited discovery’. We are a school of unlimited discovery and opportunity. I encourage all our students and whānau to take advantage of our kura, as I believe this approach is unique in Aotearoa’s educational landscape. We believe that student success is broad and we aim to give students the space and support to explore all avenues of success. We recognise the importance of whānau involvement in children’s education, therefore we welcome whānau into our kura to work with all our students. We are running two staff only days on 1st and 2nd of September to consolidate this work. The intended outcomes from the two days are for all staff to have a shared understanding and skill set to be able to support all our students to be self-directive in their learning. These days are being facilitated by Dr Julia Atkin, who is a renowned educator who will by flying in from Australia to spend the week in our school. We recognise that it can be tricky for parents to find childcare during term time, and we appreciate your support in enabling us to have this opportunity for professional development.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank our whānau, tauira (students) and kaimahi (staff) for their mahi in helping us avoid high numbers of covid infections, and other winter germs in the school. We have very few Covid cases, in fact, at the time of writing this we have had no cases reported to us for five days. Mask wearing, good hygiene practices and keeping children home when they are sick has meant that we have been able to run as per normal over the year. Enjoy the remaining five weeks of term three.


Messages from Senior Leaders

Ethan Rowbotham

Sadly we farewelled Ethan at the end of term two. Ethan Rowbotham joined Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery in 2019. He was a student who made such a great contribution to the school through his support of IT systems and practices that he was employed part-time by the school in 2021. This was while he was still a student at the school. Ethan’s cheery nature and willingness to go above and beyond in his support of staff and students was valued. He showed immense patience with everyone who struggled with IT and was always happy to share his expertise. Ethan has won a position working at REV IT and he will be continuing his studies at Ara. We look forward to reading about his success in the future.


Student Teacher Introductions

Earlier in the term we welcomed four student teachers from the University of Canterbury. They are all working across Years 7 – 13 in a variety of subjects and hapori, and will be with us through until the end of the term. We’ll be making the most of their expertise and enthusiasm while they’re here!

Alice Ravn

Kia ora Whānau! I’ll be teaching Biology and junior Science at Ao Tawhiti and look forward to getting involved in the school community. When I’m not studying, you will find me walking Molly the American Bulldog or training for the half marathon I’m running in November. Ngā mihi nui.

Andy Chien-Chih Chen

Kia ora koutou katoa, my name is Andy and I am a student teacher from University of Canterbury to become a teacher of Science (Chemistry). I am excited to learn and teach the subject at Ao Tawhiti. Ngā mihi nui.

Claudia Wollaston

Kia ora e te whānau, ko Claudia toku ingoa. I moved to Christchurch this year for the opportunity to become a teacher of Health and PE. I am enjoying my time teaching in this subject area at Ao Tawhiti. Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei, ngā mihi nui!

Tamara Smith-Becerra

Kia ora koutou, my name is Tamara and I recently moved to Ōtautahi to become a Geography and Spanish teacher. I’m looking forward to teaching Geography, Social Studies and Tourism at Ao Tawhiti. Ngā mihi maioha!

Megan Taylor

Staff Only Days – School closed for Instruction

This is a reminder to our tauira (students) and whānau that we are holding two staff only days on Thursday 1 September and Friday 2 September. We are closed for instruction on those days. The focus for staff on these days is to develop effective practices exemplifying our Special Character, with an emphasis on empowering and supporting students to be central in directing their own learning. Thank you for your support.


Emergency Planning 2022

We have recently revisited our Lockdown and Shelter in Place plans with our staff.

A lockdown will be triggered when there is a threat directly targeted at our kura. The front doors will be locked and the police will be called. Students and staff will move away from the windows and sit quietly on the floor until the situation is resolved. We are fortunate in that we are across the road from the police station, so police will be on site quickly.

A shelter in place notice will be triggered when there is a threat in the vicinity of the school. The front door will be locked, police will be contacted and all students and staff on floor one will move up to floor two. Students and staff will be able to move around the school on the upper floors. They won’t be able to leave the school until the situation is resolved.

In both instances parents will be notified via text, school apps, the website, social media and email. Please follow the guidelines issued in these communications and avoid coming to the school until advised. We won’t be able to open the doors for parents. We will keep parents updated.

If your child is on a school trip then the Learning Advisor running the trip will be advised of the situation and will remain in place until the situation is resolved. If the school trip isn’t caught up in a lockdown then parents will be able to pick their children up from the location of the school trip.

I know that this can be unsettling to think about, however please be reassured that we are using guidelines developed by the police and Ministry of Education. These guidelines were developed after the March 15th lockdown. We will continue to review our emergency planning on an annual basis. The safety of our students will continue to be paramount in any decision making.


Derived Grades – NCEA

This is the time of year where NCEA students are sitting derived grade exams. Derived grades are important because if a student is unable to sit their end-of-year exam due to illness or injury they can apply to NZQA to have a derived grade awarded. Most of these derived grade assessments are taking place in class this year, but we are running two of the larger Level 1 exams on Fridays later this term. This will allow those students who are new to exams to experience an exam event similar to what they can expect at the end of the year. Please note the following dates:

  • September 16th – Level 1 Science
  • September 23rd – Level 1 English

Subject LAs will confirm the start time with students closer to the date.

Megan Taylor

News / Notices

Music Night

Come and support Ao Tawhiti music students as they perform live! 6pm @ A Rolling Stone, 579 Colombo Street.

Matt & Shaun

Term 3 Glub Timetable

Glub is a safe space for students (14+). We meet after school every Tuesday and Thursday in 4.C, 3-5pm

Glub…glub 🐟

Bella Davis Writing

The writing was based on the idea of a Moment in Time.  The student tastes a piece of food and then writes about the impact on their senses. It is to encourage hooking into their emotions and thoughts as they have them in that moment.

Michael Hayes

Ākonga Māori Hui

Part of our special character here at Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery is to place students at the centre of their learning. We have many scaffolds in place to do this, however, we also like to hear specifically from our ākonga Māori about their experiences as Māori tamariki and rangatahi at our kura.

We invited our ākonga Māori to attend a hui led by Whaea Irihapeti Mahuika (one of our whānau members who has experience in this space). The purpose of this hui was to collect student voice to help us strategically plan for increased equity and success for our rangatahi Māori.

Some examples of pātai(questions) included:

What is it like to be Māori at this school?

Does your school value your culture?

How do you know that?

What times or when at school do you get to shine and feel successful?

How does Ao Tawhiti make your whānau feel welcome at school?

Who are the Māori people that you know or that you look up to?

What about them do you like or aspire to be like?…..or who inspires you? Why?

If you could change anything at Ao Tawhiti from a kaupapa Māori point of view, what would it be?

We had a great Hui with 25 students present and those that could not attend being emailed for their thoughts. Our next step is to invite whānau to an evening Hui at 6pm on Tuesday 30th August.

Craig Perry

Akaroa Noho Marae ki Ōnuku and Dolphin Cruise (By Pippa Bailey)

In week 3, I had the privilege of going on a noho marae to Ōnuku. We drove over on Monday morning and in true Christchurch-kid mood, we were super excited to see snow on the Port Hills.

We arrived in Ōnuku and boy was it chilly. The powhiri took place very soon after we got there, and we were in absolute awe when we walked into the wharenui – seeing all the carvings and tukutuku panels lining the walls. We were quick to settle in by playing around in the mattress room. Before we knew it, we were all in the kitchen cooking our first meal of the trip: Spaghetti Bolognese. Having 14 kids in the kitchen was definitely an experience for our kaiako and pakeke on the trip. After our kai, we all played around and somehow ended up back playing in the mattress room. We ended the night by playing a very long game of uno.

We were all awoken by Marz the next morning. We all got up and ate looking forward to what was in store for us. We saw a beautiful rainbow over the harbour as we drove to Takapūneke. From there, we went on the Akaroa dolphin cruise. It was incredible – we saw dolphins and seals too. After our amazing experience, we all went back to the marae and spent time bonding with each other and working on our unit standards.

Our final day was spent cleaning and cleaning some more. We stopped off at the waterfront to eat our lunch and have a sneaky ice-cream. We arrived home very tired and ready for a long sleep.

Pippa Bailey

Performing Arts Showcase

Old Skateboard Decks for Donation

Kia ora koutou, I have some keen students in Toi Hapori who would love to refurbish/repurpose some old skateboard decks into pieces of art.

If you have any skateboard decks sitting at home that you are no longer using and would be happy to donate them to our Toi Hapori, it would be greatly appreciated. We will be sanding them back so aren’t too fussed about the condition they are in.

Jess Dewhurst

Boyle River Tramp

We had a group of  7 students attend a week-long tramp to Boyle river. This week consisted of tramping, high ropes, and exploring. This tramp allowed students participating to gain 20 level 2 NCEA credits.

Huge thanks to John for organising this for the students

Sanitary Product Dispensary

Sanitary product dispensaries have been added onto the bathroom walls on floor 1 and 3. This is thanks to the Ministry of Education who have supplied every school in New Zealand with them, as an action to try end period poverty. This is awesome to see in our kura and is a great resource for students.

Afternoon Tea with Jacinda Ardern

Anita, Georgina and Roisin had the privilege of attending afternoon tea with Jacinda Ardern and the other MPs of Christchurch. This afternoon consisted of a speech and Q&A session with Jacinda, food and photos.

Parent Elections

Parent elections are currently taking place. It’s awesome to see that there is so much interest and such a diverse range of skills! A huge thank you to Karen and Evan who have contributed so much to the Ao Tawhiti Board over the past years.

Student Trustee Election

The student trustee election is coming up. Nominations open up on the 6th of September. We have already had lots of interest! Roiosin will be running a Q&a session next week to answer any questions students have and explain a bit about what the role involves. The new student trustee board representative will be elected on the 5th of October.

Student Maker Market

The student maker market is up and running. Courtney and the students involved are currently working on promotion and advertising of the site. Great work to all the students and Courtney who have worked hard to set this up.

Student Mentions

Kasey Meeking and Grace Opie have been working hard setting up the year book which will be released at the end of the year. They have been collecting student artwork and writing to include in it. Senior students have also been encouraged to start thinking about yearbook quotes to include. Huge thank you to these students for all their hard work. 

Grace Opie has a part in midsummer’s night dream that is performing at the Isaac Theatre Royal. She is playing the part of the first fairy. Congratulations to Grace for this awesome achievement.

Dress up week

Senior dress up week is happening in week 2 of term 4. The chosen day themes are;

Monday – Dress up like something starting with the same letter of your name.

Tuesday – Anything but a backpack day

Wednesday – Dress up as a fashion disaster day

Thursday – Throwback thursday

Friday – dress up as your friend day

This will be an awesome week with prizes to celebrate the senior students graduating!

One School’s Network Mental Health Awareness day

Early on next term all schools in Christchurch will be joining together to spread awareness and raise money for mental health. We are currently creating a video with top tips for mental health. This will be played on a chosen day next term while each school does something that best suits the theme to raise money and awareness for mental health. Our school will take part by running a sausage sizzle and having live music play at lunchtime. All money raised will go towards supporting mental health. Ao Tawhiti will run a sausage sizzle at lunch with gold coin donations and the kids learning how to Dj in friday haporis will perform.


Formal is coming up on the 24th of September. This will be held at the Riccarton racecourse. 

Tickets are on sale now! Great job to the formal committee for organising this.

Science Camp

The senior science camp is taking place at the end of this term in Dunedin.  The camp will run from Sunday to Wednesday and will involve experiences at the Otago University science labs, a visit to the Portobello Marine Science Centre and Orokonui wildlife centre as well as visiting a seal colony and a fossil trail near Duntroon.

Floor 3 skiing

Huge thanks to Greg for organising a great day of skiing at Mt Hutt on 10th August. Stunning weather + heaps of amazing fresh snow – a great time was had by all, from first timers to experienced hardcore shredders.

Matt Parkes

Year 1-6 Community Friday Workshops

In Terms 2 and 3 this year the Year 1-6 Community have been spending every Friday afternoon running workshops. These are student led, parent led, and LA led. Offers are made early in the week and children sign up to one for each block of the afternoon.

We’ve had loads of amazing parents coming in to run workshops from art lessons, to Nature Play, distilling, making beexwax wraps, making pokemon cards, creating with clay, teaching gardening at the CAC, baking, and so much more! A bug ngā mihi to you all!

The student led workshops have a range of options too each week including science experiments, arts and drawing, sports in the gym and at nature play, ICT, construction. Students as young as five are planning and running their own workshops! Ka rawe koutou.

Thanks to all those who make our Friday’s so awesome! If you haven’t yet, please consider putting your name down to run a Friday workshop. The sign up form goes in our Y1-6 Community newsletter.

Bonnie Dalton

From the 24/7 Youthworkers

If you haven’t met us yet- Hi! You may have seen us wandering around school. We would love to get to know you guys, and are always up for a chat whenever you may need. 

FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT LOVE TO COOK- We will be running a masterchef event during homebase time on Friday the 9th of September. Get yourself in a team- this can be a pair or a group of three (Yr 9-13 only). Limited spaces available so first in first served! Flick us an email by 05/09 ( if you’d like to get involved- or just come along and watch for your entertainment. It’s gonna be heaps of fun and there will be prizes up for grabs!!!

That’s all from us! Remember that you are amazing and that the world is so much better with you in it 🙂

Xander, Becca and Lucy.

Floor 2 and 3 – Friday Activity Paint and Sip Juice!

Last Friday, Akōnga from Floor 2 and 3 had the opportunity to follow a painting tutorial of a highland cow. It was a very successful morning where painting and juice was enjoyed by all.

Jess Dewhurst

Gateway Students in Work Places

Here are some photos of Year 11, 12 and 13 students in various Gateway work placements this year. If you are interested in finding out more about possible Gateway work placements in 2023 then please contact John – or 0273096237

John Schishka

Level 4 update

A Wonderful Way to Help

On level 4 we have been extremely lucky to have a group of parents coming in weekly and fortnightly to work with year 7 and 8 students on their goals / projects. Some of these parents have students from elsewhere in the school which makes it even more special!! We feel very lucky and grateful to have these parent volunteers and we wanted to let others know how special this is to us. All students I asked said they would definitely choose to have a coach / mentor again.

We know that there are many parents out there who could potentially offer support in this way so we wanted to reach out and let you know why it can help us. If you think you could offer an hour a week or a fortnight to work with students one on one or in groups please do let us know and we will facilitate it for you. Email

Student Voice on why we really appreciate our parent volunteers.

“They are very helpful and they are understanding. It helps our creativity and with moving on.”

“They keep us on track. You don’t have to do all the thinking yourself, they help you with ideas.”

“It sort of gives you a bit more of a push to get started with things. They challenge us to come up with new ideas and how to execute things.”

Kay Hayes

Year 7 and 8 Accord Day

On Monday 22nd, Aug It was National Accord Day. Year 9-13 students stayed at home and Level 4 had a special community day. This was organised and run by a fabulous group of level 4 students.

Hello from Stephen, Alex and Anna (who unfortunately isn’t here at the time of writing this). We all worked hard to ensure that everything that happened on National Accord Day went smoothly. We have been planning this for quite a while in our project time on level 4. Some of the things that happened were drama games, Civilization 6, Cooking (for us to try) and a few more, and to top it off, we finished the day with the movie Lightyear at Hoyts!

The photos are of students making five different types of bruschetta for us all to enjoy for morning tea.

Student’s voice

“I do this not to feel proud but to help others have a good time.”

“ I found it pretty fun planning this and having the freedom to choose. We almost ran out of time but we made it in the end.It felt good watching it come together.”

Steve Hunt

Steampunk science

5Science have been learning about Steampunk culture and technology this term. We have covered lots of theory and now we are getting practical, with students designing and making a range of steampunk technology and fashion. It would be really helpful if anyone is willing to sacrifice spare (well sealing) metal containers (old coffee cans, etc.) for science… The containers will not survive – but hopefully their demise will be impressive!

Matt Parkes

Maker Market – student run businesses!

Welcome to Maker Market! Maker Market is an ecommerce website where Ao Tawhiti students make and sell handmade or customised products. Students are responsible for managing everything in their stores, from product design and marketing to budgeting and customer service.

Our first group of stores are online and ready to sell now, with more on the way.

Check out what’s on offer here:

We are also on Facebook and Instagram @makermarketnz

Courtney Allison

Breakfast Club

Welcome to Breakfast Club on Wednesday mornings! Students and parents provide cereal and pancakes for students to enjoy, for free, at Level 4 Cafe area from 8.30 till 9am. We also welcome help setting up from around 8.15am, and washing up as we go along, but often extending a bit after 9am. Thanks go to our existing helpers, including our shopper. We would love extra help, especially this term as sickness affects us, and ‘He rau ringa e oti ai!’ (many hands make light work). Contact Miriam for more information, email or chat at Breakfast Club.

Miriam Kaiārahi/counsellor

Other Notices

Entertainment Book

With Father’s Day just round the corner grab some savings on retail, activities such as supa karts, restaurants or a night away. Heaps of savings for everyone AND school gets 20% from every membership sold WIN WIN

Claire Cameron

Eco Action

Eco Action in association with all 22 schools with Satellite Nurseries wish to thank all 290 volunteers who planted 3500 native plants into the Red Zone at Chimera Crescent  in two hours on Sunday. It was great fun to see all the enthusiasm. The native trees and plants were all grown by school students and donated.

The trees will provide bird food to attract native tui, kereru, bellbird fantail and grey warbler to the area as it develops a forest bridge linking the Port hills via the estuary to the Avon Otakaro corridor and Travis Wetland. The trees will continue to sequester Carbon as they mature in place over the next 800 years.As importantly the trees give the students who grew them a form of closure and confidence that individuals, collectively, can make a difference in the face of the Climate Emergency we all face.

Our next planting at 28 Chimera Crescent on Sun 18 Sept 10-12noon will be the last for us this season. We hope to see you all there if possible.

David Newton

Eco Action

‘Psychosynthesis Essentials’ course

The “Essentials” 6-day course brings insight into how we relate to our experiences, each other, and the world.

In a supportive group environment, simple and powerful experiential tools give participants new perspectives on their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences.

We discover the healing path of acceptance and integration, leading to synthesis:

Choosing who we may be.

The Essentials course can be undergone as a standalone personal development training or as a pre-requisite for the Certificate in Psychosynthesis Integration.