It truly is a joy to relive once again this past summer and fall. Jill Osborne, Katy McGill, and I (Mary Bosen) were honored to travel to beautiful Lower Hutt, New Zealand as the Teacher’s Exchange Delegates for 2013. Katy was hosted by a delightful young teacher couple, Kelly and Rihania Chadwick, both 4/5grade teachers.
Jill and I stayed with our new lifelong friend, 3rd grade teacher, Jennie Tyree. Our adventures touring the New Zealand schools began the day after we arrived. We were amazed at the family friendly, child-centered elementary schools where art work and children’s creations adorned every nook and cranny. We were warmly greeted at each school, and enjoyed most when we were allowed to participate in hands-on teaching with the students. I had brought along children’s picture books of our beloved desert and read to the classes we visited, teaching them something about the climate and animals so different from theirs. At one school we assisted some of the students in creating their wearable art projects being created for their school wide performance. Luckily, before we left, we were able to see our models strut the stage in a show that was truly amazing. In another school we helped serve their breakfast, making us very grateful for the school lunch/breakfast programs we have. Kelly’s school has the most amazing community garden. Once a week the children assist volunteers making a lunch from the vegetables grown there. We were privileged to make pumpkin soup and rolls alongside some very enthusiastic fifth graders.
Our meeting with the Hutt City Mayor and Council was uniquely done in true New Zealand style. We were escorted in with the student delegates, given a traditional Maori welcome with music, dance, and chants. The U.S. Ambassador, whose home is located in Lower Hutt, was also in attendance.
Rihania was a great resource to learn more about the Maori culture. His love of his native heritage was evident in his classroom and during one of our evenings he patiently taught us how to do traditional flax weaving. Later in our visit he took us to the Marae, or meeting place, that was in his family’s hometown and explained more of the traditions and symbols. We found out just before coming on our exchange that they were expecting their first baby. They were totally committed to hosting us and did a fabulous job, even though they knew they would not be coming to Tempe for their own exchange. Hopefully, someday we will host these fabulous couple!
Before we left, we had the opportunity to visit the areas famous for their hydrothermal geysers, Lake Taupo and Rotarua, and visit the famous Te Papa museum in Wellington. We saw the glow worm caves and watched Katy do some of the more “daring” New Zealand activities (zorbing, jet boating, and bungee jumping). Jill and I were great at cheering her on and joined her later in the hot pools!
We were able to reschedule our reciprocal visit from the usual time in December/January to around our Fall break. Jennie read stories, shared her love of New Zealand with our students. During Fall break, we had a great time visiting Southern Arizona’s cowboy country, Kartchner Caverns, Biosphere, and the Desert Sonoran Museum. She and Jill then visited Sedona, and the MIM before she joined in with the wonderful Oktoberfest activities.