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Waikino Water Journey Story

Learning Contexts

Visual Arts: Sculpture (clay tiled entrance); Music - Sound Arts; Drama


Students' tiles are installed at the school entrance



Waikino School

Duration of Project

10 weeks

Students Involved

70 students, years 0 - 6

The artist Mike O'Donnell totally immersed himself above and beyond what was expected.

(Jenny Cochrane, Principal)


This project involved the beautification of the entranceway to the school using clay tiling and adobe methods. The entranceway holds the story of the project, and will be a lasting reminder and "teller" of the Waikino Water Journey Story. This story had been the basis to create the foundation of a new vision for Waikino School in line with the revised New Zealand Curriculum. It focused on creating visual metaphors and waiata, stories and folklore, and learning about Maori involvement with the area.


In term two 2009 the students learned to work with clay as they created their tiles for the entranceway. As part of this process they learned songs and stories about the area, and gained an understanding of a Maori perspective of the environment.

Students on a field trip to the Waikino environs and a 'local inhabitant' Students on a field trip to the Waikino environs and a 'local inhabitant'

In term three the focus was on the school presenting the Waikino Water Journey story as a performance. This was shared with the wider community.

In term four the focus shifted to the building of the adobe walls to hold the tiles the students had made.

Student learning

From left: Water Journey storytelling in action, students receive help with clay work, students creating a banner in a group

Students holding the finished banner


Students gained a broad and deep understanding of the school identity in relation to the local community. More awareness was gained about their local environment and the Maori perspective of the local environment.

Mike provided the students with expert advice on practical techniques with clay and the resulting tiles produced by the students provided them with a sense of pride, ownership and achievement. Working with the artist provided another male role model for students to relate to.

The focus on music, storytelling and performance broadened students' multi-literacies enabling them to communicate in rich and complex ways.

Students crossing the river and spending time in the local environment

Curriculum links

Through this project students were encouraged to connect with and be actively involved within the school and wider community, in keeping with the  new curriculum vision statement .

They used a range of language techniques, symbolism and texts to express their ideas about the school in a performance. This also required them to critically reflect on their ideas as well as participating in group work.

All four strands of the Visual arts curriculum were integrated as students developed and refined ideas for tiles in response to the Waikino story which provided the rich learning context for understanding the work and how it related to living in the Waikino area:

  1. Understanding the Visual Arts in context
  2. Developing practical knowledge
  3. Developing ideas
  4. Communicating and interpreting

In addition, the students gained an insight into how the Arts disciplines can interrelate through the combination of visual imagery, spoken word and sound, in performance, while contextually gaining an understanding of the importance of Maori history.

Learning in Music - Sound Arts was achieved through developing musical literacy (Practical Knowledge); communicating musically through a focus on creating, learning and performing songs and waiata (Communicating and Interpreting); and on Understanding Music in Context.

Elements of Drama were also experienced through storytelling, and through creating and performing to enrich the cultural life of the community.

Related learning

This project involved a range of projects around the school identity and visions and as a result enabled students to work across learning areas such as English through reading and interpreting texts, and in Social Sciences as they researched their local heritage.

Impact on school community

The entranceway, where the tiles were mounted, is a permanent reminder and a focus for community.

This project has brought the community together. It gave them an avenue to be part of the school again and to have more input into the school. The Waikino School Water Journey performance at the end of term three was an opportunity for the community to work together. It captured the essence of the project and "told our story" to the community and wider community.

(Jenny Cochrane, Principal)


The timeframe of the project, although seemingly lengthy, had not resulted in the culmination of the project - it was to be ongoing. More and more opportunities to use the story as a basis for learning arose over time. As a learning model, the journey could potentially involve all generations and all learning areas, new focuses, and new stories.

We have a documentary still being made about our journey throughout the year - interviews, photos, performance etc. I feel we haven't completed the project at all!

(Jenny Cochrane, Principal)

Useful links

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