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Clowning around helps keep tamariki active and connected

Posted: 
Wednesday, 27 Oct 2021

A West Auckland primary school has taken a novel approach over lockdown to help keep its students healthy, active and connected. 

In partnership with Circability, a community-focused circus programme, New Lynn Primary offered an online juggling workshop which brought together students, their families and teachers for a series of fun, online sessions. 

Principal Greg Roebuck acknowledges that keeping connected during COVID-19 lockdown can be tough for everyone, and schools especially need to be innovative and find different ways to keep children engaged. 

“We’ve been looking at ways to support our students and whānau, and one way was to focus on using physical movement to help improve their wellbeing during this stressful time,” says Greg. 

Working with Sport Waitākere’s Healthy Active Learning* team and Circability, the school created an online juggling workshop that was suitable for the whole family. The sessions focused on paper manipulation as well as ball juggling, building up in skill level as the workshop progressed. All that was required was paper and home-made juggling balls.  

The workshop sessions delivered a welcome change to regular lockdown zoom time, and the rewards of this seemingly simple initiative have been significant across the school community.

“It was great to see so many of our students getting involved with their whānau and I saw quite a few of our teachers giving it a go as well. I don’t know who had more fun, the teachers or the students!  It gave us an opportunity to have fun with our students, focusing not only on their wellbeing but also on ours,” says teacher Neelesh Desai. 

Sarah-lee Oto, Healthy Active Learning Advisor at Sport Waitākere, has been working alongside New Lynn Primary over the past two years. With over 16 years' teaching experience, she understands how challenging lockdowns are for schools and their learners. 

“The impact is massive, both for learners and kaiako (teachers). We were looking for opportunities to support teachers and also provide a platform that supports connection with whānau, but without placing further burden on teachers.  The juggling workshop provided a wonderful solution to help meet the broad needs of the whole school community - learners, teachers and whānau.”

“The initiative has also seen us cement a great partnership with Circability, and we’re now looking at other ideas to progress with them.  It’s great to see organisations evolving their offerings like this to suit these challenging times,” adds Sarah. 

*Healthy Active Learning is a joint government initiative between Sport New Zealand and the Ministries of Health and Education to improve the wellbeing of tamariki through healthy eating and drinking and quality physical activity.   

Image: Teacher Neelesh Desai and his son Abhi Desai putting their new found juggling skills to the test.