22 September 2022 at 10:30 am

New Zealand Dubai Expo Pavilion inspires international workshop in Whanganui

A chance visit to the New Zealand exhibition at the Dubai Expo became the inspiration for a group of Italian students to travel across the globe to Whanganui. They came for a challenge-based learning ‘Hackathon’ to promote the learning around “humans as nature”- the indivisible connection humans have with nature.

Whanganui 2
Venn diagrams and robust discussion were the order of the day as each student group developed their strategy to implement the conservation and care of rivers. 

Ten students from five different regions of Italy travelled with their teachers under the leadership of Dr Alberta Pettoello of the Italian Ministry of Education to join another 40 local high school students. In a three-day workshop they worked together, shared concerns and experiences, and learnt from each other how to communicate their messages across different cultures, realities, and languages.  

The Italian Ministry of Education proposed the workshop after Lorenzo Micheli, the coordinator of its Digital Exchange Programme, visited the New Zealand pavilion at the Dubai Expo.  He was inspired by the pavilion’s focus on New Zealand’s relationship with nature and indigenous Māori principles such as kaitiakitanga.  The Whanganui River and Te Awa Tupua settlement that gave the river its own legal identity, with the rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person, was of particular interest. 

Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao liaised with the Italian Ministry of Education and facilitated an introduction to local development agency, Whanganui and Partners, who coordinated with Ngā Tāngata Tiaki and local schools, and also supported the trip by funding the activities and workshop in Whanganui.  

A highlight of the first day was the pōwhiri for the group at Kaiwhaiki Marae. For the Italian students and their teachers, this was their first introduction to Whanganui and Te Awa Tupua.

On arrival in Whanganui the group was welcomed by Ngā Tāngata Tiaki by powhiri at Kaiwhaiki Marae.  

The topic of the workshop was “Humans as Nature”, in which the students were challenged to explore and develop “Rights for Nature”.  The students were guided by Ngā Tāngata Tiaki trustee Tamahaia Skinner, who helped them start to define their rivers’ values and characteristics. 

The Italian students brought an international perspective to the discussion by introducing their rivers and the challenges they face, encompassing the Ticino river, the Strona river, the Piave river, the Chienti river and the Sinni river. 

Students were divided into five teams of 10, with two Italian students assigned to each group. What followed was a hive of discussion, activity and collaboration as each group developed presentations proposing strategies and activities necessary to implement the conservation and care of rivers, and most importantly give the rivers a voice.  

And the winners are….. Team Chienti/Whanganui won the overall team competition! Also pictured from left are: Hannah Middleton, Chief Executive of Whanganui and Partners; Lorenzo Micheli, coordinator of the Digital Exchange Programme for the Italian Ministry of Education, and Dr Alberta Pettoello of the Italian Ministry of Education who lead the delegation of students and teachers to New Zealand.

At the conclusion of the workshop the overall winner was the Chienti/Whanganui team. Strona/Whanganui were judged the most inclusive team; Sinni/Whanganui the best presented team; Ticino/Whanganui the best team spirit; and Piave/Whanganui the most creative team. 

The organisation and thoughtfulness that went into the preparation and coordination of the workshop was first class. But it was the joy of the students who found new friends on the other side of the world, exchanging Instagram and FB accounts while sharing a wonderful week of discovery, that shone through as the workshop’s greatest outcome. It was this companionship and mindfulness of other lives and cultures that prompted the final defining group hug. 

The week changed everyone involved, transforming perspectives and expectations of others. I’m sure they will meet up again as their travels as global citizens continue. 

- Justin Barnett, Director Communications at Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao 

It was hugs all around at the completion of a three-day hackathon and workshop amongst Italian and New Zealand high school students. An uplifting outcome of the workshop was the strong bond that developed between the students as they learnt about each other while sharing cultures and experiences.

Filippo Chiodini from the Daniel Crespi school in Varese (in front) follows the instructor’s guidance as he manoeuvres his virtual plane from the cockpit simulator at the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy in Whanganui.

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