Sailing enters New Zealand schools

Published on March 12th, 2021

All school children in New Zealand will have the opportunity to learn more about sailing through a new schools program that focuses on the science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) associated with harnessing the power of the wind.

The new schools program is called ‘Kōkōkaha – Powered by the Wind’ and got under way in schools and kura throughout New Zealand from term one 2021. It has been designed by Yachting New Zealand and is aimed at students in years 5-10 but can easily be adapted for older and younger children.

It’s mostly classroom-based, delivered by teachers, but schools also have an opportunity to go sailing at their local club or waterway so they can put their knowledge about the wind and sailing technology into practice.

Yachting New Zealand is the first sport to bring this type of online and practical component into the Kiwi classroom and has been done in collaboration with Sport New Zealand and the Ministry of Education.

It’s something that has excited Emirates Team New Zealand sailor, Finn world champion and Olympian Josh Junior. “It’s great to see kids learning about the wind and how they can harness it and use it to do cool things,” notes Junior.

“The wind is always different, it’s interesting, it’s varied day to day and is cool to learn about. For us, we use the wind to power our boat around the race course and go as fast as we can, but the wind can also be used to power wind turbines to make energy. The wind can be used for a lot of things and should be something we understand better.”

Already close to 900 classrooms from 225 schools are involved in the program which represents roughly 10 percent of New Zealand schools and more than 20,000 students.

Kōkōkaha is made up of three sets of classroom-based learning experiences and a challenge to take action. Each set of learning experiences includes four hands-on activities to help students understand the power of the wind. The challenge is for children to design a technology to harness the wind as a means of taking action on climate change.

The sailing experiences are being delivered by authorized providers around the country and involve children taking to the water in small yachts. Yachting New Zealand have provided three roaming trailers, each with a fleet of yachts, for schools in areas where there aren’t any sailing clubs who can deliver the midweek sailing experiences.

“This is a new program designed to bring sailing into the classroom and lives of all Kiwi tamariki, and inspire them to engage in the STEM subjects and the marine environment,” said Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie. “We will be able to reach students who may have had no exposure to sailing or even the water before and get them excited about something that is a big part of New Zealand’s history and identity.

“With the excitement of the America’s Cup being hosted in New Zealand, and these boats being the pinnacle of innovation and technology, we see this as a perfect time to engage schools and students and hope we can enthuse them to become the engineers, boat designers, builders or sailors of the future.”

There’s an opportunity for students to utilize their knowledge and design a technology to harness the power of the wind with entries to be judged by members of the NZL Sailing Team.

“Here at Team New Zealand, we are always developing, refining and learning to make our boat go faster and I think Kōkōkaha has a similar philosophy learning about how to develop tools to measure and understand the wind. It’s going to be cool to see what the kids can develop in this area.”

The second phase of the program, which will be rolled out at a later date, will look at the environment and sustainability.

For more information on the Kōkōkaha – Powered by the Wind program: https://www.kokokaha-yachting.nz/

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