New Zealand institutions partner on Children’s University

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The Children's University initiative focuses on experience as a learning tool.

By U2B Staff 

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Two learning institutions in New Zealand’s Canterbury – Lincoln and Canterbury Universities – have teamed up on the Children’s University initiative and, among others, hope to expose school pupils to careers in agriculture.

A mainstay of the New Zealand economy for centuries, agricultural output is valued at over NZ$12 billion, making up around 5 percent of the country’s GDP.

But despite it being a key driver of the national economy, Lincoln University educational facilitator Lauren Roberts said there remains a lot of “negativity” about the sector as a career option.

‘‘Getting kids on to farms allows us to highlight that it’s not just about feeding cows or sheep. There’s a lot more to it.

‘‘We need bright young people coming into the rural sector. Agriculture is the practical use of science — the science of the ground,” she said in Rural Life.


Children’s University Partnership learning coordinator Jack Swannell said the programme will help remove misconceptions about the sector and drum up interest among the young.

‘‘It’s about exposing children to higher education and lifelong learning and getting people to understand there’s a lot of opportunities out there,” he said.

‘‘We are bringing students on to farms and exposing them to it and showing them what careers are available. The key is to open their mind to the opportunities.’’

Swannell explained that for the initative, while Lincoln University’s involvement concerns agriculture, the University of Canterbury will offer opportunities across a range of subjects.

The objective of the Children’s University, he added, is about ‘‘learning what it’s all about and having a really good time’’.


Originating in the UK, the Children’s University programme first came to Australia in 2013 when it was adopted by the University of Adelaide. The model, which is for young children aged between seven and 18 years, uses local educational and learning activity providers and emphasises on experience to help children learn better.

Struck late last year with the University of Adelaide, the Canterbury Partnership was rolled out this year and is the first of its kind in New Zealand. Since launch, 150 pupils have participated in the programme.

Next year, the universities hope to see this number expand to 600 pupils.

To join, children go through their school or runanga, where they are issued a “passport to learning” that they will fill out as they complete their hours.

‘‘We’re getting a lot of support from the Christchurch City Council because it’s getting families and children into different places in the community such as libraries, museums and parks,” Swannell said.

Those who complete 30 hours or more in their passport were invited to attend a graduation ceremony. One student completed 217 hours this year.