Embrace your fear and have a go!

Boy on bike jumping a gap on a dirt track.

Levi Gruebner jumping over the gap jump on the grade 4 trail; Te Akeake.

Oruaiti School in the Far North started off 2024 with the highly anticipated opening and blessing of their new bike park following two years of student-led planning, design, collaboration and hard mahi.

The idea to build a bike park on the school grounds came about after the school won a Prime Minister’s award for Excellence in Environmental and Sustainability back in 2021. As a result they received $20,000, so teacher Rob Arrowsmith asked students what they wanted to do with the money.

The class soon decided on two ideas - an adventure playground and a bike park. After considering both options, it was decided that the bike park would require the most money and resources, so the decision was made to invest in its development, with the adventure playground being parked as a ’phase two’ project.

The class gradually followed a process of enquiry, which is advocated in the Enviroschools Programme, and mahi began by engaging with local farmers and parents to help chop down the pampas and gorse which covered most of the 1.5 acres set aside for the park.

After four bike tracks - range from grade 1-4 - were cut in 2023, the class decided they didn’t want to give each of the trails generic names. Instead, they chose to consider pūrākau (stories) from the Mangonui area that were significant to the school and mana whenua.

The students were learnt about accounts of the past from a book called ‘Ngāti Kahu – Portrait of a Sovereign Nation’ and heard about early place names that no longer exist. The book’s contents intrigued the students and created a strong desire to bring back the names and honour them in some way.

Rob says the class shared their thoughts on naming the track with local kaumatua and kuia which presented an amazing learning opportunity for kaiako and students alike. It was decided the four-bike trails would be named: He ao, he ao; Pukewhau, Mārakai and Te Akeake.

At the start of each track a pou ingoa now stands with a plaque which shares the pūrākau of the name. The students hope that everyone takes the time to read and learn more about the history of the area, just like they have.

Since the official opening, the bike park is available for use by students over lunch times during the summer months and students and whānau during the weekends with special access.

“The whakatauki at the bike park entrance is a reminder to embrace your fears and have a go. The whole purpose of building a bike park was to encourage students and their parents to take responsible and measured risks. Now, being able to see them having a go and having success is hugely gratifying, says Rob.”