Living Heritage Awards honour NZ’s Junior Historians

Living Heritage Awards honour NZ’s Junior Historians

Are mangroves unwanted weeds “gorse of the sea” or are they beautiful trees that attract native birds?

Who was Mr Stellin? And why did they name the park we play in after him?

What games did our grandparents play?  How did they live?

These are the questions that children in three New Zealand schools asked themselves earlier this year and their online research projects have seen them each honoured with a LIving Heritage Award.

Junior historians from: Hauraki Primary School on Auckland’s North Shore; Northland Primary School in Wellington; and Mahana Rural School just outside Nelson have each been honoured with LIving Heritage Awards this week.

“Living Heritage, Taonga Tuku Iho Awards celebrate our country’s heritage and or treasures,” says NZ National Commission for UNESCO chair, Bryan Gould.

“UNESCO recognises that living or intangible heritage provides people with a sense of identity and continuity.  Helping young people to learn from their past is a key way to help prepare them for the future.”

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO helped establish the Living Heritage Taonga Tuku Iho Awards to celebrate schools whose work contributes to UNESCO objectives by capturing heritage resources for future generations.

Living Heritage (Tikanga Tuku Iho) is a project of the 2020 Communications Trustin partnership with The Learning Centre Trust of New Zealand, The National Library of New ZealandTe Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, and Sun Microsystems.

Northland School

Northland School junior historians awarded UNESCO Living Heritage Award Nearly sixty years after a young New Zealand pilot died saving a village in WWII, a group of Wellington school children have won a Living Heritage Award for an online project that remembers his life and sacrifice.

Youngsters from the Wellington suburb of Northland had played in the Stellin Memorial Park for the past forty years – but no one seemed to know how it got its name.  This year students at Northland Primary School embarked on a Living Heritage research project in which they discovered the park was named after James Kingston Stellin, a heroic young Wellington-born pilot who died while saving a village and school in France. 

As part of the research process children visited the park, student researched on the Internet, talked to a local historian, watched a DVD of a dedication ceremony at the park and found photographs that told a story.

James Kingston Stellin was born in Lyall Bay Wellington in 1922, he joined the Royal Airforce as a pilot and was killed in 1944 while successfully defending the village of St Macloula Briere.     His father donated land in Northland so that a park could be erected in his son’s memory.  Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres in the village of St Maclou la Briere a memorial to James Stellin still stands in the town square.

Hauraki Primary School 

Are Mangroves unwanted weeds, the “Gorse of the sea” or are they beautiful trees that attract native birds?  Mangrove swamps are prevalent throughout Takapuna and yet local youngsters discovered that adults seemed divided over where they were a good or a bad thing. 

This prompted four Year Five children from Hauraki Primary School – Jack, Joel, Nina and Leah –to find out more.  They embarked on an online project that saw them win a Living Heritage, Taonga Tuku Iho Award this week.

The young project team talked to local people, environmentalists and studied research online.  They reached the insightful conclusion that they needed to find good ways to get rid of mangroves when they are growing in the wrong place – but also initiatives to help save the local environment as well.  Their overall conclusion was that there needs to be more young people like them to make a difference in the world.

Mahana Rural School

An online history project initiated by the children of tiny Mahana Primary School – a rural school 30km from Nelson – has won a Living Heritage Taonga Tuku Iho Award for 2009.

The students recognised that their small community was changing and they wanted to promote a sense of belonging and pride in their past by finding out more about the lives of their ancestors and tipuna. 

The online project involved all three classrooms that make up Mahana School and students report that they learned a lot more about their own families, their school, region and country.  In spite of their isolation, students developed their ICT skills by contributing to their web page, producing podcasts and integrating ICT into performances.  A variety of pictorial/photo resources from books and communities, local museums, archives and family collections were also called upon.


 Jenny Robinson (School Administrator) (L) and Briar Smith Waddell (Student) (R) from Mahana School at the Living Heritage Awards Ceremony, Wellington

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