Back School maize project a national winner

Date: 19 March 2015

Growing a maize crop has earned a ticket to Iowa for four Year six, seven and eight students from Northland's Hukerenui School. The team, including Eliza Rockell, Katie Barnes, Jasmine Hayes and Makenna Purvis along with Coach, Bastienne Kruger, won the Future Problem Solving Competition National Final in Auckland in November and will represent New Zealand at the International Finals at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, in the United States of America in 2015.

Hukerenui School has a strong and clear vision to extend students' learning through real life learning experiences. The school's Community Problem Solving Team, which is part of New Zealand's Future Problem Solving Programme for the gifted and talented, started an inquiry into the best use of the school's land for the purpose of enhancing education through real life experiences.

They brainstormed and came up with a range of agricultural and horticultural options which would provide hands-on learning opportunities and develop life-long skills. Assisted by a community which was enthusiastic about the project, together with local advisors and sponsors, the students grew maize, reclaimed native bush, made natural remedies, developed beehives using the wax and honey to produce balms, planted an orchard and developed a paddock to farm alpacas. With 71% of the school's land space being utilised for learning projects, the students began to search for more land.

A presentation including a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis was delivered to a local landowner, who had five hectares of land available close to the school. He agreed to not only lease the land to the students to grow the donated maize seed, but also to buy the resulting Pioneer® brand P0791 maize silage crop.

Students from Year 6, 7 and 8, along with teacher Patsy Bray, took on board the business of becoming maize farmers, creating a company called A-Maizing Maize.

The school's Board Chairman, Derek Barnes, carted fertiliser, showed the students how to drive a tractor and spent many hours convincing local companies to support the project. Local farmers, contractors and merchants helped the students to manage the maize crop, while a range of sponsors provided crop inputs.

"The science, social science, technology and enterprise learning that took place was amazing" said Principal Bastienne Kruger. "Doing soil samples, chasing cutworm and snails, doing the rain dance, learning how to coordinate contractors, how to make business phone calls and how not to spread urea taught them some valuable and hard lessons".

Not only did the students manage maize on the leased land, they also established a science trial on the school grounds where they collected temperature and rainfall data and measured the yield and quality of eight Pioneer® brand maize silage hybrids.
Profits made from the maize enterprise were invested into a still and the students are extracting their own essential oils and learning to make a range of products for sale.

The school plans to continue with the maize growing enterprise, giving future year 6, 7 and 8 students the opportunity to experience hands-on learning through growing maize.

"It has been inspirational to be involved with the students of Hukerenui School and to watch how much they have learnt and achieved with their A-Maizing Maize enterprise" says Craig Booth, Northland Regional Manager for Pioneer® brand Products. "We wish the Community Problem Solving Team every success at the International Finals in Iowa in June 2015".