Development West Coast runs a nine-week business startup and development programme called Co.Starters. It is always satisfying to see graduates of the programme go on to turn their ideas into action. And Jess Gummer, has done just that.
With ten years’ experience working with youth, Jess believes the classroom environment is not always the most enjoyable or beneficial for some young people. Being an outdoor enthusiast, she is passionate about seeing children develop their confidence through taking risks in the great outdoors. Jess strongly advocates outdoor experiential learning for kids, and she is now bringing an internationally recognised nature-based development programme, TimberNook, to the West Coast.
Originally from Kent in South East England, Jess completed a degree in youth and community work and began working as an outdoor instructor with young people with disabilities and school groups.
She came to New Zealand in 2015. After a stint in Dunedin as a support worker, Jess shifted up to Greymouth when her partner enrolled in the pounamu carving programme at Tai Poutini Polytechnic. At first, she was a little apprehensive about moving to Greymouth, but soon fell in love with the Coast.
“It’s just so beautiful here. There are just so many walking tracks to explore and beaches to enjoy. We’re spoilt with natural beauty. The community is also small and supportive which I like,” Jess says.
In Greymouth, she first worked in alternative education with young people who had been disengaged from mainstream schooling and then as a teacher aide at Paroa Primary School. Working with these kids further reinforced her belief in the importance of nature-based learning.
Jess says she was influenced by psychologist Peter Gray’s book ‘Free to learn’, which explains how child-led play allows children to control their own lives through problem solving, developing effective communication with peers, and becoming more emotionally resilient.
“After reading ‘Free to learn’ I was really motivated to set-up a self-directed programme for kids on the Coast,” she says.
To see if she could develop her idea and make it a reality, Jess joined DWC’s Co.Starters business development programme being run in Greymouth by WestREAP.
“Co.Starters really helped me refine my ideas. It was great being in a room every week with supportive people you could bounce ideas off. With Layla and Fergal we had great facilitators and every week local business people would come and share their experiences.
“Originally I planned to run my own programme, but during Co.Starters I began to realise how difficult it would to do this on my own. While researching I stumbled across TimberNook, a nature-based play programme that was started in the United Stated by an occupational therapist and has now spread across the world.
“When I saw children making huts and playing with loose parts, which is a term used to describe materials that can be used as anything imaginable and creative the children come up with, for example a leaf can be used as money, rocks and grass could be a plate of spaghetti – the possibilities are endless. I thought this would be an amazing programme to bring to the Coast.”
Jess then got involved with TimberNook and she will now be facilitating the first West Coast programme in the July school holidays.
“Did you roll down the hills as a child? Did you throw a pile of leaves at your friends? Did you jump in puddles or climb up trees?” Jess asks.
“If the answer is yes to any of these questions, and you want your children to experience a similar childhood to yours, then please send them to TimberNook during the school holidays.
“Their senses will be challenged, their imagination, confidence and emotional resilience will develop, and we will see some strong confident kids”.
We are Coasters.
By Jamie Mosher.
Two and a half years ago, my husband, two kids and I decided to let go of the known and jump feet first into an adventure in the unknown!
As a two-physician household in the United States, we were busy, stressed, exhausted, and never saw the kids. We decided that was not sustainable. Our solution? New Zealand!!
Had we ever been here? No. Did we know much about it other than the fact that they honour our medical training and that no one has anything to say about New Zealand other than the most amazing sentiments? No. But that didn’t stop us!
Before you know it, we had found jobs. The only place with an opening for a physician and a surgeon that was open to Americans was Greymouth. As we got ready to move and were doing research on our new home, I have to admit, I was nervous! My husband is Venezuelan and the thought of no sun for months on end was almost a deal breaker.
Once we arrived, we were instantly enamoured. We had never seen such beauty in our lives. And we saw nothing but sun for the first few months we were here.
We quickly settled into a routine and found our place in the community. That is the real beauty of Greymouth. My husband found a home amid the waves of the Cobden breakwater, surfing year-round. I found my place with the operatic society and have been involved in five productions in my time here.
Shortly thereafter, I began a donation-based yoga class, because money should not prevent anyone from benefiting from the amazing offerings it provides. This became my second community. I am currently working with a group of locals to bring the inaugural Loudmouth Performing Arts Festival to Greymouth this November, and have opened a production company, Superbrain ProductioNZ, with my friend Cary Lancaster.
I think the best thing about the Coast is that you can make it what you want. It can become your dream! There are so many opportunities to bring what you love to our amazing community. It didn’t take us long to realize that this is our home. The place we have been searching for.
WE ARE COASTERS!
Coastal Confidence: How technology is building West Coast businesses.
A recent addition of NZBusiness Magazine featured a cover story on innovative West Coast businesses.
“You may think the West Coast of the South Island is the last place in New Zealand that would undergo a genuine technology-led business revival … But you’d be wrong, and I’ve seen the evidence – innovative businesses demonstrating their online marketing skills and mining social media technologies to connect with customers worldwide and grow sales,” said Glenn Baker editor of NZBusiness Mazgazine.
“I came away with a healthy appreciation of how hard the business community is working on the Coast to build scale and create new opportunities through technology. And it is a community in the truest sense – people genuinely helping each other to succeed”.
Link to view the full article:
6am - Visit the Westland Recreation Centre to get the heart rate pumping with a Les Mills RPM class. The Westland Recreation Centre is the sports hub of the Grey District and boasts swimming pools, hydroslides, sauna, spa, stadium with two courts and first class gym. There is a fabulous range of group fitness classes on offer, designed for all ages and all abilities, including the Les Mills franchise of fitness classes, circuit, yoga and around 50 classes.
8am - Grab your caffeine fix from one of our upmarket cafes before heading to work. No need for an hour long plus commute, traffic snarls or parking woes here in Greymouth.
Noon - Head home for lunch with your partner or family on the deck of your home which didn’t cost you an arm and a leg and then some. The average house price in Greymouth is just $219,000 (as at September 2018, www.qv.co.nz) and our housing stock ranges from quaint bungalows and villas to modern new builds.
1.30pm - The boss has given you the afternoon off – or maybe you’re the boss and give yourself the afternoon off and head outdoors. You could ride one of our many mountain biking tracks or pull on your tramping boots and get some practice in on one of our many walks through nature in anticipation of the Paparoa Track opening in 2019. This will be New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk, the first new Great Walk constructed in New Zealand in 25 years and it’s going to be right here on the West Coast!
4pm - Take a drive along the Great Coast Road, ranked in the top ten coastal drives in the world according to Lonely Planet. Sit and admire the rugged and authentic coastline of the mighty Tasman Sea, feel the power of Mother Nature and see if you can spot a dolphin or two.
6pm - Head to Monteith’s and enjoy a refreshing craft beer, maybe also taking the opportunity to sample a prized West Coast delicacy, whitebait.
8pm - Time to put your feet up for a couple of hours and take in a 3D movie in one of the custom built cinemas at the Regent Theatre.
10pm - The day is almost done but before it does, wander down the main street and through the new Town Square, complete with sculpture designed by local talent and third in the 2017 WOW Awards, Weta Workshop: Science Fiction category, Craig McMillan. Then stroll along the floodwall which sits beside the Grey River and protects the town. The last big flood in our District was in 1988 (there were actually two floods in 1988) and you can see how high the water rose by the plaque on the side of the Regent Theatre building.
11pm - Let the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach lull you to sleep. This can be heard through central Greymouth a surprising distance from the sea.
Don’t just imagine. Come and experience it for yourself.
Schooling on the Coast.
What does schooling in New Zealand’s most sparsely populated region look like? The answer may surprise some so let’s take a look.
Of the 36 schools, there are four secondary schools and three area schools. Primary school rolls range from tiny (like 25 students) to pretty big (about 360) while the biggest secondary school roll is also small at about 500. Smaller schools mean strong relationships - and a community feel is a feature all West Coast schools have in common - everyone knows everyone.
But does small also mean limitations? It could, but these schools have developed ways to make sure their students don’t miss out on anything. The West Coast Trades Academy brings senior students from all across the Coast together for programmes at Tai Poutini Polytechnic, Whenua Iti Outdoors (Motueka) and providers in Christchurch. Courses like automotive, culinary arts and carpentry training are popular, but so are Māori cultural tourism, outdoor leadership and computer programming. Schools blend this in with learning back in the classroom, sometimes using community contacts to add more “on the job” training leading to valuable apprenticeships or tertiary study. Students love working in this blend and very few leave school without achieving NCEA level 2. The universities are a long way away but make for a fun road trip - schools take groups of students on uni visits each year and often make use of university facilities to enrich school classes.
Technology features strongly in most West Coast schools with collaboration to make life easier for students and parents - Toki Pounamu is one such cluster where both primary and secondary schools have set up a trust to enable student devices to be managed seamlessly without causing parents headaches. From year 5 to year 13, every student has their own device through this trust and teachers are trained to use creative techniques to provide powerful learning experiences.
Toki Pounamu is linked to clusters in Auckland, Christchurch and across NZ, and backed up by researchers from the University of Auckland, so that by sharing with each other we know our students are getting the quality experiences you’d expect anywhere. Being community schools, with no private schools, the flavour is inclusive - deciles don’t mean much here.
Ethnicities are mostly NZ European (about 75%) and Māori (about 20%). Māori medium education is small but growing in each of the main centres. Small, mixed classes mean students of all backgrounds learn alongside each other. There are challenges that come with this approach of course, which can be seen in the schools’ achievement stats - most sit around or just under national averages – which reflect the communities’ diversity. But as families who have brought their children from boarding schools back to their local school will tell you, where families and schools work together the child always achieves. And as former students will tell you, an inclusive education gives a great start to life in ‘the real world’ - qualities such as relating to the full range of people and skills such as strong self-management are desirable to employers and it’s amazing how many doors the phrase “I grew up on the West Coast of the South Island” opens.
As the schools don’t try to compete with each other, most don’t do promotional material. They typically have an open and honest approach to prospective school families - go for a look around during a normal school day so you get to see them as they are.
So schooling in our least populated region looks similar to other regions, in terms of facilities and learning, yet comes with its own community feel with all the advantages that come with that.