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shutterstock_131796764The most effect­ive way to learn is by ‘doing’. In the digit­al world in which we live, tech­no­logy now enables stu­dents to reach bey­ond the classroom and their imme­di­ate envir­on­ment and engage in authen­t­ic vir­tu­al learn­ing exper­i­ences. But even bet­ter still is learn­ing through act­ive engage­ment in your com­munity, and in this respect, Wel­ling­ton con­tinu­ally comes up trumps.

When I first moved to Wel­ling­ton, I was impressed by the edu­ca­tion­al pos­sib­il­it­ies avail­able in our cap­it­al city. A dec­ade later, I had come to accept them as ‘the norm’. At the Aus­trali­an Alli­ance of Girls’ Schools Con­fer­ence, held in May in our city and atten­ded by over a hun­dred lead­ers of girls’ schools pre­dom­in­antly from Aus­tralia, I was reminded that the wealth of edu­ca­tion­al resources avail­able to Wel­ling­ton schools is actu­ally ‘abnor­mal’. My per­spect­ive has now been recal­ib­rated as time and time again I heard del­eg­ates com­ment about the cul­tur­al rich­ness of our com­pact capital.

The advant­ages for schools loc­ated in a cap­it­al city can­not be under­es­tim­ated. First of all, there is Par­lia­ment with all the oppor­tun­it­ies this presents. Apart from stu­dents phys­ic­ally being able to tour the Bee­hive, through­out the city there are remind­ers of our polit­ic­al past dot­ted around. They include the refur­bished bronze of Keith Holyoake, Kiwi Keith, out­side Rugby House; the impos­ing statue of Richard Sed­don, King Dick, dom­in­at­ing Par­lia­ment grounds; and Peter Fraser, clutch­ing his hat and coat with his briefcase tucked under his arm, with­in the Gov­ern­ment Build­ings His­tor­ic Reserve. There are polit­ic­al events for stu­dent lead­ers to attend, such as the Suf­frage Day Break­fast in Par­lia­ment or Youth Par­lia­ment, and also oppor­tun­it­ies to serve as youth rep­res­ent­at­ives on gov­ern­ment committees.

Then there are the nation­al insti­tu­tions loc­ated in the city: Te Papa, the Nation­al Archives, the Nation­al Lib­rary and the Mari­time Museum. These are won­der­ful des­tin­a­tions for field trips, and house such treas­ures as the 1893 Women’s Suf­frage Peti­tion, phys­ic­al cop­ies of the Treaty of Wait­angi and oth­er cul­tur­al taonga.

And, of course, there is the cre­at­ive side of Wel­ling­ton. It is not sur­pris­ing that the girls’ school con­fer­ence was entitled ‘Cre­at­ive Girls, Cre­at­ive Women’ as Wel­ling­ton, with its diverse pop­u­la­tion, the most edu­cated in New Zea­l­and, is widely regarded as a cru­cible for the arts. This is the home of the out­stand­ing Shei­l­ah Winn Shakespeare Fest­iv­al, with region­al win­ners par­ti­cip­at­ing in a nation­al final in the cap­it­al. Remark­ably, there are three theatres in the city, indie cinemas, numer­ous art gal­ler­ies, Toi Whakaari, the New Zea­l­and School of Dance and a vibrant film industry. Last year in the tiny USA town of Tomb­stone, Ari­zona, a loc­al told me that The Lord of the Rings was made in Wel­ling­ton. Apart from that she knew noth­ing else about New Zealand.

Tak­ing a walk around the spec­tac­u­lar Wel­ling­ton Har­bour is not only bene­fi­cial to your health; it is an edu­ca­tion­al jour­ney with quotes from our endur­ing lit­er­ary icons Kath­er­ine Mans­field, James K. Bax­ter, Bruce Mason and oth­ers, writ­ten on vari­ous places along the way. My favour­ite lines are from poet Laur­is Edmond, a pas­sion­ate Wel­ling­to­ni­an. She writes of the city she loved so much: “It’s true you can’t live here by chance/you have to do and be, not simply watch/or even describe. This is the city of action,/the world headquar­ters of the verb.”

Get out and get involved in the learn­ing land­scape our city provides. Social net­work­ing can con­nect you to the world 140 char­ac­ters at a time, but 140 steps around our city is worth so much more.

Carol Craymer

Carol has an MA in English from the University of Canterbury and has been principal of Queen Margaret college since 2004. Prior to moving to Wellington, she was assistant principal at Orewa college and deputy principal at Takapuna Grammar. However, Carol is not all about 'dotting the is' and crossing the t's'. She has also worked for Radio New Zealand as an announcer, acted in England in a theatre troupe touring schools and raised two daughters.

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