News Centre

Year 13s return with happy smiles


As part of the Year 13 PE Studies course, Mrs. Heffernan, Mrs Holmes, Mr Bacon and Mr Camp took two Year 13 classes to Tongariro National Park. The two classes completed many activities where they were assessed on risk, in being able to apply safety management skills in the outdoors as part of their NCEA Level 3 course. The week consisted of blue skies, sunny weather and snow – students and teachers all returning with happy smiles.

The groups left school on Sunday July 21 to begin their journey. The vans were filled with laughter, music and excited students as they made their way to camp.

The students stayed at The Salvation Army Blue Mountain Adventure Centre (BMAC) – a beautiful three-acre property that became the groups’ home for a week. The teachers split the students into four different groups led by one of the teachers and a leader from BMAC. Each day, groups 1 and 2 did one activity while groups 3 and 4 did another.

On Monday, group 1 (led by Mrs Heffernan) and 2 (led by Mr Camp) went to Mount Ruapehu where they hiked up the mountain and did alpine climbing. Their group leaders from BMAC showed them how to use an ice axe, showing the correct techniques for climbing up the mountain. They were also taught how to use an emergency locator transmitter, as well as being able to build a snow igloo, have snowball fights and slide down the mountain!

Group 3 (led by Mr Bacon) and 4 (led by Mrs Holmes) went caving in the Okupata Limestone Caves, “a natural and unmarked network of underground passages in Tongariro Forest.” The students saw weta’s and glow worms. They were challenged and pushed to their limits having to fit through tight spaces known as ‘squeezers’ and walk through freezing water!! All students supported and encouraged their group members, helping one another through each squeezer.

Monday concluded with the students sleeping overnight at a campsite near the bottom of Mount Ruapehu. The groups made nachos for dinner, sang around the campfire, looked at the stars and slept (as best as they could with the cold weather) in open tents.

Tuesday saw groups 1 and 2 caving, while groups 3 and 4 went white water rafting in the Tongariro River down a grade 3 river. The BMAC instructors taught the students about throw bagging, different ways of rafting, all whilst having fun pushing each other into the water and stopping for lunch to have hot dogs prepared by one of the groups as a daily duty. Group 1 (Mrs Heffernan’s group) prepared a yummy roast dinner Tuesday evening, consisting of lamb, chicken, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, kumara and garlic bread.

All groups combined on Wednesday and went to Mount Ruapehu. Prior to going to camp, students could choose whether they wanted to go skiing or snowboarding. Wednesday was the day that the students could show off their talents and have a day at the snow. The day began with a ski/snowboarding session by one of the Mount Ruapehu instructors, where the students learnt new skills and techniques. The students could then practice these skills and techniques in Happy Valley and then make their way up to the more difficult slopes – Rock garden, Tennant’s Valley and Valley T-Bar. The day concluded with a swim at the thermal hot pools, where the students could relax their muscles and enjoy the hot water and Mr Camp’s group prepared hamburgers for dinner.

On Thursday, groups 1 and 2 went white water rafting, while group 3 and 4 did alpine climbing at Mount Ruapehu. The night saw the students bonding together over games of cards, completing a puzzle and forming unforgettable memories and relationships.

The last day of camp was focussed on the 2008 Elim tragedy, where six pupils and a teacher passed away in a tragic accident at the Mangatepopo River in the Tongariro National Park. Sancta Maria students visited the gorge where the Elim students passed away and went to the Hilary Outdoor Education Centre in memory of the students. SMC students were reminded about how the tragedy is a learning experience for all and are to be grateful for all that they have and to appreciate the little things in life.

All students had a great experience and created many memories they will cherish forever. Through all activities that were done, new friendships were made as well as laughter being shared. One student said, “It was the best camp I have ever been on and know that when I am older I will have great stories to tell my kids!” Another student described the whole week as “the best time of my life.”

A huge thank you to the four teachers, Mrs Heffernan, Mr Camp, Mrs Holmes and Mr Bacon, for all that they did on camp and prior to camp to make the whole experience possible. Sancta Maria College also thanks BMAC for hosting the school and for providing amazing instructors.

Mia Gilchrist