Life Education Trust Taranaki has mobile classrooms on the move, thanks to Z’s Good in the Hood

Community February 1, 2024

You may remember Harold the Giraffe from your own school days, or the large mobile classrooms of Life Education Trust parked up on your school’s grounds, a line of children waiting outside for their turn to learn ways to face the challenges of being a child. 

Nationally, Life Education Trust has been educating children and young people about health and wellbeing for over 35 years. It is New Zealand’s largest health education provider in schools and is firmly ingrained into the childhood memories of many adults.

Matt Goodin, chair of Life Education Trust Taranaki, says that the Trust’s vision is essentially to enhance the quality of children’s lives in New Zealand.

“The overarching purpose of the work we do is educating and empowering children to make healthy choices, so that they can live full and healthy lives,” says Matt Goodin, chair of Life Education Trust Taranaki.

There are almost a hundred schools in the Taranaki region: Life Education Trust Taranaki reaches about 70 of them each year. In 2022, the Trust taught 999 lessons and reached more than 10,000 children, with two educators travelling across the region in two mobile classrooms.

Life Education Trust Taranaki covers a geographic area spanning Mokau School in the region’s northern reaches, to Whenuakura School at its southern border, and everywhere in between. With two mobile classrooms, reaching all those schools – many of which are rural – comes with a cost.

“We don’t receive any Government funding at all,” explains Matt. “While that gives us some flexibility around our curriculum, it also means that the funds have to be raised within our region. It's not an easy task. We've been really fortunate with the ongoing support of organisations like Z, through local retailer Eilish Hurley and her team in Taranaki.”

“We need everything down to the last sausage sizzle to make the Trust work, but without initiatives like Good in the Hood, we wouldn't survive.”

Karyn Grant, Vice-Chair of Life Education Trust Taranaki, emphasises that being flexible with its curriculum is one of the organisation’s strengths, with the Trust able to tailor its lessons down to classes within a school.

“We can change what we're offering depending on what the school needs and what they're working on – if they have a particular focus or they're facing at the time. That could be something like our wonderful educators teaching stress management techniques, or building resilience, through to educating the children about vaping, or bullying, or healthy habits,” she says.

Resilience and anxiety are two topics schools have identified as critical topics in recent years, notes Karyn, especially with Covid-19 and recent extreme weather events, but the focus is constantly changing.

“Schools don't all teach the same thing at the same time, so we fit in with what they’re focusing on. That’s critical to our success.

“Of course, Harold the giraffe is a mainstay – there are kids of all ages who remember him and have some fond memories of the programme has done over many, many years. With that said, it’s our educators who are driving the outcomes. We've had some incredible educators that have come along for the ride for well over 20 years operating in Taranaki.”