One main, one dessert and a bottled drink are on the menu for Waitetuna School students —all 58 of them from five-year-olds to teens — who will finish the term’s schooling this week with a special tour, and lunch, at Wintec’s training restaurant on campus in Avalon Drive.

They’ve made their orders, says deputy principal Margery O’Connell, and will get “proper service” at Windows on Avalon which is run by the centre for hospitality and regularly turns out a cafe-style menu for the general public.

And at the end of next term, adds Margery, the kids will replicate their experience by running a restaurant of their own for the locals.
It’s an ambitious plan but one that doesn’t seem to faze the school which for the third term has embraced the traditional Maori concept of tuakana teina or, roughly translated, the buddy system of learning.

Marge explains how the small five-teacher school just 15 minutes from Raglan has used for a few years now this learning model for reading and for sports, with seniors “taking ownership” and teaching the younger children their skills.

For the seniors, says Marge, it means a bigger role of leadership and for the juniors it’s about “respecting that leadership”.
But the concept was extended recently to include the school’s main topic or core focus of teaching which for the third term of the year looked at changes in technology — and it was food tech, she says, that really took off.

“We thought it (the buddy system) would be good but not that good!” Marge told the Chronicle.
The whole school has been involved in learning how to cook, which has also included setting up their own vegetable garden. From that focus has come learning around healthy diets and costing.

Now with the idea of opening up the school’s multi-purpose room as a restaurant next term have come further lessons in logo design, menu planning and the understanding of profit and loss.

With groups of five children of mixed age rotating 12 tasks daily “every day was so interesting”, says Marge, and the teachers’ role became more that of facilitating rather than lecturing.

Placemats still need to be designed and laminated, waiters and waitresses trained up and the vegetables need time to grow. Meanwhile a name for Waitetuna’s first restaurant is to be decided — with The Slippery Eel a distinct possibility at this stage, hints Marge — and the best of the logos selected to turn that extra classroom into something even classier.

Edith Symes