Here is where we share our adventures! Thank you for following along with us.
Below is the highlights video from working with 2,271 students in the first half of our 2022 programme, followed by detailed posts about each day.
On Monday, September 5th, we taught 190 students at Rāwhiti School in North New Brighton, working with very large groups of 55+ at a time. It was great to have a challenging start to the programme, and really allowed our tutors to nail their rhythm and delivery of the daytime workshops. Rawhiti School was busy on the first night, so they chose to not have an evening session, but our lunchtime performance was an absolute hit. We had a large audience of kids and staff, and delivered an awesome show for all. Kieran (7 years old) was very helpful with organising kids to help carry our practice equipment and speaker to and from our van, and Jasmin the principal was very welcoming. Rawhiti School was the only school we had that was split over two weeks. We were really impressed by these students, with groups coming up with their own choreography, and kids really trying super hard!
On Tuesday the 6th we worked with 152 students from Ngutuawa School in Woolston. One of their classes has two students with cochlear implants, so our tutors got to wear a speech processor microphone, which was an awesome experience! Ngutuawa school is in one of the lowest decile areas of Christchurch, and has a very culturally diverse group of students and teachers. Due to this, the principal wasn’t sure if many people would come to our evening session (our first one of the programme too!). We had such a great time with the kids that day, and again, really nailed our lunchtime show – so we weren’t as concerned. Happily, their principal was surprised by a very large turnout! We had roughly 140 parents and students come along, and taught all of them how to perform with fire. Shona, the principal was incredibly thankful and supportive of us the whole time, treating us with arm loads of fresh fruit and school burritos to take on our journeys. Shona also told us that one of her students had recently lost her single remaining parent, been dropping out of school, and that this was the first time Shona had seen her smiling or engaged in a long long time. Stories like this kept popping up through our journey, and continually exhibiting to us the power of the performing arts to help heal and re-engage.
On the evening of the 6th, after packing up all of our equipment from the evening session, we drove up to Amberley, settling in for a couple of days at the beautiful and historic Amberley Hotel. On the morning of the 7th, we set off on the 50 minute drive to Cheviot Area School, our first rural destination, where we worked with 112 students over the course of the day. These sessions were amazing, the rural kids and teachers were extra appreciative of having such a fun activity come to their small rural town (Cheviot has a population of 372) – our lunchtime performance was the best yet, and our evening session was amazing! The kids were incredibly enthusiastic and keen (we actually ended up staying an extra 45 minutes, till 8:45!), and we had a number of parents step forward to share these special moments with their kids. One parent even brought along their fire poi to join in! We had one awesome student who was very vocal throughout the day, and this is a verbatim record of her feelings: “I don’t think I’m gonna come tonight”, “this is really fun”, “this is the most fun I’ve had at an after school event”, “this is the BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE”. After packing up all our kit, we drove back to the Amberley Hotel for some well earned rest.
The 8th was our only day where our time was split between two schools: Omihi and Waipara, both very small, very rural schools. At Omihi we worked with all 35 kids in the morning, and at Waipara all 52 kids in the afternoon. Again, these rural kids were super keen and excited by what we had to offer, were super hyped at our lunchtime performances (1 at each school), and were very receptive to our lessons and challenges. During the evening session at Waipara (which Omihi students were also invited to), we were treated to an amazing northern canterbury sunset, with bright purple and red skies, and an almost full moon. We had our highest number of parents participate so far, and the principal also got in there and spun fire with us! Waipara Principal, Di, was very enthusiastic about forming a school club, and has invited us to come back regularly to work with her students .After our evening session on the 8th, we embarked on the 1 hour drive up to Hanmer Springs, staying at the amazing Forest Peak Motel. When they heard we were there to work with the town school, they took $55 off our bill as a gesture of appreciation.
Hanmer Springs was amazing! The school was beautiful, situated amongst picturesque alpine peaks and surrounded by mountain forests, and on Friday the 9th we worked with 104 students over the day. The kids were super excited about our evening shows, and worked out a new game that we hadn’t thought of, which we promptly incorporated into our lesson plan. One of the great benefits gained from delivering such a tightly packed series of lessons is that we have been able to rapidly iterate and improve our procedures, lesson plans, and performances. This is perfectly timed for our 2023 expansion, allowing us to hone and test our methods. Our evening show was lined up with the schools monthly Fish & Chip Friday, so all the picnic tables were out, and heaps of families gathered to enjoy the evening. We had a massive turn out, and a high number of parents getting involved alongside their kids, which was fantastic.
On Saturday the 9th, we spent most of the day relaxing at the Hanmer Springs Pools, with passes gifted to us from the school as thanks. In the evening we hosted our first Public Evening Session at the Hanmer Springs Domain, which was fantastic – Thanks to Hanmer Springs District Council for the use of your space! The domain is surrounded by a large caravan campground, so we were able to involve a number of travellers alongside school students and parents. Even though the Town production of Mama Mia opened on this night, we still managed to have a great attendance (over 50), and one of the more enthusiastic parents turned out to be the owner of the local Hanmer Springs Adventure Park – and was keen for us to come and host a Te Ahi Ora festival at his camp site further down the line.
The first week was amazing! We worked with a total of 647 students from 6 schools. After sleeping in on Sunday we headed back to Christchurch, settling in with friends based in Hornby.
On Monday the 12th we returned to finish our work with Rāwhiti School, again working with 181 students, some in very large class sizes of 50+, which was just as fun as it was challenging. Reducing our maximum class sizes to 30 for 2023 will definitely make it much easier for our tutors, and mean that kids get more out of it too. Since we had been here the week prior, it was quite easy to get students engaged and enthusiastic for our lessons, and we really enjoyed being recognised (“its the fire people!”) and flocked around by the littler kids. As Rāwhiti School was busy the week prior, we had about 300 parents and kids turn out for our evening session! It was incredibly busy and very rewarding. It definitely tested our abilities and systems, and was a very valuable experience. We did well, and everyone had a great time, and it gave us insight into how we could cater to larger groups in the future (eg having 2 performance circles, how we would implement an extra tutor, etc. Due to the large number of participants, we ended up going at full capacity until 9! A Marathon session indeed.
For the 13th we were off to work with a much more relaxing number of 104 students from Addington School, where we met our first superfan. Sophie (11 years old) was an incredible ball of energy, instantly learning most tricks, organising the other kids to help us carry our equipment, and leading the applause at our performances. She rushed up after our lunchtime performance, asking for our signatures, which triggered a wave of students asking us to sign all types of books, cards, shoes, pieces of paper, etc. This was an incredibly validating experience as performers and teachers, and really showed us how the enthusiasm of a single student can lead and spread rapidly throughout a school. Needless to say, our evening session was absolutely packed! The principal, Claire, was amazed at the turnout, and we had a fantastic evening.
And then on the 14th we were back at Addington again to work with an additional 143 students. This was the first time we were at a school for 2 days in a row, and the impact was incredible. Kids who had performed with fire the night before were all confident and excited, and had spread hype about the experience, meaning that all of our classes were all super enthusiastic and eager. Our lunchtime performance went off like never before! We were being screamed at like a rockband, with Sophie leading chants of our names from the front lines, it was unbelievable. We unfortunately ran out of business cards on this afternoon, which led to some students crying due to not yet having received one. This evening session was our best yet. A number of students came back from the night before, eager to have another go and increase their skills. Those who had their first tries were confident and brave, and we had our highest number yet of thanks from parents, and a few teachers got on board and performed at the very end too!
By Thursday the 15th, we were on a roll! We headed to Paparoa Street School to work with 210 students, which was absolutely amazing. The hype had somehow carried with us, and students were again asking for our signatures and crowding around our lunchtime performance. We tried a slightly different method this time, of not handing out cards after the lessons, but at lunchtime. After we performed, I stepped forward and offered cards, saying “allright, who wants a card?” – and we caused a stampede! It was definitely an oversight on my part, suddenly being mobbed by kids about 8 deep on all sides. It took a large amount of wrangling to manage to extricate us from such a situation, but thanks to the help of the teachers and our microphone, we were able to restore order. Due to the School having its main fundraiser on Friday, we hosted a single evening performance on this night. It was absolutely beautiful – the school performed Mihi and Waita from their rangatira and kapa haka group, which was incredible. It was the best welcome we had yet received from a school, and we responded with our best performances and evening session yet! I know I keep saying this, but truly, as we gathered momentum and started to really get into the swing of things, each day became even better and better. And at the end of the evening, every member of the senior leadership team present performed with fire.
On Friday the 16th we worked with another 210 students from Paparoa Street School, and again, with the previous evenings performances and experiences behind us, it was just incredibly enjoyable and easy. Keen, awestricken students, impressed and happy teachers, the day just flew by. We asked if we could contribute to the evening fundraiser, and we were invited to perform for an hour as all of the teachers and parents arrived for the quiz night, which was a great privilege.
Saturday the 17th was spent mostly relaxing around the house, most of the flatmates had left earlier in the week for a camping trip, so we were able to lounge about and stretch and relax. In the evening we set out for Christchurch Park – thanks Christchurch Football Club for the use of your space! This evening session was on quite a windy and cold evening, so we had a reduced turnout – but the kids that did turn out were the keenest and best of the week. We had around 30 kids and 20 parents, but those kids did amazingly! We kept going till 830, which was a testament to their endurance and creativity. We saw some moves and new tricks that we had never seen before!
The second week was amazing! We worked with 848 students, started hitting our stride as a team, nailed all our systems, and are really making a difference to the communities we work with.
On Sunday we drove down to Waitaki, and settled in with some wonderful friends just on the outskirts of Oamaru. They live in a lovely farmstead, with a massive dog and whole host of chickens and cats. Every night this week we were fed amazing nourishing dinners, complimented with fresh baked desserts, for which we would very much like to thank Trevor and Dianne.
Monday the 19th was great! We headed over to Oamaru Intermediate to work with 193 students. After working with so many primary schools the week before, it was refreshing to have a bunch of older students to work with. And these kids were great! They helped us with carrying all our gear, and responded very well to our lunchtime shows. In the evening we had an awesome attendance rate, with a few parents really getting into the swing of things alongside their kids, which was awesome to see. We also worked with the schools Kapahaka Group at the end of the day, which allowed us to explore some of the more complicated moves and concepts together – which was very refreshing to us as teachers.
Tuesday the 20th we returned to OIS to work with another 180 students, and enjoyed a massive boost in enthusiasm (as per usual) from the previous night’s activities. Over these two days we noticed a large bump in our social media follows (as obviously primary school kids dont really have phones yet, but intermediate students do!), which contributed further to our presence at the school. The evening show was even better than the night before, with a large turnout – kids coming back from the previous night, and we even got some teachers on board!
On Wednesday the 21st we headed over the hill to semi-rural Weston School, where we taught 199 students in the town hall across the road. The town hall was left permanently decked out in fabric and fairy lights for dances and balls, so we got to teach in our most beautiful environment yet! Students from Weston were great, and had some awesome enthusiasm and help from Billy and Isaac. The lunchtime performances were an absolute hit, and the evening show was a massive draw. Again, not much happens in semi-rural Weston, so the turnout was fantastic.
For the 22nd we headed down to teach 115 students from East Otago High School, 45 minutes south of Oamaru. After working with intermediates and primary schools (the end of the year is very busy for high schools!), we were stoked to have some older kids to work with. There are definitely very distinct challenges with each of primary, intermediate, and secondary school students, and we were thankfully able to win over and involve the older students – especially after our lunchtime show. The evening performance was absolutely fantastic, young adults definitely “get” fire performance in a way that is more sophisticated than younger kids and children, and we recorded some of the more spectacular and dramatic performances of our time so far on this evening.
To finish off the week we worked with 89 students from Ardgowan School just outside Oamaru, situated in an incredibly picturesque school. We had a wonderful time working with their students and staff, and the evening sessions were really fun. Ardgowan school earned the prestigious award of being the first school to use all of the fuel that we had allocated for an evening!
And then on the 24th we hosted our public evening session at the Friendly Bay Playground in the centre of Oamaru. This was our best public session yet, with large numbers of kids and parents from all schools throughout the week, mixing and meeting each other, and we saw some of the best performances so far. We ended up going until 9:30, with some extra eager kids keeping the flames lit until late at night.
The third week was fantastic, and we worked with 776 students throughout Waitaki. We gained some valuable experience working with older age groups, made some awesome community connections, and made it through the first half of the programme in style!