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Kaikōura teacher takes Navy and Air Force lessons back to school

It’s been more than seven years since Kaikōura was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, but for St Joseph’s Kaikōura School teacher Breanna Moller, it’s still something her students talk about.

25 January, 2024

That’s why she jumped at the chance to attend the School to Skies and School to Sea Teachers’ Edition Camp, organised by the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

“My students were five years old when the earthquake hit back in 2016 and cut off land access to the township,” she says. 

“They still talk about how the Navy was keeping everything together for the people of Kaikōura.”

Miss Moller teaches Year 7 and 8 at St Joseph’s, and said the Royal New Zealand Navy’s presence played a significant role in her students’ experiences at the time.

“The Navy evacuated people and brought them food and supplies. Seeing our Navy ships in the landscape was really significant for the kids. So when the chance came to spend time at Devonport Naval Base, I just couldn’t say no.”

The RNZN joined forces with the RNZAF to deliver this year’s camp at RNZAF Base Auckland at Whenuapai and Devonport Naval Base last week.

‘Teaching the teachers’ was one of the main aims of this year’s camp, and 40 educators from throughout the country attended, to learn how to support their students to develop careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The School to Seas Camp allowed teachers to experience STEM in a maritime context and learn new skills, so they can provide their students with real-world examples of how these subjects are applied in the RNZN.

“Our school is really focused on increasing the quality of science teaching,” Miss Moller said.

“It’s about looking at how we can incorporate STEM into our maths programme and also providing the students with realistic scenarios to apply those skills.

“On the camp we learnt about things like planning a response to a Search and Rescue mission. It showed how students need to use problem solving and applying maths to a real-life situation.”

During their time at Devonport Naval Base, teachers were exposed to a wide range of naval activities, including experiencing what day-to-day life is like for Navy personnel, as well as firefighting, navigation and leadership skills.

 “We got to go into the bridge simulator and all took part in navigating a ship. It felt so real, I was nearly sea sick!”

Teachers then boarded Navy vessels, which was eye-opening for some.

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Breanna Moller from St Joseph’s School, Kaikōura, at the Royal New Zealand Navy Bridge Simulator as part of the School to Skies and School to Seas Teachers’ Edition Camp

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The view from on board a C-130H flight over the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland

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Teachers get some hands-on welding experience at Devonport Naval Base

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The view from on board a C-130H flight over the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland

“We also got to board HMNZS Te Mana and I really didn’t realise how big Navy ships are.

“The visit to Defence Science & Technology opened my mind to just how much technology existed in the New Zealand Defence Force. I think my kids would definitely be amazed by the experience.”

Before the camp, Miss Moller said she was quite closed-minded about what the military offers, but now realises there are so many different jobs people can do while in service.

School to Seas Project Lead, Lieutenant Commander Emily Kutarski says recruiting and supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce that represents all New Zealanders is also critically important for the RNZN.

“School to Seas certainly helps to show the range of career opportunities the Navy has to offer,” she said.

“The camp aims to introduce what life is like at sea, as well as break down stereotypes and barriers that may prevent women and other under-represented groups from enlisting in the Navy.”

At RNZAF Base Auckland teachers were introduced to military skills, the principles of flight, aviation and mission planning.

A flight over Auckland with No. 40 Squadron on a C-130H Hercules was a particular highlight for Miss Moller and her fellow teachers.

“Oh my gosh. The flight on the Hercules was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. We flew with the ramp down over the Hauraki Gulf and I got to sit up in the flight deck with the pilots.”

School to Skies programme lead, Squadron Leader Matthew Pitts, says the camp provided teachers with new educational tools and ideas, as well as introducing them to the inspirational career opportunities available to their students.

“The School to Skies forms part of the RNZAF’s commitment to the New Zealand Defence Force Wāhine Toa programme,” Squadron Leader Pitts said.

“The aim is for participants to develop a learning experience which will inspire their students to pursue STEM career pathways and in turn help to increase diversity in RNZAF technical and aviation based roles.”

The Teachers’ Edition of the School to Skies and School to Seas camp was hosted at RNZAF Base Auckland from 14-17 January and RNZN Devonport Naval Base from 17-19 January 2024. 

Learn more about our School to Seas and School to Skies camps.