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Northland teacher inspired by hands-on Navy and Air Force camp

Whangārei Boys' High School teacher Tony ‘Haggis’ Henderson already has a strong connection to the New Zealand Defence Force, having been born at Waiouru Army Camp.

24 January, 2024

He now has even more experience to share with his Year 12 and 13 senior physics students after attending the School to Skies and School to Seas Teachers’ Edition camp at Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Auckland and Devonport Naval Base last week.

“Some people only ever teach, but I need to be a learner as well as a teacher. The more knowledge I have, the better I am able to help my kids,” Mr Henderson said.

The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) joined forces with the RNZAF to deliver the camp to 40 educators from throughout the country.

‘Teaching the teachers’ was one of the main aims of this year’s camp, where they learned how to support their students to develop careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Mr Henderson said it’s vitally important to combine hands-on application with the classroom theory.

“The camp is about how we as teachers can translate lessons from the classroom into real-world use. So instead of teaching bland theory, we do things like find cracks in an aircraft part which could cause injury or death, by looking at Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation.

“Avionics is really interesting, because you use a combination of electricity, magnetism and programming in order to make a mission happen and keep people alive,” he said.

Whangārei Boys' High School teacher ‘Haggis’ Henderson at Defence Science & Technology The view from on board a C-130H (NZ) during flight. Four teachers are in the foreground with the rear door open and the Hauraki Gulf in the background. ‘Haggis’ Henderson takes control of his ship at the Royal New Zealand Navy bridge simulator

Tony ‘Haggis’ Henderson from Whangārei Boys’ High School during the School to Skies and School to Seas Teachers’ Edition Camp

At Base Auckland the teachers were introduced to military skills, the principles of flight and aviation mission planning, and boarded a flight over Auckland with No. 40 Squadron on a C-130H Hercules.

It’s inspired teachers with new and exciting ways of delivering lessons, Mr Henderson said.

“The Air Force offers the chance to use knowledge and skills in an interesting, engaging and productive way. I’ve found applications for the use of algebra, the physics of motion, electricity, magnetism, nuclear physics and the behaviour of radio and light waves.”

School to Skies Project Manager, Squadron Leader Matthew Pitts, said 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.”

School to Seas Project Lead, Lieutenant Commander Emily Kutarski says recruiting 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.”

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.

“I really enjoyed our time with the Navy because we got to look at the physical equipment over at Defence Science & Technology, and then I got to be the helmsman on the bridge simulator. I loved it,” Mr Henderson said.

“Most of my colleagues are at the beach, whereas I’m up at 0600 with my overalls on and raring to go. I’ve had a blast!”

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

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