by ROWENA OREJANA
Rosmini College students involved in mentoring Cook Islands students have received certificates of appreciation from Cook Islands Education Secretary Gail Townsend.

Rosmini students get to teach students in other countries through the Internet. From left, front row:  Eukaliti Vea,  Eli Abou-Chaaya, Sinan Rassam, Marc Tolentino and Conor Whyte. Back row: Patrick Haybittle, Matthew Kereama, Vance Avery, Leon Bongare, Liam Smith and Callum Flanagan.
Rosmini students get to teach students in other countries through the Internet. From left, front row:  Eukaliti Vea,  Eli Abou-Chaaya, Sinan Rassam, Marc Tolentino and Conor Whyte. Back row: Patrick Haybittle, Matthew Kereama, Vance Avery, Leon Bongare, Liam Smith and Callum Flanagan.

The Te Kura Uira (TKU) project provides peer to peer mentoring.
The Rosmini College, Auckland, boys were part of the Over the Back Fence project supervised by the school’s Health and Life Skills head of department Geoff Wood.
“It’s basically two years since we made the connection to drive the TKU programme,” said Mr Wood. “They [Rosmini students] are part of a group working with students in the Cook Islands. What they are doing is that they are working weekly with students on some of the distant islands as part of their outreach. It’s a nice little fit on the bishop’s [Patrick Dunn] initiative, too.”
Even before Auckland diocese started its Fit 4 Mission plan, Rosmini College boys had been literally looking “over the back fence”, teaching younger students over at St Joseph Catholic Primary School physical activities.
Year 13 student Vance Avery has done the programme for about two years already.
“We started with year five and six students in St Joseph, teaching them the basics of fitness, like throwing tennis balls and stuff and trying to get them fit,” he said. “It’s a good thing for us too so we can improve our communication skills with children.”
Four years ago, in Rotorua, Mr Wood bounced the idea off students about teaching health and life skills lessons to a school in Mosgiel. This opened another avenue for Rosmini students to simultaneously serve and learn. “It’s about authentic service learning…
“Service learning is just as much benefit for the person receiving the service as it is for the person giving the service,” said Mr Wood.
He said students need not be experts in the subjects they are teaching. “Every kid can teach other kids and that is probably the best way for them to learn. I’m a strong believer that the best way to learn is to teach and it’s very powerful when younger students see older students teaching them.”
Most of the health lessons students learned in their health classes. They do more research and give it their own twist.
The programme is undertaken in 10 countries, including the United States, India, Indonesia and Cook Islands.
The boys noted that Cook Island students are a little shy while Indonesian children were fully onto it. Participants said they felt more confident and could see differences between cultures. “We weren’t just teaching them; they were also teaching us,” one noted.
Mr Wood said about 191 senior students in Rosmini work in the programme. “We are working with about 500 kids [from other schools] a week. And at the height, when things are really cranking, we can go up working with over 1000 different kids,” he said.
Mr Wood said they are keen to help other schools get involved. “With international connections, we have time differences and we just learn to adjust,” he said, calling up the different time zones on his computer.
“This is a great project for Catholic schools. It’s simple. As long as they’ve got an Internet connection and the computer with a camera, all they need is a laptop, basically,” he said. “Our hope is that Over the Back Fence be a worldwide programme.”

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