By Mick Jensen
Longbeach School is one of 10 school groups nationally to have been selected for the Airpoints for Schools programme, an initiative that gives Kiwi kids an opportunity to take flights for educational travel experiences.
Donated Airpoints Dollars from the community are matched by Air New Zealand to help schools with flight costs.
Longbeach School would like to fly its Year 7 and 8 students to Stewart Island for an environmental study trip in late November.
Students have been learning about sustainability at school and examining factors that affect the environment and native species that live in it.
The trip to Stewart Island will enable 25 students to check out the declining yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho) population and to study birds like the red-crowned parakeet and brown kiwi.
The school needs 10,150 Airpoints to cover the cost of flights and donations can be made until April 30.
Schools can apply for up to 20,000 Airpoints Dollars, the equivalent of $20,000 worth of travel.
Visiting Stewart Island would provide students with a deeper understanding of issues and inspire them to improve their own practices and raise awareness for positive long-term outcomes for the environment, said Longbeach School principal Neil Simons.
Students wanted to understand first-hand why the hoiho was in decline, for example.
“They’ve hypothesised it’s from pollution on the mainland and plan to meet with the Department of Conservation to learn more,” said Mr Simons.
Schools have been selected for the Airpoints for Schools programme for outstanding environmental, cultural, social or academic goals and almost 100 applications were received.
Other schools aim to raise Airpoints Dollars for flights to a range of destinations including Rarotonga to connect with Cook Island heritage, to Russell to learn more about New Zealand culture and the history of the Treaty of Waitangi, to Phoenix, USA to experience international dance culture and perform at the World Hip-Hop Championship and to China to connect with a sister school and perform at an international culture festival.
Close to 70,000 Airpoints Dollars were donated last year.