Discovering New Zealand: An Interview with Nicky Hodson, Geography Teacher, and Students from Tauranga Girls’ College

We recently caught up with Nicky Hodson, a Geography teacher of 14 years, and some of her students at Tauranga Girls College in New Zealand. After some re-arranged travel plans, they managed to get out for a trip this year after the COVID lockdowns. We wanted to learn about their domestic travel experience and thoughts about school trips for education.

Q&A With Nicky Hodson - Geography Teacher

What made you become a teacher?

I've always been passionate about the environment and looking after it. I was going to go into environmental science as a career. However, I helped out teaching a Geography class on completing my degree and loved it! Working with young people who are open-minded and enthusiastic was something I loved and I realised that I could make a much bigger difference if I could inspire my students to care about the earth. The rest is history!  

What do you love about your job?

I get to work with awesome colleagues and amazing students; it's always interesting; I get to teach about and travel to amazing places, particularly those in New Zealand.

I love to see my students learn about new places and processes but being able to take students to see those things in real life is next level. For some students it is life changing.

What inspired you to go on a school trip?

A colleague and I were talking about how great it would be if we could take girls to theSouth Island as we taught our students about it and realised that so few had been there. After a few days mulling we decided to do it!

Why did you choose Educating Adventures?

Time is my biggest challenge - or lack thereof. There is so much to do and so many resources I would like to create and teach about but there is also marking and admin to do. Balancing these can be tricky. We started planning the trip, but it became too big for us to organise on our own along with our other teaching responsibilities. We could have done it, but we also worried about what would happen if something went wrong and we were far from home.

We were at an Auckland Geography Teachers' Association workshop one year and someone was talking about a trip that they had taken with EA (Educating Adventures) and how successful it had been. We contacted them the next week. Having the support that EA provided in making our plans a reality as well as on trip support made the trip feasible.

How long did it take you to organise the trip?

Our trip was about 1 year in the planning. The biggest obstacle was getting a commitment from enough students to make it viable and then communicating with them to gather information and payments needed for the trip. We wanted to give students sufficient time to save for the trip.

We have now run this trip 4 times over the last 7 years in various forms. Our most recent being between Covid 19 lockdowns!

What were the highlights of this trip?

Seeing an avalanche on Mt Sefton as we sat together in silence on a bluebird day under Mount Cook; being soaked by a waterfall in Milford Sound. Getting my most unfit student to walk to the top of Mt John to see the views of Lake Tekapo.

The most rewarding thing was hearing the students gasps and awe as we approach the breath-taking landscape that they had learned about. I could actually see the connections being made. As a teacher it was really special to see.  

What was the most challenging thing?

Being 'mum' to 20 students is a huge responsibility and quite tiring. While our girls have always been amazing it is a heavy weight to bear being responsible for their wellbeing.

Are school trips important to a student’s education?

Ours was a domestic school trip but the quality of what we saw was world class. The value for these girls was undeniable. This trip will sit with them for the rest of their lives. Some have said it was the highlight of their school career.

Did your students enjoy the trip?

They loved it!! Highlights varied from student to student. Some loved the natural beauty that we saw. Some liked the fun activities and for others it was all about the good food and shopping! There was something for everyone. 

What would be your advice for another teacher considering a school trip?

Do it! It is a fair bit of work, even with the EA support but it is completely worth it!

What the Students Thought…

Hannah & Hayley

Our school trip to the South Island, was super fun and cold. We went to Tekapo, Mount Cook, Queenstown and Milford Sound, we were met with spectacular scenery and views at all our destinations over the 4 days we spent there. Our days were never boring and there was always something to do or look at.

Personal Highlights:

How big all the mountains were across all the places and how unearthly they seem and how much better it looks in person than in the photos. Highlights were: Mt Cook village and the Tasman glacier, Milford Sound boat trip and walking up Mount John.

Macy

On our south island trip we took a look at many famous tourist attractions in the south island. I was looking forward to Milford sound and the food. We went to Lake Tekapo and climbed up Mt John when then went ice skating and swimming. The second day we left Lake Tekapo and made our way to Queenstown stopping at Mt Cook and walking to Kea Point then to the Tasman Glacier we then went shopping at Arrowtown. The next day we went to Milford Sound which was amazing stopping in Te Anau on the way there and back. And the last day we spent in Queenstown luging and shopping before we left.

Personal Highlights:

Milford Sound, Mt John and watching glaciers break off the mountain, just because the first two had great reward for a 10 hour bus ride and a massive walk up a hill. Most interesting was Milford sound. What surprised me the most was how much I actually enjoyed each place even if I had to walk for miles which I don’t like doing, because the reward was so great.

Olivia

I was lucky enough to spend 4 days down in the South Island as part of a year 12/13 Geography Trip to experience and put views to the SIHC (South Island High Country) which we were studying. In our 5 days we saw a lot! Flying into Christchurch we took a bus out to Tekapo where we were lucky enough to climb Mt John and experience 360 views of the surrounding landscape and go ice skating... which added a few laughs!!

I was really looking forward to going to Mt Cook Village and seeing the famous Mt Cook itself! After watching the sunrise from Church of Good Shepherd we made our way to Mt Cook Village where we were fortunate enough to have perfect weather to view the famous Mt Cook and Tasman Glacier! Ending the day we explored Arrowtown before heading to Queenstown! Dinner out on the town was a heap of fun, winding up at the Cookie Time Bar.

An early start for day three as we travelled the long distance over to Milford Sound. Again the views were phenomenal, and the drizzly weather emphasised the impressive waterfalls! To wrap up the trip we spend the last day in Queenstown being tourists - shopping and lugeing!

I found it interesting to experience and view the difference in climate and scenery between the east and west coast of the SIHC and how the Southern Alps play such an important role in shaping the landscape.

Personal Highlights:

  1. Tekapo - 360 views from the top of Mt John was truly surreal and to witness the sunrise over Lake Tekapo and the Church of Good Shepherd was phenomenal. Iceskating was also a heap of fun!
  2. Mt Cook Village - We were lucky enough to have a beautiful day to witness the glacier and Mt Cook itself which really added to their impressiveness. We were also lucky enough to experience a small avalanche on Mt Sefton during our three minutes of silence which was something really special to be a part of.
  3. Milford Sound - Exiting the Homer Tunnel to a view of steep mountains and cascading waterfalls was breathtaking and the boat tip was a lot of fun - getting soaked through was definitely worth it!

Nothing could have prepared me to actually imagine the sheer beauty of the SIHC. I feel so privileged and honoured to have gone on this trip with such an amazing group of people and would definitely 100% go again!

Final Note from Educating Adventures

We were so glad that we got to run the trip for Tauranga Girls College this year, and that the girls are still buzzing about it! It’s been a challenging year for many reasons and experiences like this remind us of why we do what we do.

It also goes to show that you don’t always need to travel halfway across the world for an educational experience. Sometimes we forget that we have amazing experiences in our own country that many students will never have had the chance to experience before. 

Thanks to Nicky and the girls for providing us with this awesome interview and we look forward to doing it all again soon! At Educating Adventures, we run both international and domestic travel experiences for schools around the globe so if you’re starting to think about your next Adventure, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Note: Some sections of the above interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

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