Hutt at Heart
Education Minister Chris Hipkins visits Naenae Clubhouse
Education Minister Chris Hipkins visits Naenae Clubhouse

Education Ministers visit Naenae Clubhouse

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has visited Naenae Clubhouse to find out more about the success it’s having helping young people develop skills and build confidence through the use of technology.

Hutt City Council has two Clubhouses, in Naenae and Taita, which are part of a network of 100 around the world. They provide a creative, safe, and free out-of-school learning space where young people can work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas, develop skills, and build confidence through the use of technology.

Minister Hipkins was accompanied by Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin, and both spent time talking to young people at the Clubhouse and helping out with the projects they’re currently working on.

Clubhouse co-ordinator Lily Chalmers says they were interested to know more about the Clubhouse teaching approach, which is grounded in research from education, developmental and social psychology, cognitive science, and youth development.

“Central Government is currently leading a nationwide conversation about education reform and they’re keen to look more closely at approaches that are having success, like ours,” she said.

“The Clubhouse philosophy is that people learn best when they’re actively engaged in designing and creating, and not just passively receiving information; they’re willing to work harder and longer when they care about what they’re working on; when they collaborate with people who’re different to them they gain new perspectives and understand the world, and themselves, better; and that when everyone’s ideas and opinions are respected, people are more likely to take risks and experiment.”

The Naenae Clubhouse was established in 2010 through seed funding from the Department of Internal Affairs. The Taita Clubhouse was established in 2015. Each site has both paid staff and volunteers, and Clubhouse members who go on to tertiary study are encouraged to return and share their learning. Around 400 young people are currently involved in Lower Hutt’s two clubhouses.

“You can walk into a Clubhouse any day and find young people making 3D models and animations, producing and editing films, building robots, creating graphics and websites, designing computer games, writing and recording music, and much more. They’re learning to take their projects from early concept to final product. Some of our young people struggle in the current school system, but they have success here.”

The Naenae and Taita Clubhouses are part of Hutt City Libraries, and are one way Libraries are delivering on their strategic focus of lifelong learning. Hutt City Council is currently the only local authority in New Zealand investing in Clubhouses. Lily Chalmers says she’d love to see more young people given the opportunity to learn this way, especially those from under-served communities where they may not have access to technology or adult mentors with time to invest in them.

The Clubhouses are also part of Hutt City Council’s wider Empowering Tamariki programme which aims to improve the lives, and in the longer term the outcomes, of children growing up in high-deprivation communities in the city’s North East.

General Manager of City and Community Services Matt Reid says through initiatives like Clubhouses, local government can make a big contribution to central government’s efforts to improve the wellbeing of young people.

“Hutt City Council is going a step further than some in this respect. As well as Clubhouses, we have developed new community hubs in Taita and Stokes Valley and have one on the way in Naenae, we are partners in the Youth Inspire employment and training programme, we are the lead provider for Healthy Families Lower Hutt (funded by the Ministry of Health) and we are working with central government to develop a masterplan for social housing in our city that supports better outcomes from young people.”

During the visit, Minister Martin also congratulated the Clubhouse team on the award they recently received for their short animated film ‘Rata and the tree’. The film won the global Clubhouse Network’s Reach Media Festival’s animation category.

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