Waitaki Boys’ High respond to local issues through cross-curricular learning approach

In a number of ways, Waitaki Boys’ High School, as a whole school, have been encouraging a cross-curricular project-based framework.

A Year 10 student placing their hand-built tracking tunnel.

The most recent example came to fruition recently as a Year 9 class finished building their pest traps and put them around the school. This was a cross-curricular project involving Social Studies where they placed tracking tunnels and graphed the numbers, locations and types of pests.  The students then built the traps in Technology class. The traps were placed around the school (in response to the monitoring results) and checked during Outdoor Education class.

Another way they have, as a school community, been encouraging cross-curricular learning is by using social studies in class units as a base context for other teachers to contextualise the content in the rest of the curriculum. This has worked by asking the social studies teachers to send out emails to all other teachers of junior classes, explaining the projects they are working on and encouraging these Maths, Science and English, Te Reo, Technology teachers to integrate the learning. This worked well during the schools Sustainability unit and also during the ANZAC Day unit and the Te Tiriti o Waitangi/ NZ Wars unit. A simple email sent out to other teachers was surprisingly effective.

“Kia ora koutou, Just letting you know what we are up to in 10TA Social Studies so we might be able to work together and piggyback on the teaching we are all doing.”  - teacher communication to other learning areas

Two weeks into the ‘Sustainability’ topic most students were engaged in the learning. Topics covered included:

  • Over population
  • Climate change
  • Environmental Issues
  • Endangered New Zealand species such as the Maui Dolphin
  • Habitat destruction/ human impact
  • Renewable and non-renewable resources

“All we do at school is learn about sustainability now!” – student comment

A recent Geography fieldtrip to the Tasman Glacier incorporating research into climate change and glacier processes provided yet another opportunity to weave sustainability concepts into learning. (See banner image).

Students having fun learning about brown waste and writing environment-based poems.

Waitaki Boys’ High School has big plans for further cross-curricular learning in 2023, having recently been granted $5000 from the Waitaki District Council Waste Minimisation Grant to build a large-scale compost facility to address the organic waste from our Healthy Lunches in Schools initiative. The Enviroschools group asked for buy-in from other heads of learning areas and was surprised by the result. Several Heads of Department (HOD) have expressed interest in using the compost project as part of the curriculum. The Agriculture HOD committed to looking after the compost and using it to explain biological principles and processes. The Social Science HOD plans to link the organic waste system to curriculum objectives such as environmental action and sustainability and has offered to collect the compost once a week. The Science department has said there is potential to integrate the project into the NCEA biological research standards which focus on microorganisms. This is studied at Year 11 and can lead into learning aerobic and anaerobic respiration projects. The Learning Support department as well as the Te Tema Tanga Hou alternative education programme have also asked to be involved.

“We are only at the start of our Enviroschools journey, but I have been encouraged by how easy it has been to get other teachers on board and in turn enrich the enviro-based learning for all students. It really shows how contagious a little bit of enthusiasm can be.” – Waitaki Boys’ High School Enviroschools teacher


Learning about the rock cycle on a Social Studies field trip at the local art gallery.