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Children celebrate ‘graduation’ at Christchurch Town Hall

01 December 2023

More than 1,100 Canterbury tamariki have put on academic gowns and attended their graduation after taking part in a programme that offers university for kids.


Te Mātāpuna Mātātahi | Children’s University members aged from seven to 14 were presented with certificates in front of whānau and friends at six evening graduation ceremonies held at the Christchurch Town Hall’s James Hay Theatre over the past two weeks. The final event was last night.

Forty-six local schools and two rūnanga have taken part in the Children’s University this year, making it the biggest graduating cohort so far. The initiative is managed by Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) and Te Whare Wānaka o Aoraki | Lincoln University in a partnership that launched in 2019.

The first Children’s University in New Zealand, it is part of an international initiative that aims to foster lifelong learning among young people and raise their aspirations for higher education.

Tamariki from Waitaha Canterbury have completed more than 67,000 hours of Children’s University learning this year, with three children clocking up over 1,000 hours each after being part of the programme for several years. Children are able to graduate once they have notched up 30 hours and they can graduate multiple times.

Shellon Turnbull, whose 10-year-old son Dylan Turnbull graduated last night with 1,000 hours, says he has loved being part of the programme. “He had a goal of reaching 1,000 hours and when he got there it was almost a sad moment, because he knew Children’s University was almost at an end for him. That made it bittersweet.”

She says it has boosted his academic development and his confidence. “It’s such an amazing programme. It’s been a really positive experience for all of us. Especially because most of Dylan’s hours were gained during the Covid lockdowns. He was able to pick all of the things online that he was interested in, and it kept him busy.”

UC Tumu Tuarua Akoranga | Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Professor Catherine Moran, says the Children’s University offers the opportunity for tamariki to see higher education as something achievable for everyone. “It’s challenging, it’s fun and it helps children gain confidence in themselves as learners. We support Children’s University because it encourages children to see tertiary education as part of their future.”

Lincoln University Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Edwards agrees: “Through their participation in the Children’s University the tamariki are supported and encouraged to enjoy higher learning, and the Campus Experience Days offer them the chance to experience for themselves just how exciting and inspiring university life can be.”

Children join the programme through their school or rūnanga and receive a Passport to Learning. They fill their passports with hours of learning outside the classroom by visiting libraries, museums, galleries and wildlife parks, taking part in university campus experiences, and completing online activities.

Hundreds of children were hosted by UC and Lincoln University for Campus Experience Days during the year, with activities including building a quake-proof structure, seeing a wind tunnel in action, 3D-printing foodstuffs, and experiencing an Antarctic temperature cold room.

For the first time this year, four outreach sessions were delivered in schools by UC Astronomy students. Children were able to observe the sun and its features through solar scopes and learned about planets and black holes through interactive games.

Children's University Over 1,100 Canterbury children celebrated their graduation from Te Mātāpuna Mātātahi |Children’s University at ceremonies held at the Christchurch Town Hall.
SDG 4 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education.

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