Wednesday, 25 November 2020


Hot chips by candlelight at The Lost Spring

The Lost Spring in Whitianga provided the setting for the most recent social event of a group of Mercury Bay Area School students, teachers and families who were treated to an evening in the pools, along with drinks and hot chips.

The five students - Jakob Topp, Reuben Davis, Paige MacPherson, Indy Catran and Kieran Clayton - are all keen participants in the school’s learning support group which supports students who have special needs. The event was organised by CEO of The Lost Spring, Alanna Kline and her husband, Jonathan.

Johnathan, who is the commodore of Mercury Bay Boating Club, has previously organised two sailing days for the group allowing them to experience some water-based activities. With the weather currently deemed a little too cold for sailing, the couple instead offered to host the group at The Lost Spring.

“Hot chips by candlelight, it was such an amazing treat,” says Karen Johansen, Learning Support Coordinator at MBAS. “There were about 15 of us in total and we all had a wonderful time. Jonathan and Alanna were the most amazing hosts and their children, Noah (11) and Annabelle (9), who are also students at MBAS, helped out on the night. We were all made to feel so special.”

The outing and others like it are not just fun experiences, they also provide huge learning opportunities for the students in terms of both knowing their community, and growing their confidence and independence in new and unfamiliar settings. “A major goal for our kids, particularly the senior ones who will be starting to think about what comes next after school, is creating connections within the wider community,” says Karen. “Experiences like these really help. It is also really important that these kids have a profile, that people see them out and about doing things and that they are recognised as part of our community.”

The experience has also help to foster bonds between the students themselves and their families. “It gave the families an opportunity to get to know each other and see how the children interact with each other, the bonds and friendships they have formed and how supportive they are of each other, that was really special,” says Emma Mudgway, who also works with the group.

Karen says for students who have special needs, being able to extend support to the whole family where possible was crucial. “For parents of children who have a special need, sometimes what might seem like a simple outing or experience - like going to The Lost Spring - can require quite a bit of thought and planning, depending on the situation. By being able to do this as a group, parents felt supported and just seeing some of the mums being able to relax and unwind was wonderful. They also got to see their children extending themselves, pushing their own boundaries, but in a really safe environment.”

Exploring capability, and developing interests and skills that can extend beyond the classroom and into the “real world,” is a core part of the learning support group’s focus. Karen says this is only possible by having partnerships and relationships across the local community and in that respect, she feels incredibly supported. “I’ve been doing this job for let’s just say quite a while now and whenever I go out there with an idea, the help is always forthcoming. There are so many people in our community who really understand the children and their families, and want to support them.”

Last Thursday morning, the Mercury Bay Cineplex hosted a special movie showing for the group, something they have done on a number of occasions. “The school was closed for two days for parent interviews,” says Karen. “However, we decided to design a special program for those days for our students so they could still come in if they wanted to. So the movie trip was part of that.”

Student Kieran Clayton said the movie, “The Big Trip,” was “really good.” The 19-year-old is especially looking forward to the school ball which takes place at the end of August, telling The Informer he will be travelling in style in his dad’s Mustang.

“We have three students attending the ball this year which is a huge event for them,” says Karen. We are all very excited and at the moment there is a lot of discussion about it and in particular what we are going to wear. This will be another great social opportunity for our families. Our plan is to meet at Smitty’s - they are also huge supporters of our learning group - and we will also invite some of the other people like Jonathan and Alanna who have all been part of the learning journey for these young people.”

The current group of students are aged from 12 to 19 and they can remain at school until they are 21. “After that it can be challenging, but we are always working with the community to find new opportunities for work or further training, so we can support the students with that transition process,” says Karen. “Again, that’s why building these connections and relationships is just so important.”

Pictured: Current and former students from Mercury Bay Area School’s learning support group,along with their teachers and whanau, were hosted by the Mercury Bay Boating Club last year. The group were also recently treated to a visit to The Lost Spring and enjoyeda movie at Mercury Twin Cinemas.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.