Kids from Havelock North Primary school experience the joys of the woolshed.

An educational project highlighting the wonders of wool, featuring a mobile wool shed that travels to schools around the country, has welcomed its 25,000th student this month.

Two 20ft wool sheds, one in each island, are booked by schools online and then transported. On average the sheds stay on site for a couple of weeks giving primary school aged kids a chance to work through the educational module with their teachers.

Wool for Schools is run by the Campaign for Wool, a global initiative spearheaded by HRH The Prince of Wales to raise awareness of the uses and benefits of wool. His Royal Highness opened the first Wool Shed at Tawa Intermediate in 2015 and it has proved an enormous success. 

The Campaign’s broad focus is on increasing the value of wool, including through educational projects like this one, as well as business and government awareness of its unique qualities.

Chair of Campaign for Wool Tom OSullivan says the programme aims to impart to kids that wool doesnt damage the planet

New Zealand chair of the Campaign for Wool, Tom O’Sullivan says the number one thing they are trying to educate the kids on is the fact that wool is a natural, sustainable and biodegradable product that doesn’t damage the planet.

“We are really proud of this milestone. We do small schools through to really big schools and it’s a tactile, hands on experience for kids to learn about wool, from how it is grown and all the products it can be used in. 

“The containers themselves are kitted out to look a little bit like a woolshed. We show them wool from off a sheep’s back and then wool that’s been scoured and then we show it when it’s combed and then when it’s been made into a yarn.  

“So just showing kids what those processes are. And then we talk a lot about all the different products that wool can be made into – obviously carpet is a huge one, but we talk about clothes and even tennis balls.”

Vicki Linstrom, Wool in Schools’ project manager, says the tennis ball exhibit gets the biggest reaction from both students and parents.

“Many people don’t realise that wool is used to cover tennis balls and are delighted to learn that New Zealand wool is chosen for the tennis balls at Wimbledon, due to its ‘crimp’ factor which gives the balls the best bounce. It’s fantastic to see young minds starting to think more broadly about wool as a truly versatile fibre, with far greater uses and benefits than just making their clothes,” she says.

Schools aren’t charged for the wool shed visits, which is funded by the Campaign for Wool – wool growers in effect – and also sponsorship from PGG Wrightson Wool, whose network of wool agents across the country also get involved by assisting the teachers when they can.

Schools request for the container to come to their school, and when the demand in an area is sufficient the wool shed is transported. However, they are all booked out this year and Wool for Schools is now taking bookings for 2023.

O’Sullivan says the sheds are about to get a comprehensive upgrade so they are more user friendly for teachers, with digital features. They are also hoping to be able to deliver a purely digital module in the future so that kids in remote or hard-to-get-to schools can access the educational resource.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.


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