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Clubhouse Network provides massive educational opportunity

Pfuma Mahowa, 15, left, and Whetu Hauiti 16 of the Clubhouse Network
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Students from some of Lower Hutt’s most disadvantaged areas are being given a great opportunity to learn about creative technology through an international programme introduced by the City’s libraries.

Science, maths, computer programming, electronics, graphic design and engineering are among the skills they learn.  Robotics, animation, 3D design, game creations and sound recording are other skills on offer.

The Clubhouse Network is an international community of 100 Clubhouses in 18 countries, providing a creative and safe out-of-school learning environment where young people from underserved communities work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas, develop new skills, and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology.

Lower Hutt’s two Clubhouse programmes are in the north-east suburbs of Naenae and Taita.

Student success stories

A student, Clench Enoka, who was mentored there, has already won a prestigious scholarship for a design degree at Massey University in Wellington.

Another student, Kaisa Fa’atui, who was involved in a 48-hour film challenge through Clubhouse, is now studying at Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School in Wellington.

In August, five high achieving Lower Hutt Clubhouse students and two staff were chosen for a Teen Summit trip to Boston in the United States to visit the original Clubhouse. Highlights included a careers expo, visit to the headquarters of Google and practical team projects. It is the fourth time students from the Lower Hutt Clubhouses have made the trip.

The trips are life-changing and often their first overseas,”

says Denise Clarkson, Promotion and Content Manager at Hutt City Libraries.

The Naenae and Taita Clubhouses are run as part of the Hutt City libraries and funded by Hutt City Council. New Zealand’s third Clubhouse is in Whanganui.

Teen Summit attendees, from left, Saviour Erihe and Whetu Hauiti, from Naenae Clubhouse, and Seth Fitzgerald and Pfuma Mahowa, from Taita Clubhouse, with Lower Hutt Deputy Mayor, David Bassett, before the July trip to Boston. The fifth member of the group was Annatto Teni, from Naenae Clubhouse, who was unable to attend the meeting.

Discovery of Clubhouse Network

Denise says a former library colleague discovered the international Clubhouse Network and thought it would be a great programme to introduce and successfully put a business case to the council.

The Department of Internal Affairs gave a grant and this provided seed funding.

A licence was obtained from the international body to set up the Clubhouses – Naenae, in 2010, followed by Taita, in 2015.

Denise says that in Lower Hutt the core Clubhouse age group is 10-18. Once students reach 18 they are encouraged to return as alumni to share what they are learning in tertiary education with the students.

Clubhouse differs from paid after school programmes in that it is voluntary and there is no minimum attendance. It is also free.

Each site has paid staff. At Naenae the co-ordinator is Lily Chalmers plus staff Mike, Mele and Ryanplus while, at Taita, the co-ordinator is Bennett Pomana, assisted by staff members Laura, Loisi and Arapeta.

Both sites also have volunteers who work in the relevant industries and are recruited through Volunteer Hutt. The Clubhouses also recruit volunteers through their own industry networks and contacts.

Recording studio

They also have a recording studio that is popular with the large number of teens who want to sing.

When the Daily Encourager visited, Liam, 10, was using a 3D printer. He’s also a keen drummer and is learning video editing. He goes to Clubhouse after school two days a week. Search Heavy Dirty Soul Drum Cover Liam Gamez  click here

Eli, 12, plays keyboard and enjoys using Clubhouse computer programs for music composition. He’d like to have a career in that field but would probably have to go overseas for it.

This student uses Clubhouse equipment to choose tracks for his next stint as a DJ at a community event.

Qianyun, 12, hand draws impressive anime characters and would like to study art at university. Born in China, her family speak Mandarin and Cantonese at home so Clubhouse provides extra opportunity for her to practise her English.

Benchmarking in place

The mix of students at Clubhouse in Lower Hutt is about 60 per cent boys and 40 per cent girls.

Denise says an ongoing challenge is to get more girls involved as many shy away from the sciences.

Average daily attendance is 20 to 25 at each site. Overall, about 400 students are involved.

Every six months the two sites are benchmarked against the rest of the world.

Every two years the Clubhouses take part in a world survey that also allows a comparison to be made to the previous results. In last year’s Lower Hutt survey 98 per cent of those who took part said they cared more about doing things at school because of Clubhouse.

They said Clubhouse staff also encouraged them not to drop out of school but to focus on future goals.

Some 97 per cent believed they would use the skills they learned through Clubhouse in a future career. Seventy-three per cent want to study STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and manufacturing) in the future because of their involvement with Clubhouse.

That figure was up 10 per cent on 2015.

Ninety-five per cent believed Clubhouse adults genuinely cared about them and their wellbeing.

Denise says some of the students don’t get to spend much time with parents who are often away from home for long times because of work, plus significant travel time.

Denise Clarkson says some students feel they are too old for after school care but Clubhouse is a supervised environment their parents are happy with.

Film challenge

A highlight this year was for the Naenae and Taita Clubhouses to take part in a 48-hour film challenge. One of the Taita alumni, now at Toi Whakaari, Kaisa Fa’atui, mentored the Taita entry.

Naenae Clubhouse was the national winner of the poster competition for their film.

Each team had to create a five-minute film from scratch. They had to write it, obtain costumes, act, film, and edit their work.

Neither made the finals but Naenae Clubhouse was again nominated for Best Original Song and, this year, also for Best Use of Silhouette.

Naenae was the national winner of a competition for a promotional poster for their film. Naenae was also nominated for best original song. Denise says being nominated was incredible.

Last year for the Hutt Winter Festival Clubhouse, the students did an illuminating bike tour of intriguing historical sites in Naenae. They then turned their tour into a podcast that is available on their website.

Taita Community Constable, Kieran Upton, is full of praise for Clubhouse.

These kids have access to equipment that I would not have dreamed of in my own teenage years.

“Not only is it occupying them and keeping them busy but they are clearly getting a massive educational advantage should they wish to pursue a career in any of those fields.

“If they go on to study film or music then they have the opportunity to go into it with several years’ worth of practical experience as a foundation.”

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For more information:

To find the Naenae and Taita Clubhouses on Facebook click here for Naenae and Taita .

For the international Clubhouse site click here

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