A day with Harold

Educator Laura Campbell tells us what it's really like to spend each day on a safari with our favourite giraffe.

Every day at Life Education, Harold heads off on an adventure to meet more Kiwi kids. And so do our educators! Laura Campbell, Educator for Life Education Trust Wairarapa, Tararua and Central Hawke's Bay, says her days start early when she gets on the road in her little red Harold car.

"I've been teaching since 2011 and always had had a personal passion for mental health and wellbeing. Before joining Life Education, I was a drama teacher. In 2012, I met an educator named Anne Jamieson," says Laura.

Laura with school children

Joining Harold was a special goal

"Anne has been part of the Life Education team for about 30 years. I saw the importance of her work and how much it was impacting the region. She actually allowed me to come into her mobile classroom and see her in action. That inspired me, and I knew then that I'd love to work for Life Education Trust at some stage in my life."

Now, Laura begins her working day by heading to her mobile classroom. In fact, it’s the very same classroom where Laura herself was once taught as a child a few short decades ago! Depending on where the classroom is set up, the journey can be anywhere from half an hour to several hours. Fortunately, Harold is easy to travel with and usually stretches out quietly in the backseat. Sometimes, Harold and Laura haven't been able to travel together at all because of the social distancing rules.

Warm welcomes

Arriving at the school in the morning is one of the best parts of Laura's day. And Harold's! There's often great fanfare with all the excitement about the Life Education lessons. Kids are regularly waiting with fan mail or handmade cards and hope to sneak a peek at the famous giraffe. But before Harold gets to jump into the spotlight, Laura meets with the school's teachers or kaiako to talk about what she has planned.

Like all our educators, Laura develops a tailored lesson plan for every school she visits. She develops this based on the school's objectives and brings learning to life in Life Education's engaging style.

Once the lessons start, Laura is totally immersed in teaching the children. She brings a huge amount of energy, jumping around and bringing the learning to life. The children's enthusiasm and curiosity the children bring mean that no two lessons are the same.

Students and Harold the Giraffe in the playground

Sometimes there are surprises

Laura says a recent visit to Norsewood school was a highlight. She didn't have the usual tech support of the mobile classroom and its dazzling light displays. However, that didn't dim the experience in any way. Instead, Laura changed up the approach, and it was a huge success!

"Being a former drama teacher, I'm quite good at improvising. And our lesson flow is already driven by the students. You're trying to decentralise the educator. For example, if a student brought up a question, I could open up the floor and then help everyone navigate to an answer. When we're talking together, the kids are super smart as a group.

Laura brings creativity, extensive subject knowledge and careful preparation to her lessons. Between each one, she notes anything she observes and gets ready to give a new group of kids her all. She said Harold is a real 'people person' – for a giraffe. While she's sorting the classroom, he'll often be out in the playground or even doing the morning exercise with kids.

When lessons are finished, Laura is humbled by the way the kids show their appreciation – especially to Harold. But the day's not over yet.

Harold the giraffe takes fitness class

Lots of work behind the scenes

Our high-tech mobile classrooms have to be carefully tidied each day. Giraffes aren't known for their tidying skills, so this bit falls to Laura.

"Preparing and packing up the classroom is a very physical job. There are heavy power cords and stairs, which all need to be stowed away securely," explains Laura.

When the classroom is locked up for the night, Laura and Harold head home, where Harold goes straight to bed. Laura looks forward to being able to spend some time with her young daughters before they head off to bed too.

There’s always a moment of reflection. Laura’s children are among the children who enjoy Laura’s lessons with Harold

“I now have the privilege of educating my own daughters in the same way. It’s come full circle! It’s so bizarre to reflect that as a 5-year old I once sat where my two girls do every second year.”

In the quiet of the evening, Laura gets back to work.

"There's a lot of logistics to be managed that people wouldn't actually think about. We liaise with our volunteer truck drivers to ensure the mobile classrooms are where they need to be. We also keep in touch with schools about future bookings, answer emails, type up lesson plans, update resources and do our own learning.”

“We’re fortunate to have tremendous support from the community, volunteer drivers and the trustees of Life Education. Many of these hardworking locals run their own businesses or juggle busy careers. Without their help behind the scenes, Harold and I wouldn’t be able to do so much.”

A passion for lifelong learning

"Professional development is a focus for everyone at Life Education. We're really lucky," says Laura.

"I've learned so much about things like anatomy and physiology. We also have two conferences a year when all educators gather to hear the latest insights from subject matter experts.”

By the time Laura settles into bed herself, she has helped equip a generation of Kiwis with knowledge for healthy decisions. She's also inspired to do it all over again in the morning. So next time you spot Laura or any of our educators, remember to give her a wave. Although she's not a giraffe, she can certainly stand tall and proud of the difference she's making. Laura and Harold