A Very ‘Smart’ Library – Tūranga

We were privileged to host Christchurch East School for our first two-day school in Tūranga, a programme called ‘Smart’ City. Christchurch is the City Of Opportunity where new, advanced technology is helping the city use resources more efficiently.

This was the focus of our programme, looking specifically at the advanced technology in the library. Jack Hartley, the Operations Support Coordinator, gave Christchurch East students an in-depth, behind the scenes tour to discuss the range of sensors used within the building.

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Little did we know there was an enormous aquifer underneath the site heating and cooling the building, or that the solar panels angle with the sun to adjust the temperatures and automate the blinds.

Our students used Microbit electronics to create their own sensors. They then filmed each floor using a 360 degree camera to capture the variety of sensors used. The footage collected was then uploaded as a virtual tour.


If you want to know more about two day school programmes please contact Christchurch City Libraries Learning Centre, phone 941 5140, email learningcentre@ccc.govt.nz

QEII Park: Past, present, and future

Do you remember the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch? I do. I was on holidays and watched John Walker setting records on the track, while next door in the same complex, the Canadians and the Australians collected medals in the pool. My husband and his brother were in Christchurch and when they could, they caught the bus to Cathedral Square so they could get autographs from the athletes.

Years later, I moved to Christchurch. I never ran on the athletics track, but I did go swimming in the pool. I think I set a record for the slowest lap. I didn’t mind too much. I just enjoyed swimming in the pool where records were set all those years ago.

The park was damaged beyond repair in the 22nd February 2011 earthquake. For a long time, the site was a collection of broken buildings and long grass.

One day I drove by, and noticed some activity. Construction vehicles were unloading gravel and the site was being cleared.  Finally, good news – the site was going to become the new location for Avonside Girls High School and Shirley Boys’ High School. Two lovely new schools in our neighbourhood. That’s just part of it. A new Sport and Recreational facility and a re-built Christchurch School of Gymnastics are also planned.

On Sunday, 25th March, there was an open day, where we had the opportunity to meet with council recreation staff and school staff. The buildings are still under construction, so we couldn’t go inside, but we walked around the damaged golf course and tried to remember how it was and dream of new uses of the space. The golf course was a lot bigger than I remembered, and in places it had become quite swampy. It was amazing how quickly the course had gone wild.

Walk around the old QEII Golf course, 25 March 2018, DSC_2215, Photo by Val Livingstone
QEII open day, 25 March 2018, Ideas board, DSC_2225, Photo by Val Livingstone

What will we have? Have your say. The Council is asking for your feedback (until Sunday 9 April 2018).

I don’t know what the new park is going to look like, but I’m looking forward to using it again.

SPACifically PACific Polyfest Canterbury 2018

This Saturday I’ll be heading down to the former residential Red Zone in Dallington (on the corner of New Brighton Road & Locksley Ave) with my kids in tow, picnic, rug and chairs for the biggest annual specifically Pacific event this side of the Cook Strait. Saturday will see 730-odd performers from 19 secondary schools from Nelson College all the way down to Ashburton College take the stage to showcase the hours of hard work they have put in to refining every last movement and note.

Polyfest 2018 school performance times

This event has grown from strength to strength in the past few years with the hard work of some very dedicated teachers, parents, volunteers and agencies. The Pasifika population holds the youngest median age in the diverse populations of New Zealand, so it is best fitting that our Pasifika youth celebrate this on stage.

For a taste of what to expect you can view videos of performances from previous Polyfests on YouTube.

Make your way down to the red zone and expect to have your senses assaulted as you witness the graceful movement, rhythmic drums, enticing scent of warm coconut buns and chop suey, and the “chee-hoo!” of Pasifika celebration. Check out the performance order to make sure that you don’t miss out on your favourite group!

Find out more

Jan-Hai Te Ratana
South Learning Centre

The Normal School, Cranmer Square, Christchurch: Picturing Canterbury

The Normal School, Cranmer Square, Christchurch [192-?0]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0010.
In Apr. 1873 the Canterbury Board of Education held a design competition for a projected normal school. The winner was S.C. Farr (1827-1918), a Christchurch architect, with a revised Gothic design. When the Normal School was completed in 1874 at a cost of £14,269, the Montreal Street wing measured 145 ft. and the Kilmore Street wing, 244 ft. The builder was Daniel Reese and William Brassington (b. 1840) the carver of the stone details.

In 1878 the Montreal Street wing was extended to provide a kindergarten on the ground floor and a training department on the first floor. The architect of the extension was Thomas Cane (1830-1905). In 1924-1925 the Teachers’ College students moved to a building on the corner of Montreal and Peterborough Streets. In 1954 the Normal School was transferred to Elmwood. The old school became the training centre for the Post-Primary Dept of Christchurch Teachers’ College. In 1970 they moved to Ilam and the building became subject to neglect, vandalism and decay. In Sept. 1981 it was sold to an investment company and between then and 1986 was converted to luxury apartments. The Board Room became a restaurant, Grimsby’s. The building was demolished following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes.

Learn more about the architecture and history of the Normal School.

Do you have any photographs of the former Normal School building?  If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Open air classrooms opened at Fendalton Primary School – This week in history 24-30 July

The first open air classroom at Fendalton Primary School was officially opened on the 26th of July 1924 by Mr E.H. Andrews, a member of the Canterbury Education Board. Professor Shelley, who was Professor of Education at Canterbury College, also gave an opening address encouraging the school and committee to continue the project.

By the 1920s most parents were being guided by the Plunket Society to realise the benefits of fresh-air and sunlight for their children and the Christchurch Open-Air League had been able to persuade the Canterbury Education Board to build some open-air classrooms. The most common type was like this one at Fendalton School, Christchurch, where on sunny days, sliding doors allowed one whole wall to be opened to allow in fresh air and sunshine. Each pupil had a desk and chair which could be carried outside in fine weather. The porch on the right-hand side of the photograph served as a cloakroom and shelter-shed
A classroom at Fendalton Open-Air School, Clyde Road, Christchurch, 1928, CCL PhotoCD 7, IMG0025

This first open air classroom was viewed as an experiment in the new educational philosophy that fresh air, good ventilation and sunlight encouraged good health for the students, as well as providing space for exercise.

The classroom was designed by the Headmaster Mr A.R. Blank, M.B.E. and Dr R.B. Phillipps, the Canterbury Schools’ medical officer, along with the architects Ellis and Hall. A new architecture for classrooms was developed to cater to the new philosophy and the Fendalton examples allowed the whole side of a building to be opened up. Using wood as an adaptable building material, rather than brick, was seen as important for this new architecture to enable adaption of the buildings over time to incorporate developing ideas in educational theory.

Photograph of an open air classroom, Fendalton School, Christchurch, taken circa 1924 by an unidentified photographer. Primary school children sit in rows at their desks, facing a teacher and a blackboard.
Creator unknown : Photograph of an open air classroom, Fendalton School, Christchurch. Ref: PAColl-8863. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/23185726

Mr Blank and Dr Phillipps’ belief in the ideals of the Open Air movement was so high that they guaranteed half of the £400 cost from their own pockets, and secured the other half from Christchurch Rotary Club. By opening day £170 had been raised from the public and no money was requested from the Government or Education Board for the experiment. The Department of Education was reported as being skeptical of the potential benefits of this new educational philosophy, but Mr Andrews stated in his opening speech that the Education Board had been misrepresented as being opposed.

Through the 1920s, three additional open air classrooms were built at the Fendalton Primary School. The school was often visited as an example of how open air classrooms could operate including by Dr Truby King, the Department of Education and the British Medical Association.

The Open Air Schools League was established to continue to champion the cause, and they put out a booklet The New Zealand Open-Air School in 1928 using Fendalton as the example of what can be achieved.

If you have any images you would like to contribute to a community repository of Christchurch, please visit Kete Christchurch.

More Christchurch history

To see more of what happened this week in the past, visit our Christchurch Chronology.

Mike McRoberts joins Hillmorton Network News

Hillmorton Network News (HNN) celebrates a great partnership with the South Learning Centre at South Library. This is a partnership that utilises our expertise within the community to assist students to reach otherwise unattainable goals.

HNN students work collaboratively to plan, scriptwrite, film and edit their own stories. These stories celebrate individual successes and that of their school and local community. Each episode is shared to celebrate the school’s culture and to promote pride within the Community.

The Year 8 and 9 students have learned so much and were very excited when I announced our special guest, Mike McRoberts, would be part of our crew for the day.  It was a chance to hear real stories from a TV journalist, about his biggest challenges, his war-torn stories and his Olympic highlights.

Mike, an ex Hillmorton student, shared some tips and tricks when filming and left them with some powerful words – Never give up!

Here is our latest episode :

Mike 4

Mike 3

HNN Celebrates South Library

South Library Learning Centre is celebrating with HNN students (Hillmorton Network News) and Hillmorton High School at their latest TV broadcast. They have just learned how to script-write an interview, film using dual cameras, and edit with keys and cutaways for added interest!

Episode 3 celebrates student, school and community successes. These students could be destined for Weta Studios and might even follow in  Sir Peter Jackson’s footsteps!

Here is their latest work:

In our Learning Centre, students experience e-learning programmes aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum document. These programmes provide learning in a technology-rich environment and the teaching within these programmes keep abreast with the latest teaching philosophies and strategies.

If you are interested in working with us to tailor an existing programme or work alongside us  please contact us Tel: 941 5140 or  Learningcentre@ccc.govt.nz

Amy Alley

typical school classAmy Alley was a school teacher who was an early resident of North New Brighton and aunt to a lively and successful troop of nieces and nephews including Rewi AlleyGwen Somerset,(pioneer of the Play Centre movement), Geoffrey Alley (All Black and National Librarian) Philip Alley (engineering lecturer at Canterbury University) and Joyce Alley (nursing educator and administrator). Amy Alley ‘was a very important looking’ woman. Her nieces and nephews:

… adored her quite without reservation …. She represented all the magic and excitement of holidays and far-away places. But most of all, she gave us all the praise and appreciation we craved. We were her ‘wonderful, clever, lovely nieces’ and ‘manly nephews’; everything we did was worthy of praise and we blossomed under her warmth, feeling we fully deserved it all and more. Possibly she satisfied a deep need as our parents rarely praised us.

In her school teaching days Amy spent some Christmas holidays ‘down South’ among gold diggers near Queenstown and Gabriel’s Gully. Other holidays she spent ‘up North’ among the Maori. It was in the north that she came to admire Rewi Maniapoto, the warrior who would ‘fight on for ever and ever and ever’, and whose Christian name she bestowed on her nephew. Maori boys would find wild horses for Miss Alley and marvel as the excellent horsewoman rode bareback ‘with her golden hair floating behind her in the wind’.

Amy started out as a pupil-teacher, a person who, in her teenage years, took up teaching classes of younger children. She worked long hours, was poorly paid and, before and after school, the headmaster gave her knowledge of the practical side of her craft. She never attended the Normal School in Cranmer Square (where teacher trainees could observe experienced teachers in the classroom). Though she was obviously a skilled classroom practitioner, her ‘E’ status shows that she had few academic qualifications. In 1894 Amy was graded E3 and, by 1907, she was graded E1.

A school of the period Amy was teachingFrom being a pupil-teacher at Papanui, Amy went to the Charteris Bay School with her brother, Frederick. While Frederick taught the older pupils, Amy ‘occasionally taught the infant class in the porch. Although ‘kind and considerate in every way towards the children’, she was prepared to use slightly underhand strategies to get what she wanted. A small boy climbed onto the top of the porch roof. Amy referred to a previous teacher who had been notorious for flogging the pupils: “Come down at once, Arthur. Do you want me to bring Gordon back with his cane?”

Amy was at the Belfast Side School from June 1891 to October 94. Inspectors commented:

The instruction appears quite satisfactory both in method and quality. The teacher shows very considerable interest in her work and in the welfare of her pupils. The children are quiet, orderly and obedient.
April 1894

The small school makes a very pleasing appearance. The pupils, more particularly the boys, are remarkably bright and meet the demands made on them with considerable readiness. They have in Miss Alley a very competent teacher.
September 1894

On 1 November 1894 Amy assumed sole charge of the Eyreton School.

Comments included:

During the year the school has made a marked advance under Miss Alley in many ways. Reading has, in a great measure, been placed on a prominent footing. Writing is very good. In composition much improvement has still to be made and more oral practice in arithmetic would be desirable.
October 1895

Miss Alley’s energy in dealing with the increased attendance commendable. Her teaching is careful and intelligent, the pleasant manner in which it is conducted being noteworthy.
June 1897

… Miss Alley has now acquired considerable skill in the Management of her classes and her sympathetic nature is attractive to the children.
May 1902

On 1 February 1905 Amy took up a position at Belfast. Inspectors commented:

The mistress devotes herself unsparingly to the best interest of her charges, keeping high ideals in view, and the progress made is very commendable.
July 1907

Classes taught under bright and cheerful conditions. Methods of instruction show an open mind for up-to-date developments. Pupils make a very successful appearance.

On 1 July 1910 Amy went to Sydenham. Inspectors’ comments continued to be positive.

Scheme of work well considered and comprehensive. Methods highly commendable and pupils receiving a thoroughly sound and liberal training.
August 1910

Work very carefully planned and detailed and thoroughly and skillfully directed. Children receiving a careful training in desirable habits and making good progress.

photographA keen purchaser of land, Amy was an early property owner at North New Brighton. In 1913 a chronicler recalled how, formerly, this area had been known to but a few and how these people sighed ‘again for the former times, when the silence was broken only by the call of the sea-gull and the restless varied music of the surging surf’.

Now, however, progress was taking place, the tramway to the pier had been restored  and people were settling on Bowhill Road.

On each side of Bowhill Road are dwellings nestling amongst shrubs and trees … the gardens in the sand producing flowers and vegetables… of surpassing excellence. On a section … a few chains from the sea was grown a potato crop yielding at the rate of 12 ½ tons per acre. No manure was used other than decayed lupins of which an abundant supply can be obtained. One root gave five pounds of large potatoes and was exhibited in the city.

Reference was made to Amy’s property.

One shack close to the sea … had solved the difficulty of drift-sand…. A schoolmistress owned the place and, by first placing broom or other branches to hold down the sand, and then applying water which is readily obtained at a short depth by driving down a two-inch pipe, the sand hill was made to blossom with ice plants, geraniums and other plants, the moisture assuring an abundance of flowers.

Niece Gwen Somerset Somerset reminisced:

We clambered over sand hills empty except for marram grass to reach her [Amy’s] home. We swept the sand clear of the doors each morning and sometimes oftener depending on the wind. We collected pipis on the beach and ate them for breakfast …. My main memory is of my aunt collecting hordes of cousins and feeding them on Irish stew cooked in kerosene tins.

Gwen’s brother, Philip Alley, recalled how he and his siblings had campfires on the beach. He also remembered strong winds and how the children collected seaweed and put it about the piles of the baches in the hope that this would stop the buildings from being blown away.

Great-nephews and nieces who met the elderly Amy recalled her not as a kindly but, rather, a commanding figure. She was

…a big, tall, woman with patrician features, aquiline nose and short-cut, silvery white hair pulled well away from her face. Even in the warmth of summer days at New Brighton she dressed in black. She provided some extraordinary foods which we disliked – for example, raspberry sago – but which we had to eat. A superb raconteur, she could hold you captive. Perhaps she wasn’t so bad after all.

In 1915, Amy married Herbert Cole. He died two years later and  in 1926, Amy married Edward Mulcock. She died, at 75, in 1944 and was buried at St Paul’s Church cemetery, Papanui.

This information came from Richard Greenaway – an expert on the local history of Christchurch. Some of you might have been on one of his fascinating cemetery tours. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories.


The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies.