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NZ Army: Cambridge teacher brings his outdoor survival skills to classroom

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Matangi School teacher and New Zealand Army Reserve Force Private Mitchell Pettit is teaching Matangi School students how to tie double knots with harakeke plants and create a washing line at Bush School. Photo / New Zealand Defence Force

Matangi School teacher and New Zealand Army Reserve Force Private Mitchell Pettit, 28, is bringing a slice of Army life into the classroom.

Pettit, of Cambridge, has started a fortnightly Bush School programme where he is teaching outdoor survival skills to his class of primary school students.

“The kids found out I served in the Reserve Force and were keen to hear about [my]… experiences and learn some of the skills we picked up in the Army, so I started a Bush School with the Year 3-4 syndicate.

“It’s a bit of fun for us all, and they’re picking up some really valuable skills at the same time.”

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So far, they’ve been shown how to build and light a fire and taught fire safety, as well as how to construct a basic shelter and washing line.

They’ve also made model trenches out of shoe boxes, and been shown how to tie various knots.

On average, five people die and more than 6600 injuries occur every year while tramping or hiking, according to data from the NZ Mountain Safety Council.

Pettit hoped his students could now avoid getting into trouble outdoors with some basic bushcraft knowledge.

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Bringing a slice of the army into the classroom also helped the kids understand history better.

“Explaining some of the terminology to the kids in simplified terms gives them a much better understanding around Anzac Day and the Army too.”

Private Mitchell Pettit training as part of Exercise El-Alamein earlier this year with the 3/6 Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. Photo / Sargeant Williams, New Zealand Defence Force
Private Mitchell Pettit training as part of Exercise El-Alamein earlier this year with the 3/6 Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. Photo / Sargeant Williams, New Zealand Defence Force

Pettit has been a teacher for six years and has served in the Reserve Force, with the 3/6 Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, for more than two years.

With his regiment, he was also part of the team assisting with the Cyclone Gabrielle response in Thames.

“I didn’t know anyone in the military when I joined, but now I look forward to catching up with my Army mates at training. I’ve loved the experience so far and am looking forward to developing my military skills further.”

With his Bush School, he also sparked interest in some of his students to join the Defence Force in the future.

“Some of the students in my class are starting to talk about joining the Reserve Force to learn some of the skills that I have picked up.”

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