Historic Jack's Mill School today
Image: Shellie Evans | ©


Visit one of the quirkiest sites on the West Coast – a miniature bungalow designed, built and furnished entirely by school children.

A new approach to education

The school was opened c1909 in the small saw-milling settlement of Kotuku. Little distinguished it from any other rural school until 1935 when Edward Darracott was appointed headmaster. He was an advocate of a new approach to education in New Zealand, which emphasised experiential learning tailored to the needs of individual children.

Considered revolutionary, Darracott gave his students hands on projects to teach them practical skills that would equip them for adult life. Making over the school’s garden was the first task.

Once the garden was complete, Darracott’s philosophy of experiential learning was realised on a much more ambitious scale when he led a group of 10-12 year old students to design, build and furnish a small bungalow, built to three quarter size. Students were involved in all aspects of its construction. They even sourced three quarter size interior appliances including a bath tub, hot water cylinder, stove, kitchen sink and kitchen units.

When finished the bungalow was fully functional, complete with electricity and running water.It was used as the home economics room until the close of the school in 1955.

Conserving the bungalow

DOC purchased the school in 2004 and it was made a historic reserve in recognition of its national historic significance. The official opening of the site attracted over 200 people, including former students who were involved in the original design and building of the bungalow.

The Kotuku Heritage Society now manages the school. Largely made up of ex-students, the group has been instrumental in restoring and maintaining the site.

Visit the school

On Sundays the buildings are open to visitors from 2-5 pm (entry by donation).

Throughout the rest of the week visitors can inspect the grounds during daylight hours.

Tours can be arranged; contact the Kotuku Heritage Society on +64 3 738 0049 or email kotukuheritage@gmail.com.

Getting there

The small town of Kotuku is a 25 minute drive inland from Greymouth, near the northern end of Lake Brunner. The school is just off the road between Stillwater and Inchbonnie.

Drive inland from Greymouth on SH7 for 14 km until you reach Stillwater. Turn right onto the Arnold Valley Road to Moana and Inchbonnie. Drive for approximately 17 km until you come to Blair Road and turn left (before Moana and Lake Brunner.)

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