Past groups

This page will have some of the groups we have run in the past. Some of them might be run again if there is sufficient interest and a facilitator is available.

Stars in Their Eyes             4th Thursday 1:30 pm      In recess

Dr Zhivago 3This new group will complement our Art House Film groups by providing an amazing variety of mainstream English-language movies. The group will be able to choose movies from many genres: dramas, historical fiction, westerns, thriller and classics like Dr Zhivago and Bonnie and Clyde. Each meeting will showcase a different actor or director, people such as Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Robert de Niro and Clint Eastwood. After watching a movie, the group will discuss the movie, the acting style, and other movies of the star or director.

Photographic Expeditions

Have you noticed the wonderful colours in a rusty panel, the patterns made by shadows, the texture of peeling paint? Are you fascinated by the shimmer of light on water, the way lichen colonises a fence post or the intricacy of the centre of a flower? This group will help you to appreciate the beauty around us. You don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to take really interesting photos.Members shared their knowledge and there was lots of support as we went out each month to capture some images from the local area. A phone or a simple camera was required.

Understanding Greek and Roman Technology               

greek-and-roman-techAncient Greece and Rome produced some of history’s most creative engineers. In a series of DVDs you will learn how technologies developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans have had a lasting impact on the development of civilisation.  Dr. Stephen Ressler, a former professor at the US Military Academy and a civil engineer, has made his subject very easy to understand by creating models to show just how the technologies worked.  Here is a small sample of the topics covered: siege machines, arches and concrete, roads and bridges, water supply systems, transportation, cranes, grain mills, and the beginnings of urban planning. You will learn about the techniques used in the building of temples, the Pantheon, Roman baths and the Colosseum.

The Adventure of English

This group is looking at the English language, from its humble beginnings to its current pre-eminence as the one global language. In this BBC series, Melvyn Bragg is taking us on a great adventure, full of jealousy, intrigue, and war—against a hoard of invaders, all armed with their own conquering languages, which bit by bit, the speakers of English absorbed.  We have learnt of remarkable people, places, and events: the Norman invasion, “The Canterbury Tales”, Shakespeare, who added 2,000 words to the language, the songs of slaves, and the Lewis and Clark expedition, which led to hundreds of new words as the explorers discovered unknown flora and fauna. This is an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade.

Shakespeare Group

John Cleese

We are showing DVDs made by the BBC in the 1980s, which are very interesting with many young actors “fresh out of drama school”. Many have faded into obscurity, but others are still seen today maybe only in TV roles but others in films and some stage work. We see Helen Mirren as Cymbeline, John Cleese in the Taming of the Shrew, Ben Kingsley as Shylock etc. We enjoy the subtitles and find them extremely helpful. Because the group has been going 2 years we have seen at least half of the plays.

Science Group

Rise of the ContinentsMembers are watching the BBC series, The Rise of the Continents which demonstrates how their formation has fundamentally shaped each of our continents’ characters – transforming evolution, forging their economic riches and changing the course of human history. Professor Iain Stewart reveals how the world around us is full of clues – in the rocks, the landscapes and even the animals.

This series will be supplemented by Wonders of the Solar System, an award-winning series of five episodes, each focusing on an aspect of the solar system.

Opera Groups

Anna Netrebko Don PasqualeThe two opera groups meet to view and discuss a different opera or a different production of an opera each month. Our operas vary from light-hearted comedies to serious drama.

Those who are not already familiar with the opera usually read the synopsis in advance. Then we sit back at our meeting and enjoy the sheer pleasure of watching world-class opera together. We love the complete experience – the synthesis of glorious music, wonderful singing and acting and spectacular staging. There’s a 30 minute coffee break along the way and we usually finish around 5 pm.


cooking cr 3Nobody expects you to be a master chef in this group. Participants roll their sleeves up and have a lot of fun learning to cook simple, tasty dishes in the facilitator’s home kitchen.   Sometimes they share the meal they have cooked but sometimes they prepare a dish which can be finished off at home that night or stored in the freezer.

The aim is to enable members to expand the range of dishes they are confident to prepare on their own.

Natural History

Blue footed boobyMembers watch the excellent BBC Natural History Collection 2. The Life series travels to the frontiers of the natural world for 130 stories of fauna.  Life in Cold Blood reverses the notion that cold-blooded life forms are less interesting than hot-blooded ones.  Ganges, set in India, looks at how that river has shaped the culture and wildlife of its parent country.  Wild China reveals a land of huge complexity, from the Himalayas to the barren steppe, the sub-Arctic to tropical islands with many mysterious, beautiful and rare creatures to discover. Galapagos takes us to an area where the creation and extinction of species are more intertwined than anywhere else on the planet.

Local History Opua

paihia_village_outingThis group is based in Opua. We visit sites of local historical interest usually with guest speakers. For instance Bishop Te Haara of the Maori Anglican Church told us about the battle of Ohaeawai at nearby St Michael’s Church, Bill Cherrington talked about the history of Taumarere at St Andrew’s Church in Taumarere, and Dianne Paterson of Purerua enriched our visit to Marsden Cross.

Political Ideologies             

Politics graphicsWe may not all be political activists or even think much about politics but we all believe certain things about how we should treat the sick or deal with crime or share resources. Political ideologies offer answers to the questions of how we ought to live together in society.  However, as we well know, there is no universal consensus on the ideal form of government.

Through discussion, reading and video clips, members of this group explore the differences between democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes and build an understanding of the core beliefs of the world’s mainstream political ideologies – liberalism, conservatism, democratic socialism, communism and fascism.  The only restriction on their lively discussions is that they do not try to promote any one ideology as superior to others.

I Spy     Tui in tree

The I Spy group will visit local habitats to look for, identify, and learn more about
the birds, wildlife, trees, plants and geological features of our area.  Visits are tailored to the interests of group members.  From time to time, local experts may be asked to speak to the group on their specialist topic. You do not need to be an expert to join this group but, if you are, you will be very welcome to share your knowledge with the rest of the group.

Computers and Cameras                   

photographerEach month we have a chosen subject for photographs and we compare these at the next meeting. The computer side is quite general and usually consists of answering member’s questions, and helping members with computer problems. We also discuss news items of interest relating to technology. This is very much a sharing group as we come to grips with new technology.

Creative Writing

writing handThis is a friendly, supportive group. At present members spend time on both “creative writing” and on units from the U3A Online course, “My Life Story”. Each month a topic is chosen and members develop the idea in their own way. We all read our writing to the group for comment and helpful suggestions. Sometimes we do short, fun exercises to sharpen up our creativity or we critique a piece of writing from outside publications. Numbers are kept small to allow for lots of discussion.

Sketching for Beginners 

sketchingThis group is primarily for beginners but those with more experience can be catered for. The aim is for participants to achieve the ability to create drawings in six sessions using a simple still life study. They will learn about hand-eye co-ordination, how to ‘see’ objects objectively, perspective without tears, how to place groups of objects convincingly on the page and how to complete the ‘optical illusion’ with tonal graduation. There will be examples from working artists and insider tips along the way.

Carry on Sketching

This is a continuation of last year’s Sketching For Beginners.  The original group, of mostly absolute beginners, was taken through the basics of representational drawing and they made significant progress culminating in a complete still-life study.We then moved on to landscape drawing with an emphasis on vegetation and picture composition. 2015 will start with figure studies.Most of the work has been in pencil with the group also introduced to charcoal and pen wash techniques. There will be continuing emphasis         on broadening the range of technical mediums.

History of Ireland groups

ca 1100 Shrine of St Patrick's Bell ca 500We are taking a guided tour through Irish history, led by our facilitator who researches each topic and shares what she has discovered. Slide shows, segments of TV documentaries and videos of lectures by Irish experts are used. We have travelled from around 8,000 BC to the middle of the 20th century when most of Ireland became an independent democratic republic.

In 2015, we learnt about more recent history, including the Civil Rights Movement and The Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement and the Celtic Tiger.

Western Civilisation


The Lacemaker by Jan Vermeer

At our group meetings we watch a video episode of Kenneth Clarke’s TV series, Civilisation. This title is somewhat misleading as it only covers Western civilisation and does not include Asian or other civilisations. We intersperse Simon Schama’s videos on the Power of Art at some of the meetings. After viewing we have a general discussion amongst members; this is often very interesting with different views expressed. We also send out ‘Notes’ prior to each meeting with a brief summary of the episode to be shown and some links to various subjects contained in the next video.

 C20th NZ History – a personal view

NZ Women's vote stampBased on New Zealand documentaries collected over the years, this is an opportunity to relive some of the significant events which established New Zealand as an independent nation.  The 1890s saw the first New Zealand-born Prime Minister, Richard Seddon and the first nation to give women the vote.  The 20th century saw us come of age and take our place in the wider world.  This is a nostalgic journey through the period.

Greek Odyssey

The Oxford Dictionary defines an odyssey as “a series of wanderings, a long adventurous Greek vasejourney”. Using several series of DVDs, we are looking at the history of Ancient Greece starting with the Minoans, wandering on to Homer and Troy and then travelling further on in time.

The German archaeologist, Ernst Curtius, wrote, “It is irrelevant how many centuries may separate us from a bygone age. What matters is the importance of the past to our intellectual and spiritual existence.” So we will be sidetracked, whether it is making our own clay Linear B tablets or watching a French comic opera based on Helen of Troy’s abduction.


DNA ;abA keen interest and a desire to learn more are all that is required for members of this group who will gain a good foundation on which to base their understanding of this subject. They will learn about genes, chromosomes, basic rules of inheritance, molecular biology, genetic diseases, genetic testing and forensics, gene regulation and epigenetics, cloning, GM crops and animals, sexual differentiation and development, gene therapy, designer babies and tailor-made medicines. Our facilitator for this fascinating topic has an extensive academic and research background in genetics.

  Mysteries of Human Behaviour

51UUCy4gngL._AA300_This group is based on a Great Courses DVD, The Mysteries of Human Behaviour. It looks
at many fascinating aspects of human behaviour in a series of presentations by Professor Mark Leary of Duke University in North Carolina. He will explore theories and research to learn why humans act the way they do and discover how some behaviours, which may be difficult to understand today, make sense when considering the problems our ancestors faced. It promises to answer lots of questions we may have already considered and many more we have not.
For example: Where do people’s personalities come from?


A Short History of ProgressThe members of this group have enjoyed reading and discussing several books over recent years which can be loosely categorised under the heading “Exploration”. This may include physical exploration or exploration of the ways in which societies have worked.  Books have included Gavin Menzies’ books on early navigation such as The Lost Empire of Atlantis.  In 2016 the book is Ronald Wright’s “A Short History of Progress”. We take turns reading aloud from these books, stopping to discuss points of interest over our delicious morning coffee. From time to time we view relevant excerpts from various DVDs. Members take turns leading the meetings.

The History of Food                                        

foodPerhaps we are inclined to take food for granted but over the centuries it has had an enormous influence on settlement, migration, politics and much more. This fascinating food story starts with the end of the last Ice Age and deals with food in each location, where higher cultures developed that left some records of their food consumption and agriculture.

It moves through the Middle Ages, the age of seafaring and discovery, touches on history and social history, food fashions, changes in the cost of food items, multiple uses of various food items and lastly, some health considerations resulting from changes in eating and drinking patterns.



The Thinker – by Auguste Rodin

Welcome to our group where the disciplines of metaphysics and metaethics are examined. Don’t let these terms freak you out; metaphysics is simply everything that cannot be recognised by the physical things known through the senses. Metaethics is the moral properties of right and wrong attributed to these metaphysical things. Central to our enquiries is trying to understand how we seem to know immediately if an action is right or wrong. An instance of this is when we are confronted with an act of wanton cruelty to innocent, sentient beings we have an immediate feeling of horror and disgust.

 Poetry for Pleasure

Poetry BooksMembers meet to share with others the poetry they enjoy.  They may choose to read the works of one poet or look at poems on a theme such as landscape, romance or humour.  They may look at the poetry of a particular era or at collections of poetry from New Zealand.  These choices are driven very much by the interests of group members.