Fishing for knowledge connects ākonga to their local place

Issue: Volume 101, Number 9

Posted: 21 July 2022
Reference #: 1HAV6B

Ngata Memorial College is using local cross-curriculum projects to hook Years 9 and 10 students into learning without them even knowing.

 Working together on a huge 10-metre by 3.5-metre traditional fishing net was challenging and rewarding for Reipuia, Fantasia, Uepare, Ngakau and Cheydin.

Working together on a huge 10-metre by 3.5-metre traditional fishing net was challenging and rewarding for Reipuia, Fantasia, Uepare, Ngakau and Cheydin.

Peter Heron, principal of small rural area school Ngata Memorial College, says there was some different thinking at the end of last year when planning projects for 2022.

Fast forward to end of term 2 and the results of that planning are clear; ākonga in Years 9 and 10 have achieved many competencies across multiple subject areas through exploration of mātauranga Māori in a local context.

Term 1 was themed Maunga te Moana and ākonga made traditional Māori fishing nets from local resources. And in term 2, themed Matariki, they made hinaki (eel pots).

Execution of the mahi involved a new approach to the school day; students start with maths, English and science, then moved to project groups for the afternoon lessons. These have been a blend of subjects, the first of te reo Māori, social studies and food technology, and the second of art and technology.

The term theme is also incorporated into the core subject lessons.

“It is a way our students learn without realising they are in a formal lesson,” says Peter.

Harnessing local knowledge

The nets have relevance for the East Coast students.

“Nearly all of our students will have food from the local area every week, whether it be kaimoana or food from hunting,” says Peter.

“There is a huge interest in how and where food comes from. Doing a project like this makes it relevant for the children while they gain key competencies.”

Peter says ākonga loved making the nets, and there have been many positive impacts across the school day.

“We no longer have wanderers in the afternoon as the traditionally tough subjects are over in the morning and the afternoon is engaging them in a local curriculum.”

At the same time students learned traditional practices that go together with the nets, such as saying a karakia to Tangaroa before going fishing.

Peter adds that they also gained a range of key competencies such as relating to others, teamwork, measurement, using natural resources and how to treat them before use.

Students are also realising their Māori knowledge is actually an advantage in terms of connectedness to the whenua and the environment,“especially in this huge space in the world now, in terms of environmental awareness.”

Making the Maui Kupenga

Art teacher Lionel Matenga and technology teacher Wayne Palmer are passionate about the traditional projects.

To make the 10-metre by 3.5 metre Maui Kupenga and some smaller Kohokehe Kupenga (net on a long pole), the first step was to find and prepare the resources.

“There is a process to prepare the harakeke (flax), the manuka for the poles and supplejack vine,” says Lionel.

Another side is learning the karakia and aligning the type of waiata to go with the project.

“We also focused on tikanga to maintain and uphold our old people while creating the taonga,” he says.

Lionel was taught how to make the nets by a kuia at Tuparoa, near Ruatoria. She would tell him how her family used them.

Wayne showed students a picture of his tipuna Apiranga Urupa-Pipi, a barefoot figure among a gathering at the mouth of the Waiapu river 80–100 years ago with the same design kupenga.

Lionel has loved the mahi but says keeping 25 students focused was a challenge.

“Some groups were really engaged and stayed engaged and others we had to encourage,” he says.

“The team-teaching made it manageable. The collaboration made it so we could leverage a lot of learning off one theme,” adds Wayne.

On the tech side, students learn traditional kai gathering tools and techniques, the dos and don’ts, and learn about materials used.

During term 2, ākonga made hinaki using modular steel mesh and high tensile wire and comparing them. This linked to mathematics with perimeters and area calculations.

“The students can’t wait to take them home and get eels.”

Making the huge kupenga was a “mammoth task”, but Lionel says the group really gelled.

“It was the length of our room. Rocks are woven along the bottom to hold it down and pumice is braided into the top of the opening.”

All the nets will get used – the production line was a bit too slow to hit the right traditional fishing season, but they are ready to go as soon as the time is right.

Ngata Memorial College students with the long pole fishing nets made in traditional ways with natural resources. Toka, Cole, Xavier, Rico, Toihau, Tukaha, Keanu, Zion, Bruce, Trent, Ariki, Naomi, Pearl, Stevii, Aali, Karma and Charlotte are pictured looki

Ngata Memorial College students with the long pole fishing nets made in traditional ways with natural resources. Toka, Cole, Xavier, Rico, Toihau, Tukaha, Keanu, Zion, Bruce, Trent, Ariki, Naomi, Pearl, Stevii, Aali, Karma and Charlotte are pictured looking very proud of their mahi.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:25 AM, 21 July 2022

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