Former students return to drive passion for science and Māoritanga

Issue: Volume 103, Number 2

Posted: 22 February 2024
Reference #: 1HAfC_

Pūhoro STEMM Academy is fostering an environment where ākonga develop a passion for science and pride in their Māoritanga. Described as a kaupapa that supports ākonga, cheers for them, and provides them with a range of opportunities, the mahi is having a significant impact. In this follow up article, we kōrero with the kaihautū who are leading ākonga on this pathway after completing the journey themselves.

Students at the first Te Tai Tokerau Wānanga held in 2023.

Students at the first Te Tai Tokerau Wānanga held in 2023.

The success of Pūhoro STEMM Academy is reflected in those who have been through the programme.

Ākonga – past and present – speak highly of their time with Pūhoro, saying it always felt like there was someone in their corner.

The secondary-school phase of the kaupapa – Te Urunga Tū – supports ākonga in Years 11–13 by placing each year level group with a dedicated kaihautū who will follow them through their final three years at secondary school.

From ākonga to kaihautū

Amber Te Tau and Annaleise Faint were once students, navigating their school journey with the support and guidance of their Pūhoro kaihautū, Leland Ruwhiu and Apiata Tipene.

Now, they’re the ones providing the support for tauira.

Both Amber and Annaleise joined Pūhoro in 2017 while students at Palmerston North Girls’ High School. Amber was in Year 12, and Annaleise was in Year 11.

Annaleise Faint, kaihautū.

Annaleise Faint, kaihautū.

Amber became a kaihautū after tutoring students in the kaupapa while she was studying a genetics degree at Massey University. Meanwhile Annaliese stepped into the role in 2021.

They say being part of Pūhoro when they were students has given them a unique perspective as kaihautū.

“I can see a lot of myself in a lot of the students that I work with. And that’s something that I find exciting because I know that my journey has been positive and successful, and I know that with the support we provide,
I can now make that happen for other tauira as well,” says Amber.

Annaleise says she had only been out of school for just over a year before becoming a kaihautū, which helped her relate to students.

“It was like, hey, I’ve just done that assessment. Here is some stuff that I’ve done for it. Here are some resources I was able to find for it. So that’s always helpful,” she says.

Culturally anchored opportunities

Locwood Ruwhiu, principal kaihautū.

Locwood Ruwhiu, principal kaihautū.

Locwood Ruwhiu, principal kaihautū, says Pūhoro plays an important role in providing a “culturally anchored platform” which nurtures rangatahi passion for STEM through exposure, wānanga and the many other events the programme provides.

“When I talk about that deep sense of belonging, a lot of our students don’t feel that way when they join the kaupapa. We do a lot of building that connection and helping them realise their tupuna – they were scientists, they were engineers, they built waka that travelled the oceans, they built whare that housed their hapū, they knew the best time to harvest and plant kai and fish,” he says.

Annaleise says Pūhoro opened the door to many opportunities. In 2018 she went on a trip to Houston where she met astronauts at NASA and connected with members of the indigenous community.

She also attended the New Zealand Defence Force Camp, participated in Hackathon and once she left secondary school she completed three internships with Pūhoro.

The first was at Fonterra where she worked alongside engineers. She then interned at Bragato Research Institution where she worked with scientists and chemists to learn about keeping diseases off vineyards. Her final internship was at the University of Otago where she worked with Dr Simone Bayer looking at the effect of kiwifruit on gastrointestinal disease.

Pūhoro kaihautū Amber Te Tau with student Quitara who is studying health sciences this year.

Pūhoro kaihautū Amber Te Tau with student Quitara who is studying health sciences this year.

“I’m not sure if I’d be able to do what I’m doing without Pūhoro backing me, or without the opportunities I’ve been lucky enough to get within Pūhoro.”

Quitara Naera, who completed her final year at Feilding High School in 2023 and is now studying first year Health Sciences, says Pūhoro opens students’ eyes to the range of career options in STEM.

 “A lot of my friends who are Māori, they don’t see that they have potential to succeed in STEM. So, I think it’s a good kaupapa to show them that they can do it, and that they are capable.”

Jess Matthews, a kaihautū for the Pūhoro tertiary, trades and forces phase Te Urunga Pae.

Jess Matthews, a kaihautū for the Pūhoro tertiary, trades and forces phase Te Urunga Pae.

Jess Matthews, a kaihautū for the Pūhoro tertiary, trades, and forces phase Te Urunga Pae, says it’s “very common” for students in the kaupapa to choose a STEM pathway after secondary school.

“I would probably say it’s about 50/50 for a lot of them, if not more. One half of them will go to STEM, the other half will work or go to defence forces. One thing we saw an increase in last year is the number of rangatahi wanting to go onto the defence forces. The camps are a huge part of that,” she says.

Embracing Māoritanga

Annaleise says prior to being part of Pūhoro, all she knew about her whakapapa was that she was Ngāti Kahungunu. The support she had from Pūhoro to reconnect with her culture was the most significant impact on her life, she says.

“Growing up I had no connection to te ao Māori so learning where I’m from and what it means to be Māori, it completely changed my life and my family’s. My mum started doing te reo Māori classes just from my interest in Pūhoro.”

She says it was her trip to Houston that helped her reconnect.

“We were just driving back from an amusement park over there and my kaihautū, Api, he went around everyone in the van and was like ‘what’s your iwi? Oh, this is a story of your people.’ He got to Kahungunu and he was talking about how he got his wife Rongomaiwahine. That was the first time I learned Kahungunu was a person and that I am a descendant of him.”

Annaleise says from that point, Apiata continued to support her to connect with her whakapapa. On top of that, being part of Pūhoro also enabled her to visit marae and experience pōwhiri.

“Even though I was like ‘I have no idea what I’m doing, this is my first time doing this,’ we felt really safe because they taught us everything we needed to know.”

Pūhoro kaihautū Amber Te Tau with student Gabby who graduated in 2023.

Pūhoro kaihautū Amber Te Tau with student Gabby who graduated in 2023.

Gabby Hillas completed her last year at Palmerston North Girls’ High School in 2023 and is studying for a Bachelor of Agribusiness this year. She says Amber, who was her kaihautū, has helped reaffirm her Māoritanga.

“She was helping me look at scholarships and I didn’t even think to look at my iwi because I haven’t been immersed in it. But she said when she was applying for scholarships, she was in the same boat and just because you hadn’t been immersed in your culture or grown up on your marae, it doesn’t mean you’re any less a part of your iwi.”

Quitara says the same of Amber and the Pūhoro team.

“They’ve really shown me that being Māori is an asset and being Māori in STEM is important. They’ve really helped me gain that sense of belonging as a Māori student in STEM pathways,” she says.

Pūhoro ‘has our back’

“No matter what we’re doing, or what we’re going through, we knew we had not only our kaihautū backing us up, but all of Pūhoro, which I think was mint.”

That’s how Annaleise sums up the support she had from Pūhoro during her time as a student – and she’s not alone.

Quitara says being part of Pūhoro means having “aunties and uncles” that come to your aid.

Amber Te Tau, kaihautū.

Amber Te Tau, kaihautū.

“There have been heaps of times where I’ve messaged my kaihautū Amber and been like ‘I’m stuck, please help’ and they’ve just come in and saved me all the time,” she says.

Amber says Pūhoro is a “really important” movement.

“Breaking those barriers, disrupting the narrative, all the things we used to quote all the time are very much true.”

Pūhoro carves out STEMM pathways for ākonga Māori

Science resources shaped by te ao Māori

A collection of educational materials is showcasing bio-culturally informed science resources that aim to bridge the gap between science education and real-world applications in Aotearoa, and to empower ākonga to think critically and holistically.

Tere Porter-Rawiri (Te Ātiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Mutunga), a Master’s student and research assistant at Te Kawa a Māui School of Māori Studies, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, has written a collection of seven educational materials based on key research findings.

Under New Zealand’s Biological Heritage – Ngā Koiora Tuku Iho National Science Challenge, a research team led by Professor Phil Lester, Associate Professor Ocean Mercier (Ngāti Porou), and Research Fellow Symon Palmer (Ngāi Te Rangi) gauged Māori views on novel tools and strategies for invertebrate pest control like RNA interference (gene silencing).science resouce

This gave rise to the concept of developing an educational tool that offers insights into RNA interference technology through a te ao Māori lens.

“What surfaced from our research is the importance of a tikanga standpoint on this very complex conversation,” says Symon.

Associate Professor Sara Tolbert from the University of Canterbury has emphasised the long-standing need for additional resources in the science curriculum, empowering ākonga to develop critical evaluation skills and apply scientific knowledge along with other forms of knowledge.

A sense of connection

Tere’s transition from NCEA biology to university genetics courses revealed a substantial gap in her secondary school education. Her university courses were more engaging as they offered contemporary scientific topics and made the significance of te ao Māori in science very clear.

Tere reflects, “I would have found these resources valuable as a Māori student studying NCEA sciences. The resources demonstrate how to apply cultural concepts, promoting a strong sense of connection for ākonga in approaching learning from a unique perspective.”

In addition to the informative articles, the research team’s collaboration with the Science Learning Hub allowed them to create an activity that encourages scientifically informed responses and offers teachers practical ideas for using the content in their classrooms.

“Our resources aim to encourage classroom discussions that include te ao Māori concepts, supporting ākonga to appreciate different forms of knowledge,” says Tere.

Curriculum links

Tere says the resources align with Living World – Evolution at levels 7 and 8, and Nature of Science – Participating and Contributing at levels 5 to 8.

“These resources prompt ākonga to consider cultural and societal perspectives to make a science-informed response to the use of RNAi for pest control in Aotearoa.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:48 am, 22 February 2024

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