Helping tamariki and whānau to thrive

Issue: Volume 99, Number 11

Posted: 16 July 2020
Reference #: 1HA93u

Cultural narratives and whānau transformation are at the heart of Camberley School’s approach to learning and engagement.

Willow and Alexis work on planning their maara/garden.

Willow and Alexis work on planning their maara/garden.

Camberley School in Hastings is taking a cultural narrative approach to its curriculum, learning environment and whānau engagement. It’s an approach that is having a positive impact on its learners and wider community, says principal Amohia Rolls.

From nest to flight

The school’s roll is 90 per cent Māori and Amohia says learners are immersed in cultural narratives and embracing Te Ao Māori world view, which helps to unlock their creative and cultural potential.  

Te ara o te manawa, the school’s Principles of Practice, describe a learning journey that begins with a conceptual understanding phase: Kia Uu, where tamariki unpack their prior knowledge and gain new knowledge that focuses on conceptual understanding. The next step is Kia Ora, where they have good conceptual understanding and can put the learning into practice, so it becomes an applied knowledge. Kia Rere is the concept of flight where tamariki innovate and consolidate their knowledge and take it to another place.

Te Rongo builds a totara tree out of Lego and is learning the whakapapa of totara.

Te Rongo builds a totara tree out of Lego and is learning the whakapapa of totara.

“For example, a student did a study on Māori medicine,” says Amohia. “In Kia Uu she had to understand what it is: what is the medicine, the plants and the trees and cultural practices involved. Under Kia Ora she started to create potions and medicines and from that, she produced her own ointments and oils and labels. For Kia Rere, she took it out into the community and shared it with families. 

“Our learning provides conversation around careers and ways we can use our knowledge and cultural knowledge to create jobs. The kids start to think ‘that’s a cool job!’, ‘how much would this pay?’, ‘where would you grow the plants?’”

Learning environment

The cultural narratives extend to Camberley’s learning environment, which aims to inspire pride in identity. 

Classrooms are whānau-based and named after Māori atua/gods. Students choose which Atua space resonates with them and their learning is based on creatively exploring aspects and characteristics of the Atua. For example, Tanerore Atua represents movement (haka) and this Atua space offers instruments, waiata, haka and whakapapa. 

Hendrix-Lee, Zjontae and Rawiri build a whare out of crates.

Hendrix-Lee, Zjontae and Rawiri build a whare out of crates.

“It’s like a hub room where Atua provocations and inquiry are set up based on students’ interests. Atua time is creative time and cultural play. Everything is based off stories and cultural narratives relating to that Atua following the three-step learning journey: Kia Uu, Kia Ora and Kia Rere.

“They have their mentors working with them and still have reading, writing and maths workshops that are aligned to their needs,” says Amohia.

Beyond the classroom

Tamariki didn’t take to the creative system straight away, but now cultural narratives find their way into every aspect of school life, including playground arguments where characters from the Māori Creation story like Whiro, who liked to stir up trouble, might be referenced, alongside Toroiwaho who was good at communication.

“The children were scared to take risks and actually really struggled with thinking for themselves. It’s definitely changed their confidence and self-esteem. If anything, they now love sharing – they’re so engaged – their enthusiasm is high.”

Supporting the community

A wellbeing space at the school – Rongo Mauri – was developed to support the school’s community. A cultural practitioner and whānau navigator work alongside school staff and agencies to provide support to whānau. Interventions such as Mahi a Atua, which uses traditional stories, are used.

“We use those stories as tools to support our children and our families in times of grief or chaos, to help guide them in the pathway that they want to be on. We don’t have solutions for them, we use the stories as a way to engage and the solutions come from the engagement that happens,” says Amohia.

Journey expresses colour and growth with her artwork.

Journey expresses colour and growth with her artwork.

“It’s about bringing our ancestral practices and using our cultural narratives to be the drivers of change to help people come to their own realisations of reality,” says Amohia. 

The school has organised and been part of  a holistic wellbeing wananga Te Whare AIO based on the Māori model of health and wellbeing Te Whare Tapa Whā (Ministry of Health website)(external link), which has been attended by about 200 people from the school community and services such as Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the New Zealand Police.

“We prioritise the wellbeing of our community and promote indigenous ecosystems that enable whānau to thrive. Everything that we do is with a whānau transformation lens,” explains Amohia. 

Responsive curriculum

“We bring the national curriculum to life at Camberley School by being responsive to the needs, identity, language, culture, interests, strengths and aspirations of our learners and their families,” she adds. 

The school focuses on what supports the progress of its learners by integrating Te Tiriti o Waitangi into classroom learning and helping learners engage with knowledge, values, and competencies so they can become confident and connected lifelong learners.

“Our tamariki are able to find out who they are and who their tupuna were; make those connections and see that potential within themselves,” says teacher Casey Bennett.

To see the Te ara o te manawa model in action, watch this video Responding to Potential on Vimeo(external link). 

Whānau kōrero 

Craig, aged 9

Q: What Atua room are you in and why?

A: My Atua is Urutengangana (god of light) and I’m in there because I want to learn the whakapapa about him and his children. 

Q: What do you like learning most in Atua time?

A: It’s fun learning about who Urutengangana is and his children. We learn about the universe and how Uru and his children helped create it with our other Atua. We create planets, we make stars out of harakeke. 

Q: What do you like most about your school?

A:  I love playing handball and sports. I like that my learning is creative. Our school is a whānau school. 

Hine, parent

Q: How does Camberley School support your whānau?

A: We feel comfortable to come in and ask for support if we need it. Our teachers focus on our kids. It’s all about our kids. Always notified, good communication. 

Q: Do you think it’s important that your tamariki learn about their whakapapa and Māori traditions?

A: Yes, because we don’t know much about our culture. We weren’t taught at school like our kids get taught it. It’s important to learn about  their identity and who they are because it makes you feel good, connected  and stronger as a person . 

Q: Has Camberley School made a difference to your whānau in other ways?

A: Our school provides opportunities for us – they are always keen to help and broker support when we have asked. 

Casey Bennett, teacher Hinerehia (Atua class), Year 3–4  home room teacher

Q:  What do you like most about this teaching approach?  

It’s student focused. Te Ao Māori is our base. Relationships are at the core of everything we do. Our approach is whānau centred. We are all on a journey, we are all learners. 

Q:  What are one or two key things you have learnt from teaching at Camberley School and how have they added to your practice?

A: Cultural responsive pedagogy in practice. Being immersed in a Te Ao Māori setting where everything is embedded, which gives us a deeper understanding of the whole child, tapping into their DNA and teaching to their needs and interests.

Casey Bennett, Lorenzo, Tinaku and Willow experiment with making cleaning products from natural ingredients.

Casey Bennett, Lorenzo, Tinaku and Willow experiment with making cleaning products from natural ingredients.

Local curriculum brings national curriculum to life

Camberley School’s approach is a good example of how a local curriculum can bring The New Zealand Curriculum to life. 

A school’s local curriculum should be unique and responsive to the priorities, preferences, and issues of its community and people, while using the elements of the national curriculum as the framework for the local curriculum. 

At the heart of local curriculum design is including what works and improving learning for all students. It’s an ongoing process that encourages schools to continually challenge and evaluate their ideas, systems, and processes.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:24 PM, 16 July 2020

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