Learning to stand strong in the community

Issue: Volume 102, Number 1

Posted: 2 February 2023
Reference #: 1HAZ8Q

Punahau Early Childhood Care Centre delivers a local curriculum enriched by te ao Māori and te taiao, and from relationships with the community.

 The centre enjoys engaging with the community for events.

The centre enjoys engaging with the community for events.

Picture a team of high school aged basketball players performing their team haka. While they are doing this, a two-year-old girl comes up and tells them they are doing it wrong – that they need to put more heart into it. You might think she is an unusually confident child. You would be wrong. She is confident, but it is nothing unusual if you have attended Punahau Early Childhood Care Centre.

The centre, which opened in 1999, prides itself on instilling a strong sense of self, of turangawaewae, in their tamariki. This ability to develop confident tamariki. is aided by their strong commitment to engaging with the community.

Alicia August, Punahau Centre manager, says they set up as a bilingual kaupapa Māori centre with a vision of engaging whānau, hapū and iwi in education as a pathway to future success.

Their philosophy is to view the child in a holistic way, not just as an individual but as part of an inter-connected community web.

“The way we operate, it’s not just the child that’s coming to the centre – it’s their whānau, the connections to the community, to iwi, hapū, it’s about everything they bring with them,” says Alicia.

To strengthen these ties, the centre engages in active participation within the community to bring about authentic learning for tamariki.. This can involve visits to the local marae, rest homes, taking part in language weeks, visits to kindergartens, and hosting Matariki celebrations.

The idea is that the tamariki can see themselves as valued contributors to the community. This contribution includes taking responsibility for looking after the environment. Alicia gives an example of Sea Week.

“We go for a haerenga to the moana, and we make sure that we take more than we leave. So, if we go there with one packet of biscuits or something for morning tea, when we all leave, we all take two pieces of rubbish with us.”

The centre acts as a community hub by supplying resources for those in need. They approach their community links, such as businesses or other families, to provide clothing, firewood, art packs, and food packages to whānau who require them.

They are very grateful for the support of Muaūpoko tribal authority in being able to supply resources for their community.

Curriculum development has evolved from first looking at the Muaūpoko iwi strategies that relate to education and then linking these to Te Whāriki to provide learning priorities. Each of these priorities, such as a sense of wellbeing and belonging, has separate lists for whānau, tamariki, and kaiako, that outline what the priority would look like for each group.

“We wrote down what it looks like, what it feels like, what it sounds like and what it is not, so that we could clearly define the expectations and what contributions will be needed from everyone to reach these learning priorities,” says Alicia.

One of the priorities is that tamariki will be confident with their own culture and customs. It was recognised that whānau who didn’t have that knowledge would need support.

For whānau, this included learning new phrases of te reo, for kaiako the priority was putting up a weekly phrase on the board outside, and for tamariki it was taking knowledge back home to teach their whānau reo, tikanga and karakia.

Sillena McGregor, Punahou administrator explains the importance of te reo for the centre.

“I think the most important thing about it is, that if you learn te reo then you will understand the beautifulness of te ao Māori.”

Punahau is child-centred – their interests, abilities, and passions inform the direction the centre takes with its approach to delivering the curriculum. For example, tamariki. became fascinated with the blood moon in 2022 so the centre had the children doing art and adapted Rangi Mātāmua’s kōrero to make a story book about the blood moon.

The centre has developed a policy that all tamariki deserve a pōwhiri when they begin school/kura. This is one way of showing there is continued support for the child and their whānau.

The entire centre gets involved with taking the tamariki to their new kura, no matter where it may be. This has included travelling to Hastings with one child. Whilst some schools were initially hesitant, they have now come on board with the idea.

“We were kind of pushy at the start because a lot of kura weren’t used to it and were a bit resistant, but we were adamant that it was their right as Māori tamariki to have a pōwhiri to make the space safe for them to transition.

“We also are very adamant when we hand over our children, the kura have a responsibility to continue their education journey and provide what our tamariki need to succeed,” explains Alicia.

The transition to school can be tricky for students, particularly those with high needs, who are used to the highly personalised contact and programmes within the centre. Moving to larger classes with fewer staff means there is often not the same level of personalised interaction with kaiako.

To further assist these students, members of the centre will remain in contact with the whānau to help them access the help they need for their tamariki for as long as is needed.

Alicia mentions an example of one tamaiti, who is now 15, that they still have regular contact with.

“It’s that sense of belonging, that once you’ve attended Punahau whether you are staff, whānau, tamariki, or whatever, it never ends. You’re a part of the Punahau whānau.”

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

Posted: 9:24 am, 2 February 2023

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