Marae learning venue helps students connect with te ao Māori

Issue: Volume 98, Number 7

Posted: 3 May 2019
Reference #: 1H9tgU

A bilingual class located on a marae is helping Marlborough students connect with their Māori culture, identity and language.

Located on Omaka Marae in Blenheim, Te Pā Wānanga is the first purpose-built Māori-medium education facility in Marlborough. It opened its doors for the first time earlier this year.

Developed in conjunction with Renwick School, the satellite class now has 19 tamariki learning in te reo Māori for 50 to 80 per cent of the time.

Renwick School Principal Simon Heath says the class developed from Omaka Marae’s ‘Pa Kids’ programme, which tamariki in English-medium schools could attend after school once a week to be immersed in the kawa (culture) of te ao Māori.

“As that developed and gained momentum,” says Simon, “it became clear that the next logical step would be to extend this learning into a full school day, every day.

“Our local iwi were crying out for Māori medium.”

Te Pā Wānanga o Omaka Marae students practise their play The Footsteps of Uenuku.

Students spend time each week in the wharenui learning from Omaka Marae Cultural Advisor Kiley Nepia about te ao Māori, including waiata and karakia, which gives them a deep understanding of their identity, iwi, and how they are connected to Omaka Marae.

“Three of our students who were at Renwick are now at Te Pā Wānanga. I just see them growing stronger in themselves because they are so relaxed and at home being immersed in their culture,” says Simon.

“We’re very new to the landscape, but what I see are very happy kids whose chins are up, their eyes are wide open and they are loving being immersed in te ao Māori. They’re not having to take their Māori off, leave it at the gate and walk into school then pick it up on the way out. They’re Māori all day and that’s just so good to see.”

Students rehearse one of their items ‘Te Pā Wānanga’.

Whānau involvement

Te Pā Wānanga is at the second level of te reo Māori immersion, so whānau who do not speak te reo Māori at home can learn alongside their tamariki.

Students can invite their families to the learning environment to observe, participate, visit and engage in their children’s learning when they come to Te Pā Wānanga. Whānau also spend time with their tamariki in the wharenui learning about their history, tikanga (culture), te reo Māori and their identity as Māori. It is an inclusive learning environment where the village, marae and wider community works together to support the broad education and learning for tamariki and their whānau.

“We’ve got to take whānau along with us and grow them as well,” says Simon.

“We’re wanting to work with our whānau in deep and meaningful ways around te reo Māori, but we also have great expertise within our whānau – people who are fluent, who are very rich and deep in their culture and able to share their knowledge.”

The new building is an open space with two breakout areas for quieter work times, group, play and project work. The colours of the space reflect special land features of the Te Tau Ihu rohe (territory)  – from the yellow sands of Onetahua to the blue lakes of Rotoiti and Rotoroa, the green representing Omaka Marae and the fertile plains of the Wairau and the purple being Te Pā Wānanga.

The large two-classroom space provides freedom for tamariki to engage in their learning, easily access the resources they need and work with their kaiako and kaiawhina (teachers and teacher-assistants). The building has an open entrance to welcome those arriving.

Te Pā Wānanga has become part of the learning village that is growing and strengthening at Omaka Marae. It looks out to the wharenui, where tamariki spend time learning with whānau about their history, their tikanga, their reo and their identity as Māori.

Ongoing school connections

Maintaining connections between the two school sites is a continual work in progress, says Simon.

“We had a big pōwhiri at the beginning of the year, where Te Pā Wānanga came over to Renwick and we welcomed them to our place.”

Groups of students from Renwick have visited and spent time at Te Pā Wānanga. Renwick School’s kapa haka group will join Te Pā Wānanga students to form a combined group.

Teaching and support staff have spent time at Te Pā Wānanga to gain a better understanding of how the satellite works and there are plans to host staff meetings at the site in future.

“We’ve got camps underway at the moment so our Year 5 to 7
Te Pā Wānanga tamariki will be joining one of our camps when they go. We also do buddy class visits to camps when we go to Mistletoe Bay, so the rest of Te Pā Wānanga will go to visit that camp on the Thursday and see what their older classmates are doing and have been doing on camp.”

The class now joins tertiary provider Te Whare Wānanga and early learning centre Te Kupenga on the marae site.


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:57 am, 3 May 2019

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