Mōhiotanga through the call of taonga puoro

Issue: Volume 100, Number 16

Posted: 8 December 2021
Reference #: 1HARti

In partnership with Ngāti Kauwhata, Feilding High School has given ākonga the opportunity to delve deeper into the history and mōhiotanga/knowledge of all things tikanga Māori and te ao Māori.

Matua Anaru plays the pūtōrino, a traditional flute.

Matua Anaru plays the pūtōrino, a traditional flute.

Feilding High School sits off the beaten track in the heart of the mighty Manawatū. Drive 15 minutes south and you are in Palmerston North; two hours further and you hit Wellington. 

Feilding is a farming hub. Māori lived off the land, developed communal vegetable plots, fished the waterways, and harvested vegetation from the dense forest floors around Kawakawa. The European settlers carried on the tradition of cultivating and harvesting crops and stock. 

The only secondary school in town, Feilding High has approximately 1,500 students from the surrounding area, and around 25 percent are ākonga Māori.

The local iwi are Ngāti Kauwhata, Rangitāne and Ngāti Raukawa. For the first time, the school ran a te ao Māori class in partnership with Ngāti Kauwhata, as part of their localised curriculum this year. 

It was the second to last te ao Māori class for 2021 when Tukutuku Kōrero Education Gazette went to visit and learn more about it. On the table for the day’s lesson was a collection of taonga puoro – Māori musical instruments. 

Tauira gathered around the table to listen and watch as class facilitator Matua Anaru demonstrated the different taonga puoro and used them to guide the class through the retelling of whakapapa and mythology. As tauira took turns at playing taonga puoro, they were asked to recall the relationship between different taonga puoro and journeys of the ancestors of Aotearoa. 

Tevita plays the porotiti (spinning, humming disc), while Rihari, Reagan and Hongi look on.

Tevita plays the porotiti (spinning, humming disc), while Rihari, Reagan and Hongi look on.

Motivated by student agency 

The motivation for this new class grew out of the journey some students had begun with te reo Māori at the school. The class provides an opportunity for ākonga to learn about local iwi and tikanga, and provides an anchor for their learning. It also engages whānau in students’ learning and brings them into the school environment. 

Teacher in charge Kevin Waho says they feel blessed as a school, class, and whānau, that they are able to tap into this beautiful resource.

“We don’t want it to be lost and neither does Matua Anaru – he wants to share it out to as many young ones who are as enthusiastic as possible. It’s been a beautiful start to the programme,” he says. 

Principal Nathan Stewart has been clear from the outset that this class is something that will be led by student agency. In the future he hopes to see it grow; the class is currently a combined class however, he says there could be one, two or three classes depending on the academic calendar for 2022.  

Students shared with us that the hands-on learning approach in the te ao Māori class inspires and motivates them to learn. 

Kevin Waho talks to tauira in his class.

Kevin Waho talks to tauira in his class.

Jordan, who is South African, says, “Because of the way we learn, how it’s back like in the old days, you don’t do as many books and paper, you don’t get forced to write the notes down. But we choose to anyway, so we’ve probably done more notes in this one class than we have together in all our other classes because of the way we’ve been taught.”

Building connections

Kevin might be the teacher in charge in name, but he sees the course as everyone working as equals, because that’s how it works in te ao Māori.  The te ao Māori class is founded on equality and respect – respect for Matua Anaru, his wife Whaea Toni, and for the tauira who have chosen to take on this kaupapa. 

“I’ve seen a lot of spark in these tauira. Te reo Māori is an avenue for our kids to connect to their culture, wellbeing and identity. This is another avenue, and the beauty about this avenue is it goes deeper into the history, the knowledge, of all things tikanga Māori, te ao Māori. And, what better person to get in, than a leader from the mana whenua,” he explains.

Anaru (Ngāti Kauwhata) talks about how he came to be the facilitator at Feilding High School and how this class is strengthening the relationship with Ngāti Kauwhata. 

“I was approached by a whānaunga of mine who worked with the school. He visited me for about two years, and he asked me if I was able to bring back some of the hidden history that I learnt on the paepae, which they saw as a missing puzzle piece into the common kōrero that’s out there.” 

Anaru spoke of the passion he sees in the tauira in his class. Reflecting on 2021, he says there has been some trial and error between different groups, but as far as he’s concerned things are going well and the people involved are happy.

“One of the amazing things that’s unfolded this year is that we can see that the curriculum is timeless, and we can travel with it. It’s a good opportunity to revive this kōrero amongst our young people,” says Anaru. 

Matua Anaru (Ngāti Kauwhata).

Matua Anaru (Ngāti Kauwhata).

Anaru is clear that he couldn’t have done this without his wife, Toni, and the students. 

“I’m just a mouthpiece. I just put it out there and these fellas are the ones who grabbed it and made it into something. I feed off their energy.” 

More than a class

The class runs four times each week. On Tuesdays, it falls just before lunch so Anaru and Toni organise a hakari kai for ngā ākonga o te ao Māori class. Toni describes her role as focusing on bringing manaakitanga to the class. 

“We had a lot of students, a lot of them needed to talk. They’ve picked up a lot of their identity being back here and having someone to talk to and someone to go to. And I think that’s what happened – everyone really, really cared about each other.” 

This class doesn’t end at the door or at the end of the period.  Toni spoke of the experiences they have generated for these tauira outside the classroom such as preparing food at the marae, holding pōwhiri, teaching ākonga to be responsible for themselves and to manaaki their guests. 

Whaea Toni.

Whaea Toni.

She observes that it’s easy to miss out on taking care of the whole person when you’re teaching, and she’s filled in that gap by being there to pick up on the ‘little things’.

“And yeah, those that like to wag – we found them, we brought them back. If they’re not in class, we always give them a text, find out what’s up, find out the real reason.” 

The power of a teacher

Anaru and Toni have made quite an impression on these tauira in a short space of time. The impact they’ve had through teaching with a te ao Māori lens and taking care of the whole person was evident. When we asked if tauira would be returning to take the class next year, we heard a resounding “Āe!” It was easy to see the respect and appreciation going both ways between kaiako and tauira.


Advice for other schools and kura

Feilding High School shares some advice for other schools and kura around Aotearoa considering beginning a te ao Māori class. 

Principal Nathan Stewart says the first step is to make sure the iwi is on board, and that they’re at the table in the planning phase because it’s a team effort.

Hongi plays the pūmoana, a conch shell trumpet.

Hongi plays the pūmoana, a conch shell trumpet.

“Maybe I was a little bit naïve in the beginning and thought we could do it in-house. Then we were approached by Ngāti Kauwhata who were saying ‘actually, we’d like to make this really special for our kids and this is our land and so we’d like to come in and be a part of this, sit at the table, be with the kids, because these are our kids’,” he says.

It’s clear that the hearts of the whole community are invested in this kaupapa. Nathan is leading a school where the students are the community, and everyone has skin in the game to develop great rangatahi who become great people, and who go on to have a skillset to really excel when they leave school. 

“The kids really enjoy going to that class. You can go and sit in that class and there’s warmth, the kids are engaged and they’re telling us that they feel they belong more at school and therefore they’re more likely to be engaged in other areas and do well academically across many facets of the school. 

“We’ve got a feeling here that if you get a win somewhere – doesn’t matter if it’s a win in sports, or arts, or choir, or whatever it is – then you’ve got a chance of getting a second win, or a third win, and then that can get quite contagious for you once you get that confidence that can translate into mathematics, science and a whole range of other areas,” he says.

Year 12 tauira Sam, who is Māori, Samoan and Tongan, also has some advice for introducing a te ao Māori class.

“Start it, because the kōrero is getting lost, and I don’t want that to happen. With Matua and Whaea coming back, it’s bringing a lot of old kōrero back. I’d tell them to do it because you only have one chance to do it, so take it.

Sam further explains that the te ao Māori class has made him go deeper into learning.

“Since Anaru and Toni have come to our school and taught us about the myths, legends and about our culture overall, I think I speak for those families who have lost the knowledge and every year upcoming we lose kaumātua and our elders and with every elder gone we lose a bit of knowledge. 

“I am proud to say that they have come to revive that. I didn’t have elders to teach me because they all died before I was born and so I never really got a chance, but since Anaru and Toni have been here I’ve learnt things about our people.”

 Sam, Jordan, Rihari, Tevita, Reagan and Hongi with a selection of taonga puoro.

 Sam, Jordan, Rihari, Tevita, Reagan and Hongi with a selection of taonga puoro.


Tauira kōrero

Amanda (Cambodian), Year 12

Amanda (Cambodian), Year 12

Tukutuku Kōrero Education Gazette sat down with some tauira of the te ao Māori class to talk about what they’ve enjoyed about the class this year.

I like coming here because I get to learn the culture of te reo Māori and te ao Māori. Learning the history, everything about it is beautiful. I love it because I’ve been taking te reo Māori for three years and now I am taking te ao Māori to learn something different. With everyone in the class I feel comfortable and the teachers make me feel safe.





Jenna (Māori), Year 12

Jenna (Māori), Year 12

This is my first year at Feilding and I [previously] hadn’t learnt much about the kaupapa, nei, so it was good coming in here and making heaps of new friends especially. Whaea and Matua are like parents to heaps of us – they treat us like their children so it’s nice coming into class every day and having them with us. 








Rihari (Māori), Year 12

Rihari (Māori), Year 12

It’s been pretty heart-warming getting to know Whaea Toni and Matua Anaru. They’ve taken time out of their lives to come and teach us, and they’ve changed us. They’ve changed me, definitely, to be a better person, to go out there and take this kōrero, and give it to younger generations that are coming up. They’re gangster eh, it’s good to have them. 

Whakarongo mai, listen to these inspiring kaiako and tauira share more detail about this kaupapa in a special Education Gazette podcast(external link)

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

Posted: 12:50 pm, 8 December 2021

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