Pūhoro carves out STEMM pathways for ākonga Māori

Issue: Volume 102, Number 15

Posted: 16 November 2023
Reference #: 1HAdkL

Born out of a desire to increase Māori representation in the STEM space, Pūhoro STEMM Academy supports ākonga to maintain a science pathway throughout school and embrace their Māoritanga. The organisation continues to support rangatahi who transition from secondary school into tertiary and employment.

The kaupapa started with 97 students across nine kura and two regions and has expanded to 2,000 students across 68 schools and 10 regions.

Kemp Reweti

Kemp Reweti

As manahautū (chief executive) of Pūhoro STEMM Academy, Kemp Reweti knows how critical it is for rangatahi Māori to be exposed to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and mātauranga (STEMM).

“Our rangatahi really are the future workforce, the future disruptors, the future change makers, the future inventors and navigators of STEM, armed with their unique mātauranga and Māori worldview,” he says.

“That early exposure to STEMM is critical for them to be able to know the pathway, see the pathway, understand how to navigate it and importantly, how to contribute to it – now and in the future.”

These aspirations are what led to the creation of Pūhoro STEMM Academy.

Opportunities for rangatahi Māori

Kemp says Pūhoro began in 2016 to address the under-representation of Māori in STEM industries, support Māori achievement, and create pathways towards equitable opportunities in STEM.

He says the data shows about two percent of people in the industry were of Māori descent.

The phlebotomy sessions were popular with students who were able to see what it would be like to take blood.

The phlebotomy sessions were popular with students who were able to see what it would be like to take blood.

“There’s not enough Māori representation in the space. The STEM space is growing, it’s expanding, it’s developing. We know that Māori are a structurally youthful population, so we’ll continue to have a good amount of youth as the years progress forward.

“We want to make sure that we can increase our representation in STEM if it’s one of the global megatrends.”

Pūhoro started in 2016 with 97 Year 11 students and nine kura across two rohe. Now the kaupapa has grown to 2,000 rangatahi – 1,500 across Years 11, 12 and 13 and the remainder in the tertiary and employment phase of the kaupapa – 68 schools, 10 regions and 40 staff.

Kemp says each year level has a dedicated kaihautū who will support and follow the students through their final three years at secondary school. For example, the kaihautū for a group of Year 11 students will follow those students to Year 12 and then Year 13 to make sure consistent support.

The phlebotomy sessions were popular with students who were able to see what it would be like to take blood.

The phlebotomy sessions were popular with students who were able to see what it would be like to take blood.

The kaihautū visit the students in school for an hour every week.

“They build a strong relationship with their kaihautū who supports them with this mentoring aspect, as well as their tutorials,” Kemp says.

Locwood Ruwhiu, principal kaihautū, says being a kaihautū is one of the most important elements of the Pūhoro kaupapa.

“It’s the frontline. It’s our kaimahi that head into schools and have a few methods of engagement with rangatahi throughout the school year.

“One of our pou, or one of our values, that we’re guided by is tauheretanga, which is building meaningful, long-lasting relationships. And so that’s what we aim to do over that long period of time.”

In addition to the kaihautū visits in schools, regional wānanga are held which bring together Pūhoro students from across the rohe. Wānanga involve hands-on workshops which expose students to career opportunities in STEM, while also helping students strengthen their identity as Māori.

Te Tai Tokerau hosted its first wānanga this year, where students were able to hear from and ask questions of a Māori surgeon and learn about phlebotomy while also practising taking ‘blood’ using training materials.

Kemp says Pūhoro also hosts study noho, tutorials, and at the end of the year camps are held in partnership with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

“Those are good opportunities for teambuilding, to really expose them to those different STEM careers in NZDF and health careers,” he says.

Kemp says whānau support is also crucial.

“We have whānau engagements, whānau presentations, whānau expos, because they are key drivers of rangatahi success and career success too.”

Working with schools

Kemp says strong relationships with schools are important and it usually starts with an expression of interest.

“We’re getting more expressions of interest from schools than we have capacity to service,” he says. “So, a school will put out that expression of interest, and that’s where we go in together with them and talk through some of our expectations.”

Kemp says it’s important Pūhoro has space and time within the daily timetable – during one of the school’s periods – to work with rangatahi, and that they’re supported. There is also a lead teacher who Pūhoro can directly connect with.

Locwood says schools notice the benefits.

“They’re all different, which is awesome. Some students are already academically doing really well so we’re complementing what’s already happening. Students who are usually sitting at merit level are starting to move into the excellence side of things with a little bit of help, and schools notice that.”

Locwood says it’s not only about academic success, and schools also notice the benefits of strengthening students’ cultural identity.

“Students who are doing academically quite well, they might be lacking in their tuakiri – their cultural identity – and so schools notice the benefit of having those sessions. We try to tailor those sessions to schools individually.”

The Tuakiri Identity Sessions got students thinking about what it means to be Māori.

The Tuakiri Identity Sessions got students thinking about what it means to be Māori.

The last M in STEMM

Kemp says the mātauranga element of STEMM is a critical part of the Pūhoro kaupapa.

 “There’s the opportunity for us to support our rangatahi in the learning and application of both of those systems – the western system of STEM, and importantly drawing from and understanding mātauranga eco-systems of knowledge. There is real awe in the faces of our rangatahi when they can see the depth and profoundness of their own mātauranga and how this can provide answers and solutions to current 21st century challenges.”

Kemp says Pūhoro is always trying to find ways to make those connections for rangatahi by teaching them pūrākau through science, engineering challenges and holding workshops with outside organisations to draw upon “different ways of knowing”.

“For context we used the recent weather events in Heretaunga, and we looked at kaitiakitanga and ways in which we could resolve some of these challenges by returning to our mātauranga Māori and what that teaches us.

“We weave mātauranga Māori through whatever we do in the kaupapa. What we’re trying to showcase is that we believe many of the answers to some of the huge challenges that exist and that are to come can be answered through our own mātauranga.”

Northland students get hands-on at a Pūhoro wānanga held in Whangārei. 

Northland students get hands-on at a Pūhoro wānanga held in Whangārei. 

The impact

Kemp says the data shows Pūhoro is successful. Rangatahi who are part of the Pūhoro kaupapa are five times more likely to transition to tertiary study; NCEA STEM achievement for students involved is comparable to non-Māori, and more than 1,500 digital badges (in-house learning credentials) have been awarded to rangatahi after completing key Pūhoro learning outcomes.

“We deliver a substantial amount of mentoring and academic sessions, and we’re seeing the results. The results are that we are getting positive achievement in those subjects comparable to national non-Māori achievement rates.”

Kemp says he is proud of what Pūhoro has achieved. “I’m most proud of what we as a team, and as a kaupapa, have built for our rangatahi and for their whānau.”

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

Posted: 9:44 am, 16 November 2023

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts