Shaping marau ā-kura | local curriculum

Issue: Volume 101, Number 5

Posted: 27 April 2022
Reference #: 1HATpp

Working closely with iwi and the local community is key to shaping an authentic marau ā-kura | local curriculum, say tumuaki.

Ākonga at Tuahiwi School in Kaiapoi are very aware of their local histories.

Ākonga at Tuahiwi School in Kaiapoi are very aware of their local histories.

Melanie Taite-Pitama, tumuaki of Tuahiwi School in Kaiapoi, describes her school as a Papa Kāinga kura. 

“It is directly across the road from its Papatipu Rūnanga so our kura and the marae have a very close relationship. In fact, the land that the kura is on was gifted by family members of the marae for the purposes of a kura, a native school, so we have a strong relationship with our hapū. I’m not sure that there are many kura in Aotearoa that can say the same thing. We are in a fortunate position as a kura that is situated directly across the road from our marae so a local curriculum is something that is very natural for us. 

“The localised curriculum has been in place here for years and we use our environment, and our local history and stories, pūrākau, as the basis of our teaching and learning programme. At our kura, those pūrākau have been told for generations so it’s nothing new to our kura that we would talk about the history and the migration of Ngāi Tahu iwi, who moved here from the east coast of the North Island. Or to talk about Kaiapoi Pā which is only a few kilometres away and was the stronghold of Ngāi Tahu since the early 1700s. It’s not new for us to talk about Tū Rākautahi and Moki, the brothers that established the pā.

“As a part of Ngāi Tahu history, it’s only right given our connection with our hapū that we have been teaching those pūrākau for years even though there hasn’t been a mandated histories document.

Tumuaki Melanie Taite-Pitama is very involved with the Kaiapoi community.

Tumuaki Melanie Taite-Pitama is very involved with the Kaiapoi community.

“I wouldn’t say that we would have covered everything in New Zealand’s history, but from a Māori perspective, we are very local. Sometimes we look outside of our local area to make comparisons – for example, when we talk about Kaiapoi Pā, we look at other significant pā in Aotearoa that students can compare it with. Our older students might look for similarities between Parihaka and Kaiapoi Pā, how they looked, how they operated.”

Past informing the future

“History has never been dormant here, it has always been told, and that is because of our close relationship with our community,” says Mel. “We get the right people in to tell us those stories and to inform us of those pūrākau so that we can retell them in a correct way and give them the mana that they deserve. Some will ask how you can focus on the future if you are stuck in the past, but we have a saying in te reo Māori that is about walking into the future, looking at the past because the past can teach us so many things.

“Tikanga is based around that. Our ancestors used trial and error and that was to show us what not to do. For example, ‘Don’t use this type of rock because it won’t hold the heat for a hāngī, use this type of rock because we’ve tried and tested it. There’s no point going off trying to look for other rocks.’ That trial-and-error model was left as a legacy for future generations so that we have a real chance of mighty prosperity, we are not having to go over things again and again.

“Next term, we will look at Matariki because we want to look at what our tupuna did during that time. They harvested, they prepared, they feasted, they celebrated, we know that because it has been filtered down to us. So, it enables us to repeat that and teach our tamariki about the celebration that it should be. It is not just a week of Matariki for us, it is celebrating at the right time, with the right types of activities and people to support that celebration.

“The Tuahiwi education team runs workshops from the marae, with the first workshop, Getting to Know Us, including a full explanation of local history, the migration, church, kura, marae, and surrounding environment. 

“Around 5,000 people have been through that workshop during the past seven years and it’s beautiful to be able to tell those pūrākau to help people to see that there was a real thriving society here before we were colonised.

“This is the reason why the histories document is so important, because knowing those things can help people have empathy, and understanding for a culture that they may not have had before.”

The stories of the Tuahiwi community are part of all learning areas.

The stories of the Tuahiwi community are part of all learning areas.

Aligning local curriculum to local contexts

There are three components central to He Kākano, the existing curriculum framework at Te Ākau ki Pāpāmoa School: Whakapapa, which is about a learner’s identity and their connection to time and place; Whenua, which is about place-based learning; and Taiao, which gives emphasis to the environment and kaitiakitanga.

Every aspect of learning is explored through these three lenses, an approach that principal Bruce Jepson says readily accommodates the new histories content.

“When we approach maths or reading or any of our essential learning areas, or even our key competencies, we do it through He Kākano. Our maker space has undergone a transformation – everything relates to whenua, whakapapa, taiao. If it doesn’t fit He Kākano, then we don’t do it,” says Bruce.

“It’s about tying in real-life situations in our own place. We’re not reaching out trying to create some crazy context to make it work. It’s relevant and can be linked to whenua, whakapapa, taiao.”

Bruce, who is also president of the Māori principals’ association, Te Akatea, says collaboration with kaiako, parents, whānau and iwi is critical both during the development phase and long term.

“Our existing and flourishing relationship with Ngā Pōtiki iwi is critical as respectful exploration of history privileges the knowledge, narratives and cultural practices of mana whenua,” says Bruce.

It’s also about keeping whānau as part of the ongoing conversation around curriculum and learning, he says.

“We’ve had such good feedback from whānau. We’re hearing a lot of commentary around what parents are learning with their children about our local area.”

The design and implementation of He Kākano was led by deputy principal Dorothea Collier and kaiako Kim Horne before a working party of 10 kaiako formed to hash out the detail. 

“The focus has always been: how do we create a framework that’s flexible enough for us to be creative but also structured enough that we can make sure we’re getting coverage of the learning?” says Bruce.

The new curriculum content slots neatly into He Kākano. For example, a schoolwide inquiry project into the history of the local area, Te Rae o Pāpāmoa, works across year groups and can be integrated across the curriculum.

Ākonga explored questions such as: What’s significant about that whenua? What took place on those maunga? How did they get their names? What other opinions are there about what we should be learning about Pāpāmoa as a rohe from a mana whenua perspective?

“It’s about unpacking the identity of every individual. Everyone has whakapapa. You don’t need to be Māori to have whakapapa.” He points to the guiding whakatauki of He Kākano:

E kore au e ngaro, he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea | I shall never be lost, I am a seed sown from Rangiātea. 

Marau ā-kura and the national curriculum

In the context of school and kura settings across Aotearoa, the national curriculum, which includes The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, sets out the expectations and requirements for teaching and learning. It contains the learning that all ākonga should experience in schools and kura. 

Marau ā-kura | local curriculum is how to interpret and present Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and The New Zealand Curriculum to ākonga in kura and schools and make it relevant to their current and future lives – their strengths, aspirations, and needs. 

Kura and schools work out how to shape their marau ā-kura | local curriculum by collaborating with ākonga, parents, whānau, hapū, iwi and their wider community. The purpose of the marau ā-kura | local curriculum is to be explicit and intentional in delivering teaching and learning to meet the needs of ākonga and their whānau.  

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:27 pm, 27 April 2022

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