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Arowhenua Māori School – Catering for our community

Students at Arowhenua Māori School are now familiar with working with their local community and being in charge of an entire event.

Evidence shows that Māori students are more likely to achieve when they see themselves and their culture reflected in the subject matter and all other learning contexts.

Ka Hikitia: Managing for Success – Māori Education Strategy 2008–2012

Kaupapa Māori context

Principal, Toni O’Neill, wanted a kaupapa Māori context for their first whole school unit in the BEST Project trial in 2007. She renamed and adapted the BEST "Classroom Caterers" unit, calling it "Marae Caterers". Toni wanted her students to involve the school’s own whānau and Marae community as much as they could. Invitations were given to parents, grandparents, and special friends who would support them to prepare and participate in the 2007 Cultural Festival in Christchurch. The lunch would include a performance of the items students had prepared for the Festival.

“We have a strong belief that our students achieve best when they are engaged in doing authentic tasks that are personally meaningful to them and valued by their community,” says Toni.

Toni was a teaching principal of juniors with a school roll of 28 Year 1 – 6 students, and provides level 3 bilingual education. The school is near Temuka and opened in 1895 and situated next to the Arowhenua Marae. The school had been a focal point for the local Māori community. 

The Education for Enterprise approach, was identified as a way of developing the school’s teaching and learning beliefs, and as a way of bringing school, Marae, and community closer together. Education for Enterprise provided an authentic opportunity to develop a greater focus on one of the school’s charter principles Whanaungatanga (meaningful, connected, relationships with whanau, friends, society)

High expectations - We are the BEST school 

The school had identified the need to develop an enterprise culture and focus students on high expectations. The staff wanted to send a clear message to students and whānau that school is an exciting place where learning was innovative, meaningful, and involves everyone.

“We began by announcing at assembly that we are a BEST school. Visual reminders of this idea were displayed around the School. This meant we were a school where everyone did their BEST. We promoted this with a known saying ‘Good, Better, BEST! Never let it rest ‘til the good gets better and the better is best!’ We introduced the Curriculum’s key competencies through the enterprising attributes and looked at what excellence might look like for the range of attributes being developed,” says Toni.

Communications with whānau and the wider community

Students interviewed members of the Marae and this added to students’ confidence and their understanding of how the provision of manaakitanga (a responsibility to visitors to experience the very best the students can offer) was valued by their community. Students had the opportunity to work alongside the Marae members to prepare a hangi, which added to their prior knowledge about catering and Marae kawa. This approach allowed Māori students to enjoy education success as Māori.

"Marae Caterers" provided an opportunity for students to participate in a culturally and community valued learning activity. Students were able to recognise the value of their learning. Valuing their learning was further enhanced by the positive feedback they received from whānau and their wider community. This project was also an excellent reporting opportunity for the school to the community. It went on to improve community relationships and participation in the school.

Education for Enterprise 

The learning as students event managed their Marae Caterers project typified the Education for Enterprise approach. The context was real and it engaged community experts to build on students’ prior learning. It gave students responsibilities within a context that was real to them. “An enterprising approach to learning develops enterprising, successful New Zealanders,” says Toni.

Through its drive for quality teaching and quality learning for diverse students, Education for Enterprise provides an approach that supports the strategies outlined in Ka Hikitia: Managing for Success – Māori Education Strategy 2008–2012.

Toni says, “Education for Enterprise is about learning in a context that isn’t just like real life but IS real life. It is learning that is valued, timely and based on the interest and needs of the students. We find this to be particularly true for our students where their culture and community are highly valued. The learning and its approach provides us with integration and validation of the students’ Māori cultural identity.”

Building on successes

Since the initial trial, the development of enterprising students and an enterprising culture has continued to evolve at Arowhenua Māori School.

The next unit engaged students in improving fire safety at the Marae. The Firewise unit was redesigned to include:

The desired outcome for students and their community was a fire safety action plan for the Marae. “But it was the process of getting there where the real learning occurred,” says Toni. “Students worked with New Zealand Fire Service Iwi Liasion Paki Johnson, and they took part in an evening fire practice drill at the Marae. Smoke machines were used to simulate a real fire and students were rescued (in pyjamas) by District Fire Services Officers.” 

This gave the older students first hand experiences on which to build an improved fire safety action plan. This was presented to Marae representatives.

 “This unit of work had benefits for all of those involved,” says Toni. “Fire Services were unfamiliar with the Marae and developed a greater understanding of what would actually be required if a fire occurred when it was occupied. Marae representatives included recommendations from the students in their fire safety planning. Students gained a very personal and meaningful experience into fire safety.

The success of this unit and others following led to the inclusion of enterprising attributes into the school’s revised curriculum delivery plan and quality teaching attributes into the school’s teaching belief statement. “We believe that this approach empowers students to be innovative, focussed, successful learners,” says Toni.

Māori achievement

Published on: 27 Mar 2015