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North East Valley School – A new environment, a new outlook

"When we’re developing our curriculum do we really take into account the needs of the significant number of Māori children and their families in our school?”

This is the question the staff at North East Valley Normal School were pondering. Principal John McKenzie, talks about their latest curriculum development day.

“We decided to hold our curriculum planning day at the Puketeraki Marae. In our school we recognise that everyone has a whole lot of different ideas and expertise, and we want to put these people in environments where something is going to happen. The environment of the marae was a catalyst for us to look at how to incorporate tikanga Māori into our curriculum. It was risky. We weren’t sure what was going to come out of it, but this seemed a common sense way forward. The marae had an effect on us as educators and as curriculum developers. It created quite a shift in our thinking.

"The reason for holding our curriculum day at the marae was to ensure we were able to incorporate the important Māori world-view in our planning for the new curriculum. We had an interesting time. We were welcomed onto the Marae and given the history of the local area, but more importantly, we asked for some help in how we would plan units to incorporate things Māori."

Puketeraki Marae.

Diana Mules took the staff through some new ways of planning that encouraged them to consider:

  • Whakapapa – creation stories, relationships
  • Te wa (place and time)
  • Te Reo
  • What knowledge, stories, waiata and proverbs, geology, geography, astronomy, and navigation could be added to planning?”

Diana is the facilitator for the Te Reo Rakatahi I Otago (LEOTC programme) based on the marae of Otago. She explains that the LEOTC programme encourages schools to work in different ways, using the marae as a source of learning and knowledge. She also encourages teachers to see that the marae can be an enjoyable place to work. Her aim is to open the teachers’ eyes and hearts to allow things Māori to be a part of their teaching.

Diana has adapted a template she learned about at an Indigenous Education Conference(WIPCE) in Australia, and is now working with a number of schools across Otago. The template considers the indigenous view in teaching. During the curriculum day, Diana worked with the NEVN school staff to investigate how a Māori viewpoint can be shown through units of work such as floating and sinking. The importance of this investigation was to show the depth to adding Māori viewpoint.

Diana is working with a number of schools in Otago. She says it is very forward thinking of the staff of these schools to come and learn together at the marae. They are sharing their learning and supporting each other, which leads to a cohesive message for the whole school community.

Diana offered this advice to teachers:

“Learn more about the indigenous culture of Aotearoa so you are not afraid to weave it into the learning experiences for all children. Be especially aware of the history and aspirations of your local iwi and hapu. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help and trust that they do care about education. There is an opportunity – take it! Learn Te Reo and get involved in the Māori world. You can’t learn it from books. You need to experience things. This will open a whole new world to you and grow you as a teacher within the environment and people of Aotearoa.”

John adds that the school will now take this powerful beginning of work started at the marae to reframe some of their thinking and to ensure a focus on what is relevant to children and families in the school who are Māori. Looking forward, the school plans to incorporate marae trips into their three year planning cycle and ask their learning community, including the early childhood centres, to join them.

“The principles of the curriculum lead us to think more about diversity and the importance of the indigenous people of New Zealand. Our work at the marae will make it a real consideration.”

John McKenzie, Principal, North East Valley Normal School

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Updated on: 21 Oct 2010