Traditional Māori Teaching Methods for Tūtūtarakihi tamariki

April 6, 2022, 8:17 p.m.

Tamariki and Wikatana Popata camping alongside the Rangaunu Harbour, a treasure trove of iwi history and learning for tamariki.


Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tūtūtarakihi was established four years ago by Wikatana Popata, Rangimarie Pomare and now kaiako Janelle Popata. Janelle spoke to Te Hiku Media about the way they have shaped their curriculum, guided by the Māramataka Māori and the benefits of a learning environment deeply immersed in te ao Māori.

Tūtūtarakihi started off as a satellite classroom for Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Rangi Aniwaniwa until they gained standalone status through the Ministry of Education in 2021. Rangimarie Pomare (Principal) and partner Wikatana wanted to have the natural environment as their foundation to their teachings as well as draw on life skills to support whānau development.

As a kura kaupapa, Tūtūtarakihi follows Te Aho Matua by creating a learning environment that incorporates all four pillars of te whare hauora tapa whā, taha hinengaro, taha wairua, tapa tinana and taha whānau. Based on the learning and maintaining of te reo Māori through all years and then going a little further by incorporating the old traditional teaching methods of the whare wananga where tohunga would assess pukenga, set out specifically chosen tasks and then sent them into the wilderness to use all senses and abilities to complete the task.


Teaching by the moon

Depending on the moon phase, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tūtūtarakihi will adjust their teachings to suit.


Kura kaupapa Māori o Tūtūtarakihi planting native trees & monitoring mudfish with Whitebait Connection at Lake Ngatu.


"If we are in the Tangaroa phase you will find us out at the moana, fishing, dragging the net, paddle boarding, water testing, particularly doing activities around the water, river and moana" said Popata.

Understanding te ao Māori, taiao and then incorporating te reo is teaching tamariki in its fullest, most organic form about self-identify. Tamariki are able to manifest and build upon the fundamental elements that our Māori atua developed. Incorporating these things into an educational system is helping our tamariki gain access to these teachings on multiple levels, while teaching them safety aspects and resourcefulness when out in the elements at different times of the year. Tūtūtarakihi is modeling Te Whare Tapa Whā and as a result, the four cornerstones of well-being and the tamariki, whānau, hapū and iwi are reaping the rewards.

"Immersing our tamariki into te reo Māori enhances their learning and they get a better understanding of who they are, their identity, in saying that whānau commitment is vital to the kaupapa of our kura to the child's development" Popata explained.


Scientific wananga held at Waimanoni Marae where Tūtūtarakihi immersed themselves in learning about cleaner waterways


Term times differ from other kura which allows Tūtūtarakihi to learn within the moon cycle and get the best learning outcomes in alignment with te taiao. They start Term 1 in the first week of January, working through summer and starting back four weeks before everyone else. This time is made up by adding an extra week to the first April holiday and an extra two weeks during Matariki/Puanga to celebrate the Māori New Year. Reverend Māori Marsden was an Anglican Minister and a graduate of Te Whare Wānanga of Te Aupouri. His book called 'The Woven Universe' speaks of how whare wananga style teachings were conducted;

"Sending an individual out into the forest to participate in different tasks. Upon return we would know who was fit for each task".

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tūtūtarakihi is carrying traditional knowledge into a contemporary setting by implementing the teachings of the past into their current curriculum.

“In November to December, we gather all of our camping, diving, fishing gear, fishing nets, torpedo, flounder spares and lights, boats to go camping. We set up camp at different locations in the north, dependent on weather, swells, tides. So when it’s blowing hard out on the east, and swells coming from the east, we go west. This is our commitment to teaching our tamariki about the taiao, how to fillet fish, how to shell kaimoana, how to tiaki our environment.  A big part of our kura is te reo. Whānau who are a part of our kura commit themselves to speaking, living with te reo as much as they can. We incorporate maramataka Māori. Mahi hardout during the summer season, gather kai, utilise the warm season, do as much as we can while the weather is good, do our mahinga kai, maara, kohi mātaitai” said Wikatana Popata.

The Māori concept of time is explained by Professor Dr. Rangi Matamua in his pukapuka ‘Matariki - The Star of the Year’;

“In order to understand Matariki/Puanga and the Māori New Year, it is important to have basic understanding of maramataka Māori (Māori lunar calendar). Māori seasons and the Māori year. For Māori, the year was divided into different seasons, months and nights. These were determined by a number of factors, including the position of the sun, the phase of the moon, the rising and setting of the stars and ecological changes in the environment.”

Streamlining an educational curriculum to align with traditional time concepts, teaching concepts and mātauranga Māori can only mean that you are getting the most out of this system in a holistic manner that meets the needs of an individual, more specifically, a child growing up in te ao Māori.

"I feel other kura are slowly transitioning to this style of teaching using our taiao, natural resources to teach and educate our tamariki like our tupuna once did. Some kura are using the Māramataka Māori which is good to see, but are not yet ready to take a leap forward to completely follow the māramataka. It's a huge shift and I'm glad we created a system that works for us and without a doubt will work for a lot of our whānau if they're ready for change" said Janelle Popata.




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