Matakōkiri ignites young minds
Linking science to Māori identity, language and culture through students’ local tikanga, whakapapa and stories helps lift the educational success of Māori.
Matakōkiri is an iwi-based pūtaiao | science programme run by Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iko Ake Trust (Te Taumata) in Rotorua for local students, whānau, teachers and schools where young people have the opportunity to explore, experience, engage and learn alongside expert partners in their community.
Most recently, the programme’s wānanga had a specific focus on pūtaiao in partnership with scientists at the Scion Crown Research Institute and skilled weavers, local schools and whānau.
During the project local weavers, scientists and rangatahi worked together to investigate combining harakeke fibres with plastic in different forms to create a more robust product. The students’ creations were shared with whānau at a whakanuia | final celebration event held at Paratehoata Te Kohea (Tunohopu) Marae in May.
This successful programme celebrates pūtaiao | science through a Māori lens. Renee Gillies, Te Taumata Team Leader, was responsible for bringing everyone together and whānau attendance was encouraged for this project. Renee says that whānau were asked to attend at least two sessions of the six week project.
“It’s a learning journey for the whole whānau and nine times out of ten the whānau come to all the sessions. It’s great having the conversations with whānau about the learning of their tamariki and seeing that learning follow them home.
"One of the whānau told me that they all had a great conversation about genetics around the dinner table the other night. It becomes knowledge that they share across their whole family.”
Renee sees her role at Te Taumata as a collaborator and facilitator, helping to build partnerships between community experts for the benefit of their children’s learning.
“Once the scientists and weavers and parents understood the purpose of the wānanga they were more than happy to come on board,” says Renee.
“The science community has been really supportive and giving of their time.”
Iwi engagement in education offers positive benefits for local young people.
“It’s huge for our kids to have iwi involvement in their education and for that local knowledge to be embedded in the curriculum. It gives them and their parents and community a sense of why and a purpose in their learning.”
Science has always been an important focus for Ngāti Whakaue.
“Having Iwi lead and create these science opportunities lets whānau and rangatahi see science as an important subject and a relevant option for study.”
The Matakōkiri project is part of a broader iwi-based programme which has been running since 2014 and it’s getting positive results.
Renee says that more students are selecting science as a result of their involvement in the project.
Donna-Mokoia Mutu, one of the young participants, says that she values science much more since being part of Matakōkiri. “This project definitely changed my perspective about how I see science. I think I could take it up as a career in the future.”
“The key success factor for this programme is the emphasis on whānau engagement,” says Renee. “You can see a lift in the learning when whānau are present. Whānau can see pathways for their tamariki as scientists and designers. They can go into schools knowing that they have a voice, knowing that their korero counts.”
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