(From left) Chicane Karaitiana, Lesley Standish, Zoe Rikiti and Tia Namana using mahitahi (working together) to learn Maori numbers. PHOTOS/CHELSEA BOYLE
By Chelsea Boyle
Carterton School is going the extra mile to make sure its youngsters have the tools to connect with Maori culture.
The school has two ‘Akonga Maori’ classes that focus on incorporating Maori culture and language into all aspects of the learning experience.
Parents can opt to put their children in one of these special focus classes, which are available from years 0-6.
Teacher Lesley Standish is one of two teachers responsible for the Akonga Maori classes, which she believes are a first in Wairarapa.
Passing on her knowledge of Maori language, culture and identity is something she is hugely passionate about.
“From a personal perspective, being Maori myself, I cannot underestimate the importance of Maori education for Maori.
“To be connected to Te ao Maori and know your identity and be able to speak Maori was an opportunity that wasn’t available for my education, and I needed and desired it – it was so important for my identity and wellbeing, my wairua.”
She was able to seek this out as an adult, but wanted to ensure her pupils had this connection from an early age.
Akonga Maori was a special learning place where Maori was celebrated, she said.
Te reo Maori, Tikanga Maori, Kaupapa Maori and Te Ao Maori were strongly integrated and central to this culturally responsive environment.
Maori language, culture, heritage and identity were important.
“The classes still follow the NZ Curriculum and the school curriculum,” she said.
“There is still a key emphasis on reading, spelling, writing and mathematics in English.”
The initiative started in the school in 2013, and works towards meeting the expectations, goals and aspirations of whanau, iwi and tamariki.
“This learning environment has proved to be effective and successful, and provides positive outcomes and achievement — providing all Maori learners with the opportunity to get what they require to realise their own unique potential and succeed in their lives as Maori.”