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A collective view of giftedness in a puna reo

The following, originally handwritten stories were written by Erana Haerewa, Manager of Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti, winner of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence (2016). Erana is a member of the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Advisory Group.

The stories encapsulate a Māori view of giftedness as a collective, intergenerational concept, brought to fruition through traditional means such as whakaari, mōteatea, waiata, and pūrākau, and presented as interwoven and interrelated. They reflect a localised interpretation of giftedness. 

The stories show how concepts of giftedness start with the relationship between a grandmother and her mokopuna. Whakapapa, local landmarks, and people are infused into the mōteatea which has become a shared platform to support burgeoning interests and strengths. They illustrate how the past, present, and future coalesce to support successful learning pathways for ākonga.

Giftedness is based on Māori values that support the mana and mauri of the child as well as the mana of the whānau, hapū, and iwi.

As a combination, these stories reflect the values and aspirations of the Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti kaiako and whānau. They are deeply rooted in Ngāti Porou history. The stories sustain a concept of giftedness that is unashamedly culturally located within a wider iwi collective worldview.

Stories of practice


Kia tapu hoki koe

Key points

  • Giftedness is intergenerational
  • Traditional ways of sharing knowledge create opportunities for giftedness to emerge
  • Gifts and giftedness are understood through cultural values like aroha and whanaungatanga

written story on a blanket

Erana writes ...

"This mōteatea was gifted to us by our iwi Ngāti Porou Chairman, Herewini Parata as his wawata mō te marau mō tōna mokopuna me ngā tamariki katoa o Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti.

Kia tapu hoki koe is a well known mōteatea written by Hinetakawhiti. She was a grandmother who wished to esteem mana onto her mokopuna, bestowing on her, her whakapapa and birthright. Kia tapu hoki koe shows her mokopuna the places of significance to her.

As a rōpū and whānau, we came together everyday to learn this mōteatea. This became a tool to whakatau and bestow our iwi mātauranga in a wānanga style learning pedagogy. The significance of this mōteatea was great as we learnt it after the COVID-19 pandemic countrywide lockdown.

Māori elders at birth viewed all tamariki with unique giftedness. At Puna Reo we view all our tamariki with giftedness in a realm of te ao Māori.

Kia tapu hoki koe inspires us as an iwi to view our mokopuna as tino tapu, with giftedness and whakapapa links throughout Ngāti Porou. This mōteatea enhanced the mana of all our tamariki: kia tū maia, kia tū pakari, kia mōhio ko wai rātou.

'I roto i te mōteatea, kua puta mai te aroha o te kuia mō te mokopuna.'

Our tamariki were fast in grasping the kupu of this mōteatea alongside the kaiako. This is a traditional way of learning and acknowledging our mokopuna as unique and special beings."

Giftedness in the eyes of Māori

Concepts of giftedness are not static and, in the case of this Puna, the qualities of bravery and courage and intelligence of tīpuna emerge in tamariki and mokopuna. The role of kaiako with whānau, is to create time and space for these gifts to grow and to support tamariki to realise their inherent potential.

Te Pakanga, Kia kore rātou e kaumātuatia

Key points

  • Noticing, recognising, and responding to giftedness enhances learning opportunities for all tamariki
  • Local knowledge and stories about significant events and leaders provide authentic contexts for understanding giftedness
  • Gifts are passed down from generation to generation

Two tamariki dressed as tīpuna

One of the issues that can be difficult in busy early learning services is how to notice, recognise, and respond to giftedness in culturally respectful ways. At Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti, their local curriculum design – te marau – is based on opportunities for tamariki to enact the stories of their own whakapapa.

The idea of whakaari is to make visible to all significant stories which in turn inform mana motuhake (self efficacy and identity) and mana ūkaipō (a sense of belonging to people and place). The reciprocal nature of whakaari involves whānau working alongside kaiako and tamariki as they share pūrākau about their tīpuna – ngā tangata rongonui. 

Erana writes ...

"Our whakaari Te Pakanga has become a unique creative tool of learning that enhances and enriches a curriculum to provide authentic and diverse learning to develop leadership and giftedness in our tamariki.

As tamariki are chosen for their roles as tangata rongonui (the main actors), they grow as leaders, standing tall with pride and honour. They stand as leaders! The benefits and learning outcomes are amazing as we see before us – growth in all tamariki: ā-tinana, ā-whatumanawa, ā-hinengaro, ā-wairua hoki.

We held three whakaari performances which were well attended by our Puna whānau. Our pakeke led the way telling the beautiful pūrākau of Te Moana Nui a Kiwa Ngarimu me Ngā Tama Toa.

The confidence of all the tamariki to stand tall in front of big crowds of whānau members to perform their parts and give mana to ngā taonga tuku iho culminated from a rich delivery of an authentically cultural learning that is significant to our mokopuna.

'He taonga te reo. He taonga te mokopuna.'

'Kei te whakatangatahia e ngā tamariki ngā tangata rongonui.'

The tamariki experience the whakaari and this special kaupapa as pēpi, so when chosen for the main roles, they stand proud and tall with mana.

Diverse learning to support the whakaari include – kaihoahoa pūweru (fashion design), kanikani, whaikōrero (oratory), waiata, karakia, ngā toi (arts), haka, rangahau. A gifted marau that provides learning opportunities for all tamariki to eke ki te taumata o ngā tangata rongonui.

The importance to this gifted strategy of learning is that all our tamariki are the direct descendants of the main roles that are bestowed upon them."

Paania Rose, giftedness with creativity: ngā mahi a te rēhia

Key points

  • Working with and alongside whānau deepens learning engagement for tamariki
  • Recognising ngā mahi a te rēhia - creativity as an expression of giftedness
  • Responding with learning opportunities to excel

Sewn dolly named Rangatira created by Paania Rose

Te Whāriki supports a view that all tamariki are inherently competent, capable, rich, and complete. They are born unique, with their own gifts and immense potential. For this to occur kaiako need the tools and confidence to understand notions of giftedness that support the mauri and mana of tamariki and whānau as well as hapū and iwi. (kawe mana - a kaupapa Māori framework for giftedness.)

Erana writes ...

"We view our tamariki here at Puna Reo with unlimited potential and uniqueness. Our marau provides many experiences of learning for our tamariki to flourish. Paania Rose has a supportive mum who found Puna to meet the requests of her daughter to attend a kura Māori.

Paania Rose settled at Puna Reo and grew into a Puna leader with her pūkenga (gifts and strengths) presenting which were noticed by our responsive rōpū of kaiako. The kaiako also shared their pūkenga and strengths to enrich a curriculum delivery to benefit Paania Rose and her peers.

Paania Rose took on the role as kaikōrero (storyteller) and Nanny Hoppy Walker in our whakaari. Within this mahi as a tangata rongonui, Paania Rose learnt waiata ā-ringa, her script, and she designed a stole, peke, cushion, and her Polly Dolly. She made her doll and named her Rangatira and created a whakapapa for her.

Paania Rose has shown an interest in creativity and the arts, sewing, fashion design, mōteatea, rongoā Māori, kaitiakitanga, waiata, and pūrākau. She has a very supportive māmā and whānau that synchronise with the learning she engaged with at Puna Reo. As a whānau, we have ensured Paania Rose has reached her full potential and is more than ready for her future in education."

Tukuna Waiapu kia rere

Tukuna te tamaiti kia rere ki te taumata tiketike

Like our Waiapu river flows

Our tamariki soar to reach their full potential