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How can we contribute?

Kohikohia ngā kākano, whakaritea te pārekereke, kia puāwai ngā hua.

Gather the seeds, prepare the seedbed carefully, and you will be gifted with an abundance of food.

Story of practice: Ngā Kākano o Apumoana – a story about contribution

Key points

  • Build authentic, reciprocal relationships over time
  • Ask “How can we contribute?”

Pāpā Bob helping the tamariki in the mara kai, vegetable garden

In 2019, Central Kids Kindergarten, Elstree (Elstree Kindergarten) was a finalist in the Engagement category for the Prime Minister’s Excellence in Education Awards. This is their story.

For some time kaiako at Elstree Kindergarten in Rotorua had wanted to establish an authentic partnership with mana whenua. This was based on their understanding that a strong sense of identity, language, and culture are the foundation of lifelong learning success. They wanted more than a one-off experience of a marae visit. They saw themselves as contributing in a real and meaningful way to their community.

Using an opportunity in their local community

In 2017, the wider Rotorua City Council implemented Tau mai te reo Māori – an education strategy to build a bilingual city. The kaiako saw this as an opportunity to engage with their local marae, Apumoana. They wrote a formal proposal that they presented in person to their local marae board at a hui.

They proposed spending time regularly at the marae so that kaiako, tamariki, and whānau could learn te reo Māori and marae kawa (marae protocol) and tikanga (correct procedures), in the marae context. Weekly visits would make it a familiar place for all, where meaningful relationships with kaumatua and kuia (elders) could flourish. They also saw the partnership as one that would support smooth transitions for tamariki moving on to kura kaupapa Māori.

Laying a reciprocal foundation

As well as outlining the benefits of this partnership for themselves, the Elstree Kindergarten kaiako, tamariki, and whānau also offered to support the marae community. They suggested a range of activities that included working in the māra kai (vegetable garden) and supporting marae-based events and fundraising. The idea was accepted wholeheartedly by everyone and so began Ngā Kākano o Apumoana. The name was gifted by the marae kaumātua to the working partnership with the kindergarten.

Making a long term commitment

Since then every week, for the past five years, small groups of tamariki, whānau, and kaiako spend the day working alongside kaitiaki (guardians) at the marae. The nature of their contribution has deepened since those early visits. Now when there is an event, Ngā Kākano o Apumoana are there helping out. When manuhiri (guests) are expected, tamariki sit behind the paepae, (speakers' bench) at pōhiri (welcome ceremony). They actively participate by singing waiata and offering manaaki based on Apumoanatanga – the tikanga of Apumoana Marae.

Pāpā Bob shares pūrākau, stories in the marae wharenui.

Tamariki will also bake for the whānau living in the kaumatua flats on the marae. During their full day visits, tamariki enjoy spending time with kaumatua and kuia. Pāpā Bob, one of the kaumatua, has taken a leading role in the partnership. He spends time talking with the Elstree Kindergarten kaiako, tamariki, and their whānau. He shares pūrākau (stories), pakiwaitara (ancient stories), and oriori, (chants) in the wharenui, Apumoana o te Ao Hou. He is also a welcome presence at the kindergarten and one which adds to a sense of belonging and contribution to the local community.

Seeing the benefits for all

For the kaiako and whānau, the benefits of this partnership are clearly visible; tamariki are connected to Papatūānuku and understand how they contribute to her wellbeing. There are also deeply meaningful relationships with others sustained by goodwill and respect. Tamariki are seen as future leaders on the marae. They also have a "sense of themselves as a link between the past present and future" (Te Whāriki, page 36).

Pettah, kaiwhakaako (teacher) at Elstree Kindergarten sums it up:

“We began by asking, 'How can we contribute?' For us it’s about doing things for the community. It's rich learning for tamariki and whānau. That intergenerational learning is important. But for us it’s also about giving back.”

You can find out more about Ngā Kākano o Apumoana:

Steps you can take

  • How do you plan for Contribution|Mana Tangata in your curriculum design?
  • How do you understand reciprocal relationships?
  • What existing partnerships does your setting have? Who are these with and why?
  • Where else can you contribute in your community?

Pāpā Bob reads stories with some children.

Photograph: Pāpā Bob sharing stories with the tamariki.