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  • Kia ora koutou!


    A key part of the vision of Te Ika Unahi Nui is for our boys to learn practical skills that will support them through life. No doubt challenges will come their way in the future and it is our responsibility as a whānau to equip them with the necessary skills to succeed and in some cases perhaps to survive.

    This month the boys are learning knowledge and skills associated with the maara kai. At the end of last summer I harvested my potatoes and stored a few leftovers in the garden shed. These have since sprouted and I thought this was an ideal time to show the boys how to prepare and plant them in the maara. We have a large garden located at the rear of our house containing a combination of green vegetables and root vegetables. Adjacent to these gardens stand three raised boxed gardens I built a year ago for growing garlic and Māori potatoes. Māori potatoes are easy to grow and great when eaten fresh in salads or as a side dish with melted butter, fresh herbs and seasoning.


    Using iPads to learn kupu Māori

    Before the boys started to prepare the maara, I introduced them to various tools required to do the job. They photographed these and then created a vocabulary list on Bitsboard to help them learn the names in te reo Māori.


    Planting taewa in the maara

    The first stage was pulling the weeds out of the maara.

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    Next the boys dug out any remnant potatoes that had grown over the winter.photo (12).JPG

    Manawairua poured compost into the maara.

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    Daymon collected our taewa which consisted of two varieties, tutaekuri and parera.

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    The boys then completed the final task of planting them in the maara.

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    Next week the boys will choose an iPad app to describe the process of planting taewa in the maara to share with their whānau and their classmates.





  • Engaging with whānau


    A significant feature of Te Ika Unahi Nui is building relationships with whānau through holding regular meetings in their houses. From the outset engaging with the whānau was a priority and I therefore wanted to hold our first hui at our house. Meeting in environments outside the kura help the whānau to feel comfortable and relaxed and allows them to share their ideas, questions and wonderings in a safe place. It is also important to think about when you want to hold the meeting and who you will invite.


    Whānau helping to make hinaki

    At this stage organising  meetings for Te Ika Unahi Nui is a responsibility shared between myself and the boys’ teacher. As the relationship and trust is built with whānau the hope is that the whānau will eventually welcome us into their homes. We like to invite the whole whānau so this eases the workload for them at home. Another key ingredient is sharing kai together and then magic happens. As a former teacher, I understand that engaging with whānau is a challenge but I also understand that  going that extra mile can make a huge difference when making initial contact with whānau for the very first time. In my experience relationships are more meaningful and whānau make an effort when they are contacted personally through a phone call or in some cases visited in their homes with a koha of food. Okato is a small rural community and engaging with the boys and their whānau is made easy for me because I see them often either at the local Four Square, at the skatepark or at the marae. I have had many meaningful discussions with whānau about our wānanga during these unscheduled encounters.


    Prior to organising a hui I send out a text message to all the whānau to find out if they are available on a particular night. When they have confirmed their availability I put together a basic agenda, organise my equipment, which usually consists of my laptop, cords, dongle, iPhone and iPad. The internet is not always reliable so I always have my iPhone handy just in case I need to connect to the internet via hotspot.

    The benefits of meeting in homes


    Pizza night at home

    Meeting in homes has many benefits for strengthening relationships between kura, learners and their whānau. Home environments are relaxed and whānau feel okay about participating in discussions. In our hui we usually mix and mingle for about 15 minutes and then I start our hui with a karakia and mihi. Generally I provide an update about what the boys are learning about at the marae, some of the practical activities we have completed and which iPad apps we have used to support their learning. I also show them examples of the boys’ work either through our blog or a short movie I have created. I invite feedback, questions and clarifications throughout the hui and then we plan the next activities together. I conclude our hui with a karakia and then we share food and more discussions take place. I enjoy engaging with our whānau in this way because it keeps them informed, up to date but more importantly, it is an opportunity to get to know them, encourage and praise them for the commitment they have to the education and wellbeing of their sons.

  • I had the privilege, on Monday, to be able to spend the day with Jason Ruakere on his marae. This was very much a step outside of the comfort zone for this city lover. For me it really was like being in another world. I was out of the city. The pace was slower. It was more relaxed. I was introduced to eating Pūhā - which Jason had collected and cooked with pork bones - and immersed (at least in a small way) into Māori culture.

    Reflecting on this it makes me sad that it was outside of my comfort zone and that of many other New Zealanders because it should be a part of what makes us Kiwi. The Māori culture may not specifically be my culture but it is part of my Kiwi-ness. Speaking for myself (although I’m confident this is the case for many Pākehā), I am quick to embrace some parts of Te Ao Māori when it suits me (the haka as a part of our rugby and sporting culture, for example) but other parts I tend to shy away from. I know this is due to a lack of understanding on my part - understanding of what is being said or done and why it is happening.

    Puniho Marae


    As a part of my inquiry this year I really want to find ways to connect with and engage with parents, whānau, and the school community. From my perspective, this is an area that many schools struggle with. By getting the opportunity to spend time with Jason, and the boys he has been teaching on the marae, I was able to experience a way of learning that is relatively unfamiliar to me but is quite normal for a large number of families in New Zealand.


    On arrival I was welcomed onto the marae with a karanga from one of the “aunties” and a hongi with all present. I have to say I was grateful that is was just a small affair, which included the 5 boys that Jason has been teaching, as I think if everyone had been asked to come to the pōwhiri I might have felt a bit more uncomfortable. Jason gave a short mihi and I responded with a mihi that I had managed to learn (and get all the way through without checking my notes!) in the three days leading up to the visit. We then went around the group sharing our pepeha, starting with Jason and ending with me. This was a good chance for the boys and me to practice our pepeha.

    Kōrero tuku iho

    A quick break for morning tea before it was time to hear some of the stories of the marae and local area. I found this fascinating and really wished I had a better memory to recall all that was shared! Jason had been sharing the stories with the boys and continued the tradition of oral storytelling by encouraging the boys to share the stories with me. And they did well! It was great to see them supporting each other as they shared how Rauhoto, the rock that placed on the marae, came to be there. How Taranaki maunga had followed the rock from the central North Island area after losing a battle with Tongariro maunga over the beautiful Pihanga.

    It was great to see the boys’ fascination and interest in the photos of people within the various whare. They were interested in the stories about them, and how they fit within the history of the area. It helped reinforce to me the importance of whanaungatanga.

    Between the dining room and whare we passed a couple of mill stones. It amazed me that the boys would likely have walked past them many times but they had never asked what they were or where they came from, but then I realised I probably would’ve done the same if Jason hadn’t pointed them out to me! Jason shared that there used to be a number of factories in the area and the marae used to be a very busy place with many more houses situated around it. There were a number of dairy factories as well as a flour mill. The mill stones came from the nearby flour mill next to Werekino stream at the end of Komene road.

    Mill stones at Puniho Marae

    Te Reo and technology

    Before the boys had to head back to school at lunchtime, they showed me some of the work they had been doing on the iPads. This included drawing and telling the story that I shared above of Taranaki maunga’s journey to where it is today. The purpose of this was for the boys to retell the story of the maunga in their own words. One of the boys told me he didn’t like writing with a pen because his writing wasn’t very neat and he found it difficult, but was happy to type stories on the iPad. They all said it was fun but they were confident they were learning.

    I was also shown some of videos they had made using rākau (Cuisenaire rods). The boys had Te Reo lessons, after which they photographed each stage of their learning and recording their voice to help with pronunciation. Using Educreations they were able to revisit the lesson to reinforce their learning.

    Jason then took us through a quick lesson in Te Reo using the rākau. Although a simple lesson, I found it a little challenging having to listen carefully for the words I did recognise (numbers and colours) and pick up the correct number rākau of a certain colour. Then Jason changed the words slightly to something he had taught the boys recently and I had to listen carefully to what he was saying to the boys and what they were doing as a result. Instead of saying a particular number, he was saying “tētehi” meaning “one of” and “ētehi” meaning ”some of”. I was not familiar with these words at all and had to interpret their meaning as he was talking to the boys.

    As a teacher of science in my past life, this was a good reminder that we can sometimes speak another language (in my case scientific vocabulary) that our students have to pay close attention to, in order to understand! Teachers/educators/academics often speak another language too!


    After lunch, Jason took me to Parihaka - a significant site during the land wars in the latter half of the 1800s. He explained his connection to Parihaka and also the stories of the main leaders of the various marae. While I don’t remember all of the details, I really came away with a sense of community and belonging for those of the area. There is so much history and meaning for the families living there and those from the area.

    Beyond the classroom—engaging the community

    From a school perspective, the trip to Puniho emphasised to me the importance in making connections beyond the classroom with the local community, whānau and marae. As a school we should be aware of the history and tikanga of the community in which we are situated. Connections to this knowledge can be made through the learning that occurs in the classroom.

    Schools are busy places. As a result it can be easy, sometimes, to fall into the trap of “ticking the box” in regards to community consultation and engagement. Schools are a part of the community in which they are situated. Instead of having a hui at the marae - taking school-specific business to the marae - what if you decided as a school to build partnerships with the community without a set agenda? What if you took your staff and/or students to sit amongst the koroua, kuia and others gathered at the marae and let them tell their story? This may help the school to develop an understanding of its place within the community as well as helping the wider community feel comfortable to speak into the life, goals and plans of the school.

  • Kia ora koutou!

    Last Sunday I drove a van load of excited boys to the start of the Pouakai track at the top of Mangorei Road, south of New Plymouth. I greeted the maunga with a mihi, said our karakia and then we set off. We meandered through the bush for about an hour before we reached what seemed like a never ending stairway to heaven! This was physically challenging for the group and required frequent hydration stops. When we finally arrived to our destination we were rewarded with the most amazing views of Ngāmotu, Tongariro, Ruapehu and Taranaki.

    The view of Taranaki from Pouakai

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    The boys on top of the world

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    Boys relaxing outside the hut

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    Tātaiako Cultural Competencies

    Tātaiako are a set of cultural competencies developed by the Ministry to help all educators support Māori learners to achieve educationally as Māori. This wānanga is underpinned by the five competencies which include: whanaungatanga, ako, wānanga, manaakitanga and tangata whenuatanga.


    Evidence shows that effective teaching and learning depends on the relationship between teachers and students and students’ active engagement (Bishop, Berryman, Cavanagh and Teddy, 2007. Te Kōtahitanga Phase 3 Whānaungatanga: Establishing a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations in mainstream secondary school classrooms). Undertaking excursions such as tramping provide opportunities to build relationships with your learners and in this case their whānau as well.


    In the context of Tātaiako, ako describes learning in the classroom and beyond. Taking this group into the outdoors allowed the boys to engage with an authentic learning context which included views of the maunga, identifying different species of trees, the sound of flowing rivers and the singing of various birds. In this case, the surrounding elements were our teachers. Learning did not begin at 9am and finish and 3pm but continued from the beginning to the end of the tramp.

    After dinner we lit candles, sat around the table and had a lesson in te reo Māori. We revisited many of the stories that have been shared about maunga Taranaki, significant ancestors and places. After supper we sat around the wood fire and the boys learnt a waiata tawhito (old chant) about Parihaka. They were encouraged to learn how their ancestors did through listening to the words and creating pictures in their minds. Often on an overnight excursion it is easy slip into relax mode and learning opportunities can be missed. On this occasion the boys seemed to soak up the learning with little effort and still had time to relax and have fun.


    • planning and preparation for the tramp

    • visiting and talking to whānau and hearing how excited they were about the trip

    • taking the boys on their first tramp to the maunga

    • seeing the smiles from the boys when we arrived to the hut and their response to the amazing views of the maunga

    • Cooking, eating and sharing stories together

    • learning in the outdoors and sharing kōrero around the wood fire

    • finding the kaikomako tree

    • receiving texts from whānau about how much their boys enjoyed the experience


    Whats next?

    Next Monday Nathaniel Louwrens who is a fellow member of the Enabling e-Learning and Learning with digital technologies team will be visiting. Nathaniel is keen to learn more about Māori culture and home-school partnerships.

  • Kia ora koutou and welcome to Spring!

    photo (4).JPG


    Taranaki maunga plays a prominent role in the identity of the boys, their whānau and the school community.

    The learning focus for the boys this fortnight has been to build an understanding of:

    • The original inhabitants and the naming of maunga Taranaki

    • The day Te Toka a Rauhoto was moved to Puniho Pā in 1948

    Using an authentic context is a vital part of education in the 21st Century in order to transfer knowledge and skills into the real world. Puniho Pā where this wānanga is based provides an authentic learning context. The boys are learning inside the marae where te reo is spoken and waiata are sung. They can visit places of significance that are talked about in our history and traditions. Their teachers are the marae, the awa, the moana, the whenua and the maunga.

    Literacy Focus

    Within the learning context of maunga Taranaki students are developing the following literacy skills enabled by technologies

    • Using their own words to express ideas

    • Correct spelling and pronunciation of kupu Māori

    • Understanding the components of a good photo of the maunga

    • Summarising ideas into a 30 second audio recording using Tellagami

    • Putting ideas together into a logical sequence to create an iBook about Taranaki maunga with Book Creator

    How does the technology support learning?

    I selected the tools because:

    • A short audio recording is a great alternative to writing for organising and expressing ideas, reluctant writers are able to focus on their ideas rather than the mechanics of writing

    • Tellagami is a great tool for supporting reluctant learners to develop oral skills because they can listen to their recording and adjust as required

    • Using the tools and a collaborative process of construction allowed the boys time to experiment, action, and reflect on their learning

    The learning resulted in these well structured gami’s from the boys explaining the naming of Taranaki maunga.

    Manawairua's Gami

    Dane's gami


    What makes learning effective?

    Learners look for connections: When students approach a subject for the first time, they immediately try to perceive the relevance of the new concept to their lived experience. This means that the more encouragement a learner has to become invested in material on a personal level, the easier it will be to assimilate the unfamiliar.”

    Lombardi, Marilyn M. (2007). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview. Educause Learning Initiative – advancing learning through IT innovation.

    Authentic activities enable learners to make choices and reflect on their learning, both individually and as a team.

    The task provided the boys with the opportunity to work together, give each other feedback, and reflect on, develop, and share their understanding, beliefs, and values about maunga Taranaki.

    What’s next

    In the weekend we will follow in the footsteps of our tipuna with an overnight tramp to Pouakai hut. This is an opportunity for the whānau to connect to the maunga on a personal and spiritual level, while strengthening the whānaungatanga within the group.

  • Kia ora koutou,


    This week the boys have been learning about Karakatonga Pā which was located at the headwaters of the Waiawakaiho river prior to the arrival of Pukeonaki maunga.

    Learning intentions

    • The boys will learn about Karakatonga Pā

    • Literacy focus is on pronunciation, correct spelling and editing skills

    • Effective use of iPad apps to support learning

    e-Learning tools supporting learning

    iPads, camera and various apps including: Bitsboard, Tallegami, Book Creator and Educreations.

    Learning supported with rākau


    • The boys are developing confidence with using the ipad

    • Bitsboard, Tallegami and Book Creator allow the boys to re-record their voice as many times as they wish until they are happy with the outcome

    • This was particularly helpful when Manawairua recorded his pepeha about Karakatonga Pā

    • Pronunciation is improving as well as spelling

    • The editing function included in these apps are particularly helpful for editing their work before publishing it to the blog

    Manawairua's Pepeha about Karakatonga Pā created with Tallegami

    • As the iPads are shared with other students in the school the work completed by the boys is sometimes missing from the previous week

    • On some occasions when the boys arrive to the marae, certain apps are missing from the iPad

    • We are unable to share their work as the iPads email function is currently disabled

    What’s next

    Over the next two weeks we will be learning about the original inhabitants on the maunga and the circumstances around the naming of the mountain. This kaupapa will end with an overnight tramp to Pouakai hut.

  • Tēnā koutou katoa!

    Over the last two weeks we have been tracing the journey of Taranaki maunga, learning Te Reo Māori and practical skills such as making a fire from scratch and how to tie knots.

    Literacy learning

    After sharing a tradition about Taranaki maunga I invited the boys to retell the story using an app of their choice. Our focus was on spelling, sequencing events and using descriptive language.

    Manawairua and Daymon selected Tellegami, Dane and Chaz chose Educreations and Tuawaerenga wrote his story with the Strip Designer comic app.

    Using the apps for writing has engaged the students and supported them with organising and summarising their ideas. Being able to illustrate their legends has encouraged creativity and deepened their understanding of the relationship between visual and written language. Because their work is published on the group’s blog, students have focused on writing with consideration of their audience.

    This is an example of Tuawaerenga’s story using Strip Designer

    Taranaki_Maunga (2).jpg

    Taranaki_Maunga (1).jpg

    Recording and revisiting learning

    I introduced Te Reo Māori with cuisenaire rods (rākau) and then the boys selected various iPad apps to record their learning. The boys chose Educreations, Book Creator and Bitsboard.

    The ipad is an effective tool for learning languages. The boys are able to revisit the lesson as many times as they wish at home. You can see in this example by Dane, the voice recording function (available in most apps) helps to develop fluency and correct pronunciation. The games offered in some apps like Bitsboard are particularly valuable for learning new vocabulary and phrases.

    The second part of yesterday’s lesson was learning about how to make fire. By watching YouTube examples the boys were able to understand the steps involved in learning this new skill. The boys then explained the process for their classmates by creating their own video. This was a real highlight for the boys. Please visit our blog here to see more.

    From Skitch.jpg

    Materials for making fire

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    The boys trialing their fire making equipment

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    Daymon trialing their bow drill
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    Chaz with their finished bow
  • Tēna koutou,

    I hope you all had a good break and feeling ready for what is often the busiest term of the year.


    photo (24).JPG

    Our kaupapa over the next month is about our maunga in Taranaki. We begin by tracing the journey of Pukeonaki from the middle of the North Island and learn about the significance of the guide stone Te Toka a Rauhoto. We will learn about some of the special ancestors associated with the mountain and about the places where they lived. Our kaupapa will end with an overnight tramp to Pouakai hut.


    Our focus is on writing and telling stories about Taranaki maunga. These include:

    • writing short captions explaining what is happening in photos the boys have taken on their iPads

    • writing a short a summary about their learning experiences on our blog

    • using the ipad to create audio recordings explaining the significance of maunga and the guide stone, Te Toka a Rauhoto.

    The technology is both engaging and motivating the boys to write and share their learning with classmates and whānau. The voice recording tool available in Tellegami and Book Creator have been particularly valuable for the boys to organise their ideas, and helpful in improving their fluency and pronunciation.

    Te Taiao Ako

    Strengthening kura and whānau relationships will continue by encouraging whānau and teachers to attend our wānanga at Puniho Pā and overnight tramp while inviting them to contribute comments to our blog, Te Ika Unahi Nui.

  • No eels for dinner

    By Jason Ruakere

    Kia ora koutou,

    We had a successful overnight stay at our home a couple of weekends ago. We completed how hinaki thanks to the help of our parents and managed to set the hinaki in the river just before dark. 

    Ka pai whānau!

    The boys warmed up by the wood burner while the adults prepared and cooked pizzas in the outside oven. We rose at 6am the next morning to catch a glimpse of Puanga and then waited for the sunrise to collect our hinaki. Around 7am we headed out to the river with excitement but were disappointed to find no eels had been caught. We saw atleast three eels swimming around the hinaki and realised perhaps that they had possibly entered the hinaki eaten the bait and escaped through a few holes. 

    Not to be discouraged we will fix up our hinaki and have another go soon. 

    For this activity we focussed on the Beyond the classroom dimension of the e-Learning Planning Framework which is about using technologies to engage with whānau/iwi and hāpori in culturally responsive ways.

    Our technology focus involved the boys taking photos with the ipads and then sharing these on our blog. Their teacher filmed the boys working on the hinaki, added a narration and then shared it to my email. Our Literacy focus was around writing their first blog post.




  • Tēnā rā koutou katoa.

    Ko Taranaki, ko Hikurangi ngā maunga e tū nei. Ko Taranaki, ko Te Atiawa, Ko Ngāti Porou ngā iwi e mihi nei. Ko Puniho Pā tōku kāinga. Ko Jason Ruakere ahau. Ko au tētehi Pou Takawaenga mō CORE Education.

    I'm a facilitator with CORE Education and am a member of Learning with Digital Technologies and Enabling e-Learning teams. My role includes liaising with schools, whānau and communities  through and with technologies. I live in Warea with my whānau at Puniho Pā.

    Over the coming weeks I will share a fortnightly post about a wānanga (programme) that has just started in Taranaki. The wānanga is a collaboration between Te Toi Tupu,  Core Education, Coastal Taranaki School and Puniho Pā.

    The name of the wānanga is Te Ika Unahi Nui which is taken from the Taranaki saying:

    'E kore e pau a Taranaki, he ika unahi nui'

    Taranaki will never perish for it is like a tough scaled fish!

    In traditional times Taranaki iwi were described as being wedged in between Te Atiawa in the north and Ngāti Ruanui in the south during battle. Despite the situation however, Taranaki defences were said to be impenetrable.

    In the context of the above description the vision of the wānanga is to equip our boys with knowledge and skills to be successful through undertaking activities that focus on strengthening their identity, leadership and literacy with and through digital technologies.

    Initial consultation involved five phases:

    1. Approaching the school 

    - what is the school's strategic direction?

    - what is happening with Māori students?

    - how is the school supporting Māori students?

    - what professional development are staff involved in to support Māori students?

    - how are the school currently engaging with whānau and community?

    2. Identifying which boys to support

    - which age group do we focus on?

    - which boys in particular would benefit from this support?

    3. Meeting the boys and their whānau

    - what are their interests?

    - how do they learn best?

    - what are the aspirations of the boys?

    - what are the aspirations of the whānau?

    4. Assessing the school's e-learning capability

    - which technologies are they currently using?

    - how strong is their infrastructure?

    5. Co-constructing the content of the wānanga  

    During this phase we shared information gathered with the whānau at two meetings and decided on the following outcomes:

    • to develop leadership, literacy and life skills

    • the boys are connected to their language and culture

    • parents and whānau are engaged with their boys’ learning

    • learning is enhanced through the effective use of digital technologies

    • the learning in the wānanga will be captured with ipads and shared with the whānau and kura through a blog

    It was also agreed that the wānanga would be underpinned by Tataiako cultural competenices and aligned to the school's charter and strategic paln. 

    Over the last month the boys have been learning about Puniho Pā, learning karakia, waiata and how to share their whānau pepeha and mihi. At present the boys are experimenting with constructing hinaki to catch eels next week. To find out more about Te Ika Unahi Nui follow the link to their blog here.

    Ngā mihi nui Jason. 

Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the classroom - Connecting school to the wider community with and about technologies.