He Pī Ka Rere a powerful vehicle for tamariki to engage with te ao Māori

He Pī Ka Rere is proving to be a compelling change agent for learning about Te Ao Māori kaupapa at Waverley Park School in Waihōpai, as Darrio and Nikki Penetito-Hemara recently experienced.

In the lead up to the rising of Matariki, tamariki and kaiako from Waverley Park School welcomed Darrio (Toi Tangata Kaiwhakahaere Matua) and Nikki Penetito-Hemara (Managing Director of Kori Collab) to the deep south to share and reflect upon their learning journey with He Pī Ka Rere. It was a chance for tamariki to showcase the leadership skills they have been developing while teaching He Pī Ka Rere to their peers and teina. 

Waverley Park School is a kura auraki based in Waihōpai and each year, the tūākana attend a one day wānanga where they are trained to be He Pī Ka Rere Kaitiaki.  To start the programme, they learn a variety of kēmu that focus on sharing pūrākau, mātauranga Māori, stories of Atua and the domains in which they reside, not to mention fundamental movement skills.

Nikki explains how day one kicked off with a visit to Waverley Park School where the He Pī Ka Rere Kaitiaki, both new and old, had planned an array of activities for their teina. 

“It was such a delightful demonstration of leadership – cloaked in te reo Māori and local pūrākau with tons of movement, play and laughter. It was truly a reflection of the impact kaiako Raiha Johnson and Wiki Burdon have had in this kura,” she says.

“It was also an instant validation of the benefits of the kaupapa and gave us a unique opportunity to observe He Pī Ka Rere in action led by students for students.”

Later on, the roopu made its way to Te Tomairangi Marae, located in the heart of Waihōpai. The makariri weather did little to dampen the spirits of the Waverley whānau who ensured the wharenui was warm, the kai was plentiful and the energy in the air was buzzing. Being back on the marae was a highlight for the tamariki who enjoyed the opportunity to learn new kēmu alongside Darrio. 

That evening, Nikki led an awa mapping session where tamariki were encouraged to map their journey visually, using prompts which asked them to identify milestones, successes, challenges and surprises. 

He Pī Ka Rere milestones included becoming ‘Reo Rangatira’, learning more te reo Māori, running their very first HPKR sessions as a Kaitiaki, and learning to speak in front of large groups of people. Tamariki also mentioned that they learned a lot from unpacking the pūrākau and reimagining them into various activities and kēmu.  Some of the challenges tamariki spoke of included managing the behaviour of their teina whilst in large groups, especially outside, which is an area that they would like further development in. 

“He Pī Ka Rere has been a powerful change agent for learning about Te Ao Māori kaupapa at Waverley Park School,” explains Wiki. “It is fun, engaging and challenging but most importantly, it continues to deepen their connection to their whakapapa and our whenua.”

Finally, before lights out, the tamariki enjoyed a whakaari put on by Raiha and Wiki to celebrate and mark their time together. 

Drizzles of snowfall greeted the roopu on day two, but even wicked weather failed to deter some tamariki from their Saturday morning sport commitments. After breakfast the tamariki had an opportunity to learn some more kēmu to add to their He Pī Ka Rere toolkit. While the tamariki were busy with Darrio, Nikki took the opportunity to interview the kaiako about their experiences in creating space for He Pī Ka Rere to flourish within their school environment. 

One kaiako touched on one of the special aspects of He Pī Ka Rere being student-led.

 “How often are students given opportunities to lead their peers, be challenged and gain skills from that?” they said. “It’s huge, it’s a part of the DNA of the school now and they love it!”

Another mentioned the introduction of the ‘Reo Rangatira’ role, which was created to celebrate tamariki who demonstrate leadership in their use of te reo Māori. “The cool thing with the ‘Reo Rangatira’ role is that it is self-identified, so their role is to support the kaitiaki and encourage more opportunities to embed Te Reo Māori. Some days it’s a race to be the ‘Reo Rangatira’. Essentially they love being the kaiako.” 

With He Pī Ka Rere being offered to all tamariki, the teachers are now noticing that the learnings are now filtering into the classroom. 

“A huge amount of Te Reo and Tikanga Māori is now ‘pulsing’ in my room and I’ve never had that before. It goes on for the whole day and is becoming normalised,” a teacher shared. 

Another kaiako went on to explain how He Pī Ka Rere is so much more than a physical activity programme.  “I love how they incorporate pūrākau into the programme. I love seeing our kids really show leadership and demonstrate that they have a love for Te Ao Māori. It is awesome to see their desire to know the pūrākau well enough to be able to teach it to other kids,” they said. “He Pī Ka Rere is not PE, it’s not just an opportunity to escape outside and play, there’s a depth of learning behind it which is more valuable. These pūrākau create a connection to this rohe.”

A session on what ‘levelling up’ looks like for He Pī Ka Rere at Waverley Park School was then held, where tamariki were encouraged to create something that represented their future aspirations for the kaupapa. 

“Some tamariki used resources from the taiao such as rākau (wooden blocks), aka (vines), anga (shells), paua and playdough as inspiration to create new kēmu they wish to explore in the future. Some gained inspiration from traditional Māori games while others talked about wanting more noho marae to dig deeper into some of the local pūrākau,” says Nikki. “One group even mentioned that ‘we need to find more pūrākau which are based on Atua Wāhine too’.”

It became clear that the tamariki have a desire to find ways to celebrate He Pī Ka Rere and the many achievements experienced throughout the year – perhaps even in the form of a school wide event such as He Pī Ka Rere Games.

On behalf of Toi Tangata, Darrio and Nikki were very grateful to the whānau at Waverly Park School for the opportunity to see He Pī Ka Rere in all its glory in Waihōpai. 

“It was a weekend full of tākaro, katakata, kori tinana and opportunities to hear the awesome ideas and aspirations of our future leaders,” says Nikki. “And what an honour it was to witness some of the fruits of the seeds sown by Raiha and Wiki who are definitely tino taonga to this hāpori.”

I hōrapa a Tākitimu i Te Tai Poutini o Te Wai Pounamu. I tuki te waka ki te ākau. Kei reira tonu te waka e tū ā-maunga ana, ko te pae maunga o Tākitimu.

Me mihi ka tika ki ngā maunga whakahīhī o Waihōpai!