Early child­hood fo­cus on te reo Ma¯ori


Ran­giora’s Lit­tle Pep­pertree Preschool is head­ing into a full month of te reo Ma¯ori, start­ing with Ma¯ori lan­guage week.

Head teacher Kate Swaine said the cen­tre was com­mit­ted to the month-long cel­e­bra­tion to al­low for a fuller pro­gramme.

‘‘A week is just such a short time, we don’t want it to be a to­ken ges­ture,’’ she said. ’’We use Ma¯ori daily, and we are mea­sured by ERO, so in fact the early child­hood sec­tor is very good at it now.’’

Swaine has been at the cen­tre in Ran­giora for 17 years, over which time she had ex­pe­ri­enced a real shift in pub­lic per­cep­tion. Some par­ents had ob­jected to their child learn­ing Ma¯ori but they were few and far be­tween, she said. While some felt te reo was not rel­e­vant in to­day’s world, she ve­he­mently dis­agreed.

‘‘Some say ‘where will that get you, it’s bet­ter to learn Ger­man or Man­darin’, but it’s our lan­guage. If we don’t speak Maori in New Zealand, where else are they go­ing to speak it?

‘‘Any lan­guage learn­ing is so good for the mind. But you can’t just learn the lan­guage be­cause it has no con­text on its own, you need to learn the his­tory too.’’

Maori myths and leg­ends were an im­por­tant part of the preschool’s read­ing, which taught about hunt­ing for food or gath­er­ing kai moana.

‘‘It’s ex­cit­ing to feed their minds and pro­vide the props and then to see them act­ing it out in their own play.’’

It was also up to pro­fes­sional ed­u­ca­tors to hon­our the Treaty of Wai­tangi, she said, and she hoped that in a few years’ time peo­ple would not think twice about the use of te reo in schools.

At Lit­tle Pep­pertree chil­dren were well versed in numbers, colours and ba­sic com­mands in­clud­ing horoi o ringaringa (wash your hands) and e noho (sit down), as well as days of the week and the weather.

‘‘At the mo­ment they un­der- stand what I am ask­ing them but I want to move past them just trans­lat­ing to them re­spond­ing in Maori.’’

As well as the lan­guage, she had taught wa­iata (songs), poi and ra¯kau (sticks) for years. Each child at the pre-school had a set of poi.

Ex­tra em­pha­sis was go­ing into te reo learn­ing this month, in­clud­ing kapa haka out­ings, ki­wiana dress up days and learn­ing about lo­cal place names, Swaine said.


Lit­tle Pep­pertree Preschool su­per­vi­sor Kate Swaine leads the tamariki in some poi prac­tice.

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