Manawatu Standard

From boat shed to web platform

- Georgia-may Gilbertson

Katuku Island was supposed to be written for a potential television series, but its creator decided to turn it into a video game to help build learning and resilience.

Dr Phyllis Callaghan wrote the script 10 years ago, but decided it would be better used as a survival game and a rich learning experience for indigenous cultures across the world to benefit from, at no cost.

Callaghan said the elements of the game were Ma¯ori ‘‘from start to finish’’, something that hadn’t been achieved on this scale before.

The game was also backed by 10 years of award-winning masters and doctoral research. It focused on motivation­al cultural codes, like toi, educationa­l developmen­t in literacy, and signified Ma¯ori and Indigenous cultural codes in all aspects of the game.

Developed to transform the cultural learning space for indigenous peoples from 6-yearolds upwards, the game portrayed the world through a ‘‘Ma¯ori lens’’.

The dream of Katuku started when Callaghan’s late husband Craig had a vision to transform the lives of young Ma¯ori men who were struggling in the education system, through the art of Whakairo carving. The programme, which began at Gisborne Boys’ High School won the Prime Minister’s teaching and learning supreme award in 2017.

The designers, some who were told they would be ‘‘nothing’’ at school, come from that very programme and created the game’s landscapes, avatars, moko, weapons and clothing. All are successful artists.

Boydie Te Nahu, Eru Brown, Tamanay Tuhou, Jahvarn Battes and Hikurangi Mangu are just some of the team members who have been working on the game since 2014. The programme was run from a small boat shed on the school grounds. It was so successful that at its height 160 students were learning whakairo.

‘‘It’s a small boat shed, but it’s full of mana,’’ former student and now digital artist Brown told Stuff .

After unlocking the shed on an icy Tuesday afternoon, Brown discovered the first carving he’d ever created. ‘‘They only leave the best ones in here,’’ he said.

Brown entered the programme when he was 15. Now he’s 26, but still continues to call his late teacher ‘‘Sir’’ and Callaghan ‘‘Miss’’.

Brown recalled moments during his schooling when he was told he’d be ‘‘nothing’’, but ‘‘Sir’’ could see plenty of potential.

‘‘That shed sheltered a lot of lost young men and kept us safe, so it’s a huge honour and privilege to be part of a project like Katuku Island. But it’s bitterswee­t, knowing Sir isn’t here to see it finally become a reality after all the years of planning with Miss.

‘‘He used to say I’m sparking a flame within you that you can’t see right now, but I can see it. We honestly wouldn’t be here without him.’’ Te Nahu also praised the teaching of Craig Callaghan.

‘‘It’s just been huge, on multiple levels, from the moment we walk through those school gates to the time we leave we’re the products. But thanks to Sir he’s, created these pathways.’’

The name ‘‘Katuku Island’’ is a metaphor for a place of transforma­tion and inclusion.

Players must make their way to the only uncontamin­ated place in the world, Katuku Island. Along the

journey, they create Ma¯ori warriorins­pired avatars, design weapons, build tribes, and escape crumbling cities; while undertakin­g literacy and decision-making challenges.

‘‘The game is a combinatio­n of some really good teaching from a Ma¯ori lens and wanting to close the gaps of inequity in terms of English and technology, and really embracing cultural codes and bringing them across into the technologi­cal space.

‘‘[Players] are able to master cultural talents, which came naturally to them, such as toi or whakairo. These codes had often lain dormant throughout their mainstream education and were overshadow­ed by negative codes they’d endured at school, such as racism,’’ Callaghan said.

The game would allow students with minimal education to get a second chance at learning.

‘‘Katuku Island has a real-time assessment tool to identify areas the player shows mastery and resilience in, so they can turn negative experience­s into positives and be encouraged to advance further.

 ?? JOHN COWPLAND/STUFF ?? Dr Phyllis Callaghan, along with a group of former Gisborne Boys’ High School students, have developed a video game, Katuku Island, to help build learning and resilience.
JOHN COWPLAND/STUFF Dr Phyllis Callaghan, along with a group of former Gisborne Boys’ High School students, have developed a video game, Katuku Island, to help build learning and resilience.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand