Sunday, 18 November 2018

Waka Hourua & Education #2: Maintaining a waka and Passion projects

Over the last year I have been on a profound path of discovery both personally and professionally. This path relates to becoming a crew member (kaumoana) on a waka hourua and learning about wayfinding/voyaging.

Our region has recently acquired a waka hourua (double hulled waka,) with the purpose of using it as a classroom on the water…(I have a strong distaste for this description and I have clearly communicated this to the powers that be.)

This waka is based on the model that our tipuna designed and mastered over thousands of years and its name is Tairāwhiti. So I laughed along with you Claire at the voyaging/mariner metaphors being used throughout this first podcast. :-))

It got me thinking about what I have learnt in the last 12 months regarding voyaging and the learning.

To keep this brief because voyaging is full of STEM learning opportunities! I’ll get straight to an observation I’ve made and how this might be or is already being replicated in a kura.

I’ve learned that much of the success achieved through voyaging is due to the crew regularly completing maintenance on the waka. The phrase often used is;

“If you take care of the waka in the harbour, the waka will take care of you on the moana.”

Maintenance involves mostly minor jobs like checking lines, lubricating hinges, replacing worn equipment, cleaning and checking gear and many other jobs. The significant jobs can involve dismantling an entire waka, replacing worn lashing, sanding & varnishing masts, oiling decks, repainting the hulls. This process of maintenance is an essential part of being kaumoana and involves all hands on deck. What I’ve seen is that it allows the kaumoana to not just become familiar with our waka, but also towards each other (the kaumoana you are likely to be voyaging with.) Through this regular maintenance we develop a sense of ownership, belonging and care. In contrast, if maintenance is neglected, then the waka becomes a hazard to the kaumoana, other ocean craft and through extension everyone else invested in it, including whanau and community.

The wero I am beginning to formulate in my mind relates to how might schools implement a regular maintenance type practice into their school?

My initial thoughts was the dread that someone might reply with, “practicing the times table at the beginning of each maths lesson is all the maintenance they need…” :-)) I’m thinking this is not about academic learning but more about the deeper stuff. I’ve started to expand my thinking about what a class might focus on to maintain. Perhaps the classroom?... the school?...perhaps the community? Perhaps schools are already implementing this concept in other ways. If so, how are schools developing an authentic sense of ownership, belonging and care within the students?

After mulling it over for a while I’m interested in the idea that passion projects may be providing the benefit gained from maintenance for our learners. If passion projects are aimed towards developing a sense of identity perhaps belonging then there is a similarity. Getting to learn about the little things that make you up, as well as the big stuff. Like in maintenance the small tasks are as essential as the big tasks. It all matters! So this is not a new idea at all, but perhaps the waka hourua provides an authentic context for our rangatahi to experience this concept and draw from when needed. In a Passion project, what might be classified as a small task? I imagine the regular almost routine tasks like setting intentions, testing ideas iteratively, evaluating & reflecting on progress might fit in this category. Perhaps Im completely off the mark...

Our Kaihautu (skipper) Pererika Makiha regularly asks new crew;

“Every person brings something special to contribute to our waka… What do you bring?”

If only everyone who is asked could answer this question confidently. Many can't or don't. The wonderful truth is that the waka needs a little bit of everything and not too much of anything. Being able to cook is important as is having a sense of humour, knowing how to fish or how to keep a conversation. Playing an instrument or knowing how to use a hammer. It’s all important and valued.

Through passion projects are our learners carrying out maintenance in a way not unlike how our kaumoana do on a waka hourua?

Regularly examining our learning practices and applications of learning through our own passions. The learners passion is the key. If the student is passionate about their learning then no matter if the task is big or small, it all matters. The ownership, belonging and care are more likely to grow from this foundation.

I’m thinking reflection is essential for this to really work. What did I learn today? How does it apply in my everyday? Where to from here? We always have a poroporoaki at the end of a maintenance or a sail. This provides an opportunity for us to reflect and share our thoughts.

I think the real value of this idea is that it's a culturally authentic perspective on a practice that is already being introduced into learning programs around the motu. Through several waka hourua located throughout Aotearoa rangatahi are being introduced to voyaging. Haunui in Tamaki Makaurau, Hinemoana and Ngahiraka mai tawhiti Tauranga, Te Matau a Maui in Ahuriri (Napier) and Tairāwhiti in Turanganui a kiwa (Gisborne). This means more of our rangatahi are beginning to connect with an culturally authentic and inspirational kaupapa that opens many opportunities on a global scale. I hope this perspective provides an opportunity for others to further explore the value of passion projects in relation to developing future student learning programs.

I’ve often said to visitors as part of our poroporoaki at the end of a sail, “If you leave this waka thinking that what you have learned only relates to being on a waka, then we have failed you… What you have learned as part of this experience (kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga) applies in anything you do in all parts of your life.”

As I mentioned earlier Our region has recently acquired a waka hourua with the purpose of using it as a classroom on the water… I’ve never felt right about describing this taonga of ours as something that fails so many of our rangatahi. I’m only now beginning to realise that it needs to be flipped… The waka enabled our tipuna to become the astronauts of their time. We must make our classrooms be like a waka.

I’d love to hear anyones thoughts on this idea about maintenance and learning.

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