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The Matakōkiri project

The Matakōkiri project supports students to engage with science by linking science / pūtaiao to Māori language, culture and identity through students’ local tikanga, whakapapa and stories.

The project is an iwitanga-based science programme run by Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iko Ake Trust in their rohe for their students, whānau, teachers and schools.

November 2015 update

Matakōkiri continues to be very popular with students and their whānau and is consistently oversubscribed.

The theme for the most recent wānanga was Toitū te Hangarau – Technology and Innovation. It featured a key ancestor, Ihenga who was an explorer and innovator. Students were shown that he used his curious, enquiring mind to probe, explore, discover, make associations and draw conclusions.

Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust collaborated with three organisations to deliver the workshops:

  • OMG Tech ( an Auckland-based charitable trust which provides technology workshops for children in the South Auckland region ) collaborated with Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust and led hands-on activities that included coding, 3D printing, robotics and biology experiments.
  • A local organisation Digital Natives Academy (DNA) led activities which used the stories about Ihenga as the context to practice more coding, creating maps using Google Tour Builder and making robots that represented ancestors and were manipulated through a course, and crafting Ihenga ‘worlds’ using the Minecraft programme.
  • Future in Tech provided three ambassadors (local engineers) who delivered an overview of their work then set the students a challenge to build their own bridges. The bridges were judged by the engineers for design and strength and feedback was given to each team of builders on their strengths and weaknesses of their bridge.

Preparation for the workshops included members of the Trust team learning from the providers so that they could provide support at the workshops. 

A number of activities took place at the wānanga.

  • iPads were provided by a local trust, Nga Pumanawa e Waru and were used by students to take images, record activities and record some learner evaluations of the workshops.
  • An electronics activity saw students making challenging circuits to make LED lights work and to create their own ‘bristle bots’.
  • A local gamer, innovator, lover of technology and musician, JJ Rika gave an inspirational presentation to students of his successful journey.
  • The innovator and owner of OGO ( a local business which is a long time supporter of Matakōkiri) spoke to students about his experiences and challenged them to explore their ideas and to be prepared to persist when challenges come along.
  • At the end of the wānanga, students gave presentations to their whanau about what they had learned using different aspects of technology eg coding, interactive maps, showing their Ihenga’s worlds and used robots to narrate his adventures.

The Matakōkiri work received national publicity when it appeared on a segment of the TVNZ programme Marae. The Ministry also featured the work in its Education Gazette, which is distributed to all New Zealand schools.

The plan for 2016 includes:

  • activities that will increase the participation of local Māori students in the local science fair
  • increasing the number of teachers who participate in Matakōkiri wānanga
  • maintaining and strengthening links with scientists and community experts
  • design and develop a Ngāti Whakaue science kit programme which will be implemented with local schoolslooking at how to make stronger links between the Matakōkiri wānanga and the teaching and learning that happens in the classrooms of those students.

July 2015 update

The wānanga held in the July holidays had a specific focus on Te Ihi, Te Wehi, Te Wana- forces & weather, both natural and man-made. Learning took place over a few days of rich experiences for ākonga and whānau in the Taupo district, based at Waipahihi Marae.

Read all about the wānanga in the Education Gazette article ‘Science and identity: Matakōkiri project

April 2015 update

In April 2015, a wānanga was held with the kaupapa Whakapapa - Genetics.

This wānanga began by acknowledging and learning about our own tupuna and whanau whakapapa.

Some of the areas tamariki discovered included:

  • Realms of whakapapa – Genes/ DNA
  • Traits & characteristics – Diversity/ mutations
  • Forensics – Forest genetics
  • Harakeke – Plant & food research.

January 2015 update


In January 2015, Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust completed its sixth science wānanga as part of the Matakōkiri Science and Technology initiative. The kaupapa for this wānanga was Waitai – Salt Water, with an emphasis on marine life (ecology/ biology), kaimoana and kaitiakitanga.

The Matakōkiri team capitalised on the opportunity to locate to Maketu and include our Ngāti Whakaue tamariki and whānau who live in the area. The special feature of this wānanga was the three day ‘noho’ at Whakaue Marae, Maketu which meant that tamariki were ‘in science wānanga’ from the time they rose in the morning to the time they fell asleep at night. As is the tradition with Matakōkiri wānanga, the week began by acknowledging and learning about our tupuna, Kaitiaki & Whakaue ki tai connections, using this korero about Arawa:

During the journey of our tupuna, mai i Rangiatea ki konei, there were many adventures and hardships our people experienced. At one stage the actions of Tamatekapua had made Ngatoroirangi so furious that in his desire to gain revenge, he raised a huge whirlpool in the sea named Te korokoro-o-te-Parata ("The throat of Te Parata"). The waka was about to be lost with all on board but Ngātoroirangi eventually took pity and caused the seas to become calm once again.

One incident that occurred during this drama was that all the kūmara carried on the waka were lost overboard, except for a few seeds that were in a small kete being clutched by Whakaotirangi.

Immediately after the calming of the seas, a shark (known as an arawa) was seen in the water. This shark, which then accompanied the waka to Aotearoa, became the kaitiaki (guardian) for our tupuna and their voyage. Our waka was eventually named after this kaitiaki, Te Arawa. 

A group of 41 ākonga aged 7 – 14 years, along with 17 whanāu members participated in the wānanga. The Matakōkiri team was supported by 16 scientists and several teachers who contributed their time and expertise to ensure that high quality learning occurred. The activities were concentrated in several locations – Ōkurei, Maketu Shoreline, Maketu Estuary, and Little Waihi Estuary. Witnessing whānau actively participating and learning alongside their tamariki was a very exciting outcome for the Matakōkiri team.

 “It was great …. to see the enthusiasm and participation of the children. We loved the whole experience. If you have any questions about our mahi please let me know and again thanks for a great day, we would like to know of any further wānangas you have planned for the region. If there is an opportunity for us to provide support, we would love to be involved.” Kirsten Wood, Conservation Partnerships Ranger, Kaitiaki Manutataki, Tauranga, Department of Conservation, Te Papa Atawhai

“We all had a wonderful day and were extremely impressed with the professional organisation and management of the programme. Your team and your tamariki were an absolute pleasure to work with and I am sure we would be delighted to do it again sometime. We all agreed that your tamariki are extremely lucky to have such great learning opportunities on a regular basis.” Dr Mels Barton, NZAEE Seaweek

“I work with many groups being in education, and I must say this is the best and most well organized group ever. The group that stood out to me the most was the 8-10 year olds. They were just amazing and inspiring. They really took it in on board, and worked together as a team.” Maribeth Armstrong, NZAEE Seaweek

and korero from our whānau:

“These wānanga are so important for young tamariki at this age group, especially so many of Māori may never be able to have opportunity in their own family to experience this kind of knowledge and understanding about their tupuna, whakapapa and most importantly, Papatuanuku. They need to grow up understanding how important it is as future Kaitiaki – how to look after her.”

 A photo of children playing at the beach.