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The Arts in Collaboration through a Māori Context – Paihia School

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Following in-depth professional development in the arts, staff at Paihia School worked with students on the theme of a local (unwritten) legend about Maikuku, a young girl of the area. Over a period of six months, the legend became the content and source of motivation for work in dance, drama, music, and the visual arts. It culminated in a three-day arts intensive.

This case study supports the Paihia School Project video, which documents student learning and ideas as well as explains the impact of the professional development model from a teaching perspective. The video is available from arts facilitators at School Support Services.

"As well as functioning as distinct disciplines, dance, drama, music and the visual arts can operate together. Collaborative arts projects give students opportunities to extend their knowledge, skills and experience within more than one arts discipline." The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum, page 93


During 2003, the principal, staff, and students of Paihia School were involved in professional development in the arts. School Support facilitators from Team Solutions and Tai Tokerau as well as the National Coordinator Ngā Toi supported the teachers in their understanding of the content of The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum and ways it can be implemented in the classroom. The facilitators involved were Gayle Dowsett for music, Vivien Smith for dance and drama, Kathy Spicer for the visual arts, and Rawiri Hindle, the National Coordinator Ngā Toi, for dance.

The principal, the staff, and the facilitators planned the semester of professional development. The intention was to focus the students' learning on all four arts disciplines separately and for each teacher to select a particular discipline focus for their own, more intensive, professional development. A three-day arts intensive, where the arts would work in collaboration with each other and the students could share their learning with one another and with the community, was chosen as the culminating focus.

It was decided that the learning should be based on a Māori context, to best meet the needs of the students at the school, since the majority of students are Māori and the area is steeped in significant Māori history. The idea of using a local legend lead to finding the story of Maikuku – an unwritten Ngati Rahiri legend of the area about the love of a man for the young Maikuku and his journey to seek her out.

Although the learning was to focus on each discipline separately, the use of a common theme was seen as a way of interweaving and relating the learning for the students.

A hui was arranged to enable the parent body to explain to the local iwi how the students would use the legend of Maikuku to support their learning in the arts, and to hear the concerns of the tangata whenua about the sacredness of the legend. After discussion, the tangata whenua gave their blessing, and Paihia School embraced the programme. Dates were set for the arts intensive component, and, with huge enthusiasm, and a little bit of anxiety, the project was launched.

School and teachers

Paihia School is a decile 4 primary school in the Bay of Islands. There is a student roll of 166, drawing from Paihia and Waitangi, 57 percent of whom are Māori. There are six teachers, covering years 0–8.

"Ko tou rourou – ko taku rourou – ka ora ai te iwi." "With your contribution and my contribution the people flourish."

"The legend belongs to the children. It has never been seen or written down before. They have got something to remember for the rest of their lives." Diane Neumann – new entrant/year 1 teacher

Goals for the project were to:

  • increase teacher understanding of implementing the Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum
  • increase teacher confidence and competence in delivering the arts in all four disciplines through modelling and mentoring
  • exemplify an integrated arts approach to student learning
  • exemplify the importance and effectiveness of using Māori context in the arts across all four disciplines
  • make links to family and community through the arts programme.

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