Growing relationships with Māori learners


Ara’s Secondary-Tertiary Pathways Project (STPP) focus on engaging Māori learners this year has paid off. They have taken engineering courses and will be offered the opportunity to enrol in a new Engineering-IT course in 2019.

Reaching out to Māori learners

While continuing one full-year Year 12-13 Electrotechnology course this year, Ara has introduced shorter block courses and focused on increasing the numbers of Māori learners being exposed to engineering skills and careers.

STPP Programme Manager Pete Wilson and Ara Community Engagement Manager Harry Westrup visited schools with a high proportion of Māori students, talking to teachers about the STPP programme and how they could work with individual teachers to support their teaching of Technology, Maths or Science through an engineering context.

Read our case studies about Ara’s STPP programme

Electrotechnology course leads students into engineering
Electrotechnology programme reaches more students
Providing opportunities and facilities
Reaching more students through block courses

Two bilingual schools enrol students in engineering block courses

Discussions with teachers at Te Pā o Rākaihautū and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whanu Tahi (Year 1-15 schools teaching in a Māori medium) proved fruitful. Both schools enrolled students in the new block courses – originally envisaged as weekly three-and-a-half-hour lessons running over five to seven weeks.

The entire Te Pā o Rākaihautū Year 9 and 10 cohorts attended once a fortnight, with 16 and 10 students in the respective courses. Some of the 16 Year 9 students were less interested than others, says Pete, and the group
Student working was later narrowed to the 8 who really wanted to come.

“It’s helpful for us though,” says Pete, “if schools make it semi-compulsory to start with so that students get an indication of what engineering is about”.

These students and the Year 10s have taken the course through Terms 2 to 4. “When I’m chatting with them about careers, ‘I’m thinking about engineering’ is a relatively common comment, although they’re not committing to that at this stage.”

11 Year 9-10 Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whanu Tahi students attended a third course and continue to come along.

Haeta Community Campus (which has a higher percentage of Māori students than other local schools) also had a group of students take a block course involving musical mechanisms as a means to introduce design technology.

“They’re getting an idea of the things they can do with these skills”

Some student work involves aspects of Māori culture, while some is unrelated. One group, for example, has focused on Matariki (Māori new year/Pleiades) and are designing a planetarium to help train people to use stars for navigation. This involves the use of micro-controllers, CAD and LEDs as they create a rotating star map. Other groups

Maani Stirling, Maths teacher at Te Pā o Rākaihautū, says the students are really enjoying the block course. “They’re getting an idea of the things they can do with these skills – and for Year 9 and 10 students that’s a good process in itself.”

New full-year course for 2019

The existing full-year Year 12-13 engineering course will be offered again next year, retaining some elements of electrotechnology while adding more general curriculum strands, design work and mechanical engineering.

Pete and Harry discussed this course and the opportunities for students with teachers from the two Māori schools. The teachers noted the dilemma their students face in deciding between courses in engineering and IT – they don’t really know what’s involved in either field – and that Digital Technologies is not currently taught in as much depth as they’d like.

In response, Ara is developing a new package for these schools. The 2019 Introduction to Digital/Design Technology courses will be half engineering and half IT, with students able to work towards Level 2 and Level 3 NCEA achievement standards. “Students don’t know what they want,” says Pete, “so this is a bridge for them to explore without committing up front. We’re not going to overdo the amount of engineering we throw at them, we’re looking at doing less but doing it well.”

Experience Engineering

Students from these schools also attended some of the new Engineering Experience days. This series evolved in consultation with Pete and Harry, and is run in collaboration by the Engineering and Science departments. They replace previous one-day programmes delivered by outsourced experts. “It’s now more about what we do at Ara,” Pete says, “rather than just random STEM activities. We’ll get the students in once, in comparison to school holiday programmes which were more about entertaining kids and where we’d often get the same ones coming in.”

Each experience is designed around a theme. The October Mission to Antarctica, for example,involved students in designing wind towers. They used CAD to design a foundation block, laser cutting a mould, filling it with concrete and testing its suitability as a foundation for a wind tower. The students also constructed spaghetti-and-marshmallow wind towers, testing them in the wind tunnel to check how much load they could bear.”

Next year, Ara will offer one Engineering Experience day per term for seniors and one for juniors.

“They really enjoyed that day”

The Engineering Experience days have worked well as an introduction to engineering and the new Engineering/IT course. “They really enjoyed that day,” Maani says, “two are now seriously considering enrolling for the course next year, and others are looking at it.”

“It was interesting that they enjoyed both the engineering and IT parts – I thought they might prefer one over the other. It opened their eyes to what Ara offers.

“As well as raising these students’ awareness of engineering, the ideas filter through to other students and to parents. We also feature the engineering days and courses in our school newsletter.”

Homework Club

Pete established a weekly after-school homework club to support students studying Maths and Physics, and hopes to extend its reach next year. “I’d like to get some of the Māori students along and build a direct relationship with them, so that I could encourage them into our courses and support them to achieve what they need to do that. We’ll do some fun, practical activities, some theory, and some old-fashioned swot”

Our thanks to Pete and Maani for their time and advice; if you have any queries please contact

October 2018