St Marks – Working with Mātauraka Mahaanui
St Mark’s School is an Anglican, full primary school located in the Ōpāwaho area (Ōpāwa), Christchurch. The school has special character status and is the only state-integrated Anglican primary school in the South Island. Located in an area that is culturally and historically significant, especially for Ngāi Tahu, it is close to a former pā and māhinga kai sites, and the Ōpāwa river next to the school was an important pathway for early Māori. After the Canterbury earthquakes, Ōpāwa and many buildings in this area experienced significant damage. This included St Mark’s School which was in need of extensive repair and refurbishment.
Working with Mātauraka Mahaanui
The school worked closely with Mātauraka Mahaanui to develop culturally sustainable practices and bring their cultural narrative to life in redeveloping the school. This ensured that the operational significance of the school in the Opawa area was at the forefront of the school's Board of Proprietors engagement with construction companies and contractors.
Mātauraka Mahaanui then Board Chair, Lynne Harata Te Aika, began work with the school in 2015 to explore how their values could align with te Ao Māori (Māori worldview). As a special character school, St Mark’s has strong, established Christian values centred around the Five Marks of the Anglican mission (TELL, TEACH, TEND, TRANSFORM and TREASURE). The school community identified values to express the mission’s marks and reflect the tone and special character of St Mark’s School. Lynne selected the appropriate words in te reo Māori:
- Grace – Huatau
- Excellence – Hiranga
- Faithfulness – Piriponotanga
- Courage – Māiatanga
There is also a strong connection for students and whānau to the overarching concept of tūrangawaewae – ‘a place to stand’ that reflects a strong sense of being empowered and connected with the school and community.
Mātauraka Mahaanui and the staff worked together to develop names in te reo Māori for important elements of the school. Students progress from Mōkihi (years 0-2), to Waka Pūhara (years 3-5), to Waka Hourua (years 6-8). Each of the base groups (hapori) or teaching teams connect with a native plant or bird. Names and concepts are also reflected in teaching and learning opportunities. For example:
- The Kererū hub took part in a LEARNZ virtual field trip: Kererū Count – Kaitiakitanga in action. This trip focused on the wellbeing of this endangered native bird.
- Year 8 groups leave a legacy piece that becomes part of the learning spaces. Ngāi Tahu stories are interwoven through the beautiful tukutuku panels and kowhaiwhai patterns created by these students.
Developing a strong cultural narrative
The teachers at St Mark’s are committed to developing an understanding of the cultural narrative with students as they move through the school. Mana Whenua facilitators have provided support to teachers and students with this.
“Our Mōkihi learners begin in the sheltered water of the Ōpāwaho, close to the grounds of St Mark’s School. Just as the Mōkihi is made of many strands of raupō, our St Mark’s School Whānau is made up of many unique students. Together, we strengthen the bindings, aukaha kia kaha.”
The narrative is becoming a part of everyday life at St Marks. Teacher Emily Wells describes students coming into class after lunch, talking about playing with new friends and saying “‘aukaha kia kaha - we’re strengthening the bindings.”
There is a focus on the students' role as kaitiakitanga in caring for their new school environment. Extensive planting has taken place and the school garden provides kai. Whānau comes into the school to support students to turn their produce into delicious hot lunches.
Find out more on the school’s website > About St Mark’s.
Culture supporting practice
Tuakana – teina relationships are nurtured and supported by vertical connections in the school. Students have opportunities to be experts and support others in a variety of ways and are developing a strong understanding of how they can support, and learn from each other.
The school has implemented the Aoraki Matatū programme to respond to and prevent bullying. The school has a culture of ‘safe-telling’, ensuring students aren’t put at risk and relationships are preserved. This approach links to:
- the five Anglican marks of mission;
- restorative practice;
- manaakitanga (generosity);
- whanaungatanga (relationships);
- ako (to learn).
The school’s newly formed kapa haka group performed in the Tūhono Kapa Haka festival in 2017 for the first time. They also performed as part of the school’s reopening ceremony. This was an exciting time for the Anglican mission, the school, students, whānau, and the wider community.
New teachers to the school are now welcomed with Mihi Whakatau and it’s envisaged that this will extend to new students in the near future.
St Mark’s School community acknowledges the partnerships formed and nurtured by working with various stakeholders, including Mātauraka Mahaanui, during its redevelopment. The aroha shown to whānau and the opportunities for ako (learning) and mahi tahi (working together) have enabled and empowered the transformation of this learning community.
“Unleashing the potential of every member of our community is inextricably linked and aligned to our local context and te Ao Māori worldview. Through huatau/grace, we act with compassion and humility to achieve hiranga/excellence, using the potential of our God-given talents and gifts. This gives us the māiatanga/courage to act to bring about change, as we show piriponotanga/faithfulness to God and others." (words of the St Mark’s School waiata)
(Averil Worner – Tumuaki/Principal, St Marks School)