Celebrating Whakapapa in Vocational Education: Practical Tips for Educators

Understanding Whakapapa

Whakapapa is a vital component of Māori culture, traditionally used to trace your genealogical history and gain an understanding of your place in your wider family and community.

It includes knowledge of one’s ancestry, passed down orally with stories and songs, and is not limited to people but also extends to place and the natural environment. Understanding whakapapa provides the basis for Māori cultural identity.

Exploring Whakapapa in Vocational Education: Practical Tips for Educators

How is Pepeha different?

Pepeha, on the other hand, is a form of whakapapa that is commonly used for introductions and icebreakers in education. As an educator, you can use whakapapa and pepeha to explore the relationships between students, teachers, content, and the community.

By sharing pepeha, students and teachers can learn about each other’s backgrounds and connections to the land and ancestors. This can promote a sense of belonging and identity for Māori students, while also fostering cross-cultural understanding and respect among all students.

Pepeha and whakapapa can be integrated into the curriculum as a way of teaching about Māori history, language, and culture. It provides a framework for exploring the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of relationships.

Educators can use this as an opportunity to teach about different worldviews and ways of knowing, and to challenge dominant Western perspectives. By incorporating pepeha and whakapapa into their teaching, educators can create a more inclusive and culturally responsive learning environment for all students.

How can you use whakapapa?

Whakapapa can be used to discuss identity, relationships, and connection to the wider world. It also helps to build a mutually respectful learning environment by providing a shared understanding of a particular context.

For example, discussing the whakapapa of a particular concept or organization can give students a deeper understanding of it. Incorporating whakapapa into your teaching can help students connect with their cultural heritage and build a sense of community within the classroom.

Whakapapa can be used in various ways to enhance teaching, whether it be through introducing yourself with a pepeha, using it as a context for discussion, or exploring the whakapapa of a particular subject.

Practical ways to incorporate whakapapa into your teaching

Here are ten practical strategies to help you incorporate whakapapa into your teaching:

  1. Encourage learners to share their personal and cultural histories Create opportunities for learners to share their own whakapapa and experiences with the group, such as through storytelling or group discussions. For example, during a class on horticulture, ask learners to share stories of gardening experiences from their whakapapa.
  2. Incorporate cultural elements into your course content When appropriate, include content that relates to the cultural heritage of learners, such as traditional Māori stories, values, and practices. For example, when teaching a hospitality class, include a lesson on Māori hospitality practices.
  3. Foster intercultural understanding Encourage learners to learn about each other’s whakapapa, experiences, and cultures, and to develop a greater appreciation and respect for cultural differences. For example, during a class on construction, encourage learners to share their own whakapapa and the history of their community.
  4. Use whakapapa to connect course content to learners’ personal lives Help learners to see the relevance of course content to their own lives and experiences, by connecting it to their whakapapa and cultural heritage. For example, during a class on business management, explore the whakapapa of successful Māori business owners.
  5. Support learners in exploring their own whakapapa Provide resources, such as books, websites, or community organizations, that can help learners to explore their own whakapapa and cultural heritage. For example, provide learners with a list of community organizations that offer resources on Māori history.
  6. Storytelling Encourage the educators to share their own whakapapa stories and experiences to personalize the topic and foster connection among participants. For example, share a personal whakapapa story that connects to the course content.
  7. Interactive activity Facilitate a group activity that involves tracing their own whakapapa or connecting to the whakapapa of a significant place or historical figure. For example, have learners create a family tree that traces their whakapapa.
  8. Visual representation Use graphic organizers or visual aids to demonstrate the interconnectedness of whakapapa and the connections between people and their ancestral heritage. For example, use a diagram to show the connections between different members of a whānau.
  9. Māori guest speaker Invite a Māori guest speaker who is knowledgeable about whakapapa to share their insights and perspectives on the topic. For example, invite a local kaumātua to speak about their whakapapa and its significance.
  10. Incorporating te reo Māori Use te reo Māori in the session to connect educators with the language and culture. This could include teaching the pronunciation and meanings of whakapapa-related terms or teaching a traditional whakapapa chant. For example, teach learners a waiata that is connected to the course content.

By incorporating these strategies into your teaching, you can help your learners to connect with their cultural heritage and build a more inclusive and engaging learning environment.

If you found this helpful

I have a book on learner-centred teaching that incorporates these and other concepts from a Māori worldview. Check it out here on Gumroad.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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