Weaving in a Bicultural Pedagogy

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How the educational approach from Reggio Emilia compliments our Bi-Cultural Heritage and Curriculum.

Here in Aotearoa (New Zealand) we all have a special obligation of honouring the Treaty of Waitangi. Through this, it is important that we uphold the values and beliefs of Maori. At Bear Park, Patey Street, our Centre philosophy is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, which by nature compliments and weaves harmoniously with Māori values and Maori pedagogy of teaching and learning.

In the Reggio Emilia Approach, children are held in high regard, respected and included in their education. They act as researchers alongside their teachers who function as collaborators and co-learners, as well as guides and facilitators (McNally & Slutsky, 2016). Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia educational approach (cited in Edwards, Gandini & Forman, 1998, p.83) wrote that:

“Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead they should embark together on a journey down the water.”

This idea of teaching and learning not being as separate as sometimes perceived, is echoed within the Māori concept of Ako. This concept, which is grounded in the principle of reciprocity, describes a teaching and learning relationship, where the educator is also learning from the student. It recognises the knowledge that both teachers and learners bring to learning interactions, and it acknowledges the way that new knowledge and understandings can grow out of shared learning experiences. (Alton-Lee, 2003).

Māori pedagogy, like the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia, places whānau (family) and community at the heart of the educational process. At Bear Park Patey Street, we strive to create a sense of whanaungatanga – a “relationship, kinship, sense of family connection – a relationship through shared experiences and working together which provides people with a sense of belonging.” (Māori dictionary, 2020) Through this sense of whanaungatanga we aim to ensure that all members of the centre community feel included as part of a caring collective with common aspirations, values and shared responsibility.

We demonstrate our commitment to developing this value through our multiple parent and family events and celebrations throughout the year and constant and continuous shared documentation of teaching and learning through various platforms. In many of the classrooms at Patey Street, we begin our morning meetings with the daily ritual of taking turns to recite our Mihi. This involves each child introducing themselves by sharing their whakapapa (genealogy and ancestral ties).

For Maori, acknowledgement of Te Ao Wairua (the spiritual dimension) and Nga Atua (gods) is central to the enactment of the value kaitiakitanga – the process and practices of protecting and looking after the environment. The significance of the value of curiosity, wonder and connection within the natural environment in the Reggio Emilia Approach further compliment the practices of kaitiakitanga.

Through shared myths, legends, the Maori creation story and Nga Atua (gods), the children have been developing and strengthening their connection with Papatuanuku (Mother Earth). This has in turn guided their practices of kaitiakitanga. Throughout all of the rooms at Patey Street, there is an ethos of empowering and allowing children to love the earth through curiosity and investigative learning. Through our mutual investigation this year, ‘Children have an ecological potentiality’, this has indeed been a strong aspect of our Centre philosophy that has been evident in practice throughout the Centre as a whole.

The Reggio Emilia philosophy provides a source of inspiration for teachers. Here in New Zealand at Bear Park, Patey Street, this presents a special opportunity for a philosophy that is unique to our individual community of learners and the important integration of Māori pedagogy.

“A curriculum must speak to our past, present and future. As global citizens in a rapidly changing and increasingly connected world, children need to be adaptive, creative and resilient. They need to ‘learn how to learn’ so that they can engage with new contexts, opportunities and challenges with optimism and resourcefulness.” – Te Whaariki: Early Childhood Curriculum