Community work in the adolescent program

By Jason Johnson – Kawakawa Teacher

The following is the preamble of a writing assignment given to Kawakawa students this term, in which they were to discuss an idea from a piece of poetry they had studied over the year. Studying poetry with adolescents is always a hard sell at first, given that it requires a) engaging your brain fully before 10am, but also b) engaging with complex and elusive problems that often appear to have no right answer. Yet it remains a non-negotiable part of our Montessori English program. And it always proves rewarding. Poetry nourishes adolescent minds, feeding their creative tendencies as they carry out the big work of developing their own identity through self-expression. 

Last term, we studied poetry, as well as theory about poetic writing. We read a lot of poems. We talked and wrote about the kinds of language features we might find in a poem or want to use in our own poetry. And yes, we wrote some poetry. This term, we kept thinking about poetry and added in a bunch of lessons on how to do good transactional writing (paragraphing, thesis statements, organising your ideas, etc). And here we are, almost done.

Why?! Why oh why, Jason and Hilary, have you made us spend sowwww laaaawwng on poetry!?! Poetry is so “mysterious”! It makes no sense! It’s so dummmmmmmmmmmmb.

Perhaps one could think about it as follows.

The words we choose, when we write, are important. We could choose other words. There are so many!  Poetry encourages us to play with words, but also to be selective and accurate with our choices; to find the best words to express an idea or feeling. It reminds us that words carry more than their literal meaning – words can have connotations that affect the reader. Poetry encourages us to be conscious of our word choices. And that makes us better writers.

But we want you to be better readers too! Reading is about more than just decoding and verbalising words on a page. It’s about making sense of those words. Finding ideas in those words that connect with our understanding, and help us to build new ideas. Proust (1871-1922) said that the heart of reading is where we go beyond the wisdom of the writer to discover our own. 

In poetic writing, ideas can be built up, stacked layer upon cheese-dripping layer, using all that figurative language, so that after you’ve finished reading it, you keep finding more tasty morsels of ideas…faintly lingering… poetry encourages us to play with ideas. Whereas transactional writing takes ideas seriously. It trains us to lay them out clearly for everyone else to understand, and make sure that there is no room for misunderstanding. 

So it’s never really been about the poetry, per se. Really, this has been a long, drawn-out, elaborate workshop on writing about ideas. This skill will be applicable to any kind of writing you have to do in the future. 

If you’re not writing ideas, then are you even writing?


Katy Cottrell  – Deputy Principal of High School / Acting Principal

Manawa maiea te putanga o Matariki

Mānawa maiea te ariki o te rangi

Manawa maiea te matahi o te tau

Māori believe that appearance of Matariki in the morning sky in mid-winter marks the Māori New Year, or Te Matahi o te Tau. Matariki is the star cluster that is most commonly known as Pleiades or M45. The arrival of Matariki is a sign for people to gather, to honour the dead, celebrate the present and plan for the future. Hence the phrase ‘Matariki hunga nui’ meaning the many people of Matariki.

For our tupuna, our Māori ancestors, astronomy was interwoven into all facets of life. Meticulous observations of the movements of the stars and planets, the changing position of the sun, the phases of the moon and the appearance of anomalies such as comets and meteors were recorded and handed down from generation to generation as part of Māori oral tradition. This knowledge was connected to seasonal activities such as planting and harvesting, the flowering of plants, the spawning of fish and the natural cycles of the environment. This astronomical knowledge sits at the heart of our many regional ecological calendar systems that guided Māori from season to season.

To celebrate Matariki at Wā Ora, we will be hosting the following events: 

Matariki School Concert

Thursday 22nd June 9.30am start (finish approx 11am). This will be held in T2 at the High School and whānau are welcome. All areas of the school will be performing either waiata or short plays and Tawari ākonga will be MC and their band will be performing.

Tawari Sleepover

Friday 23rd June. Tawari Māori ākonga has organised a Te Hautapu ceremony and will be honouring the past and looking into the future. This involves an overnight sleepover so that the ākonga can look at the stars and make predictions for the future. They will also be preparing a full hāngī. 

Matariki Day Activities

Saturday 24th June 2pm – 4pm. Each Preschool and Primary classroom will be hosting an activity in relation to one of the Matariki stars. Whānau will be able to visit each class to participate in all 9 activities (if time permits) during the 2-hour period. Whānau are required to RSVP for this event to ensure each class has enough materials for the required activity. Further information will be sent out by the committee organising this event closer to the time.

Matariki Evening Hāngī  

Saturday 24th June 4pm – 7pm. Due to the fabulous fundraising efforts of our whānau hui and PTA and a generous donation from Crewcare, our school cleaning contractors, we have been able to purchase our very own hāngī steamer.  We will be using this to serve kai at our evening feast which will include meat/veg, veg, gluten free. The event will take place 4.30-7.00pm at the High School. Tickets will be limited and you will need to RSVP for the event- more details to follow later in the week.                                      

Source: Te Iwa Matariki