‘The Ruamano Project’

Between 2014 and 2017 Dargaville High School and Bream Bay College worked together to implement a TLIF initiative we entitled ‘The Ruamano Project’.

‘The Ruamano Project’ targeted Māori and Pasifika secondary school boys with an aim of increasing their achievement and participation in learning through active problem solving. The goal was that the adaptation of the REAPS model would lead to greater engagement, in that the students would gain real life problem solving skills, positive engagement with their whanau and wider community and academic success through the identification of their gifts and talents in a problem solving situation.

The project was titled ‘The Ruamano Project’ as it was designed to reflect the story of the taniwha of that name who took the form of a Mako shark and, though he looked fierce, protected the local people. Māori and Pasifika boys can often be perceived, like the shark, to be intimidating but have much to offer. This project aimed to encourage their positive participation in education and the local community. As such, this project told a different story - a counter narrative to the standard tale of Maori and Pasifika boys’ under-participation and disengagement in education and instead focused on esteeming their innate potential, identity, language and culture as much as possible. The project allowed the teachers within Dargaville High School and Bream Bay College to gain professional development and draw upon the extensive expertise of academics in the field of Gifted Education. We received training in the REAPS model from June Maker (University of Arizona) and her team (the architects of the model) and both Tracy Riley (Massey University) and Melinda Webber (Auckland University) assisted us to localise the model to a Northland context and ensure that the REAPS units of work were constructed in a culturally responsive format.

At Dargaville High School the students engaged in problem solving units centred around the health of the Kaipara Harbour and presented solutions to water quality and fish stock issues from the perspectives of local stakeholders including Fonterra, the NRC, Ngati Whatua and MPI Fisheries. A similar project focusing on Pipi was conducted at Bream Bay College.

Poster. .

Based on our experiences, the key recommendations we have for other educators are:

  • Consult community and Iwi over content at the course planning stage.
  • Localise topics and use stakeholder groups so that students have to look at issues from various perspectives.
  • Plan units that encourage students to engage with real life issues that may not have known solutions.
  • Include field trips and hands on experiences.
  • Plan group work carefully to ensure that students can collaborate and feel they have their own role as well as being integral to the group.
  • Ensure not all assessments are written (essay, topic test or written exam).
  • Review unit planning to ensure that there are opportunities for students to demonstrate a range of gifts and talents, including culturally specific gifts and talents.
  • Examine teaching practice to ensure there are a variety of teacher-led and student-led activities and a balance of individual and group work.
  • Review G&T identification processes to ensure that they are not ‘test dependent’.

Katrina Sylva

Dargaville High School (Ruamano Project Leader)