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Te ika unahi nui wānanga – A marae-based learning programme

Te Ika Unahi Nui is a marae-based wānanga (learning programme) that was developed and trialled with students from Coastal Taranaki School at Puniho Pā, Tarawainuku marae in Okato, Taranaki. The marae holds the cultural knowledge of the local tribe inside its houses and in the environment in which it is located, the river, the land, and the mountain. e-Learning facilitator, Jason Ruakere worked with students, whānau, and teacher Chris Luke on this programme.

Purpose | Connecting with whānau | Wānanga | Outcomes


The intentions of this wānanga were to:

  • strengthen the relationship between the school, whānau, and the local marae
  • provide marae-based learning to strengthen cultural identity
  • introduce digital technologies to support learning and literacy.

The intentions of Te Ika Unahi Nui wānaga aligned with the school’s vision, strategic direction and charter, and built on from previous initiatives the school had implemented. 

Connecting with whānau

From the outset, whānau were invited to provide their input into the learning programme. Regular meetings were held to discuss learning for each term. Whānau were invited to provide their input into designing learning experiences and encouraged to participate in these at the marae each week with the students.

Regular, ongoing communication with whānau was maintained through:

  • texting
  • writing a pānui (notice) in the school blog
  • ringing them personally
  • talking to them incidentally at the rugby field, skatepark, or local Four Square. 

“Probably one of the biggest things with the programme, in terms of seeing with Tuawaerenga, is the fact that he has come home really engaged and motivated in what he’s been doing...the other day we were driving into New Plymouth and he asked, Hey mama, do you know how Taranaki got it’s name?...What he did was retold the story using all the detail...right kupu...He knew exactly what it was all about. We picked up the cell phone and he recorded it. He’s starting to use devices like he never did before”

Parent comment


Te Ika Unahi Nui is a wānanga (learning) which is based at Puniho Pā, Tarawainuku marae in Okato Taranaki. The wānanga is a partnership between the marae, Coastal Taranaki School, and the local community. e-Learning facilitator, Jason Ruakere, students, and teacher, Chris Luke, talk about the difference marae-based learning supported by digital technologies has made to students confidence and identity.

Over the course of a year, a group of Māori boys in Years 6 & 7 from Coastal Taranaki School worked for one morning a week with e-learning facilitator, Jason Ruakere on their local marae to: 

  • develop leadership, literacy, and life skills
  • connect with their language and culture
  • improve learning through the effective use of technologies
  • strengthen the relationship between the school and the whānau was a main focus of this initiative.

During this time students learned about where they came from, tikanga, and te reo. This wānanga was based in hands-on, purposeful activities within authentic contexts. It included learning traditional methods of food gathering and bushcraft. Digital technologies were used to support the boys’ learning with each student having an iPad to use at the marae. This enabled, mobility and personalised learning through use of selected apps. The students used apps such as Book Creator, Tellegami, Pic collage, and Strip designer to document and share their learning. 

Marae-based learning Puniho Pā
Coastal Taranaki School teacher, Chris Luke explains the importance of marae-based learning and how he connects the students' at the marae with the learning in the classroom. Parents describe how marae-based learning gives an authentic learning experience for their children and comment, "Having the kids learning on the marae, knowing their tikanga, their te reo, and using the iPads and bringing it into the school, into the home, I just find that really good for everyone."

“I like going to the marae because I learn stories about my culture, and the names of the whare, and my pepeha. When I first came here I wasn’t very confident talking in front of people. Now that I come here my confidence is going up”

Student comment

More detailed information about the learning programme is available from:


Key outcomes include the development of the students' confidence in themselves as a learner and strengthened whānau relationships, leading to increased engagement and improved learning outcomes for the students.

Over the course of the year the students have:

  • developed leadership, literacy, and life skills, demonstrated through
    • standing and sharing their mihi to visitors to the marae
    • discussing their learning with their whānau
    • writing traditional stories and re-telling their learning experiences using a range of iPad apps with their whānau and classmates
    • gaining an awareness of the skills, including basic bushcraft and knots required to stay overnight on the mountain
    • making traditional hinaki and catching eels
  • connected with their language and culture, demonstrated through
    • basic marae tikanga, setting up the marae, welcoming visitors, and preparing food
    • learning about their local marae (their local iwi, maunga, awa, waka, names of the houses)
    • learning and re-telling stories about the local area and tribe, particularly the maunga both orally and digitally
    • speaking basic te reo Māori with excellent pronunciation
  • used digital technologies to support and share their learning.

The relationship between the school and the whānau has been strengthened. Whānau feedback has shown they:

  • are pleased the school recognises and acknowledges the significance of marae-based learning
  • feel valued in terms of their language and culture
  • are pleased with the growth in confidence of their boys at home at and at school
  • are pleased with the growth in interest of their boys in their cultural identity.

Māori succeeding as Māori
Chris Luke, Te reo Māori teacher at Coastal Taranaki School comments on the value of structuring the Te Ika Unahi Nui wānanga so it is regular and works for everybody. The whānau know what’s going on and are involved. Students share the benefits of practical experiences supported by learning with digital technologies.