“We recognize that education started really with our babies, and a lot of our babies werenʻt getting any preschool education at all. The heatlh of our people stems from getting our children educated, and I donʻt just mean academically, I mean educated culturally in who we are and who they are in Ngāti Hine tanga.” says Ngāti Hine Health Trustee, Atarangi Norman.
With this perspective on health, the Ngāti Hine Health Trust in Kawakawa, Aotearoa put funding towards the establishment of Te Mirumiru early childhood education center.
Since opening in 2012, Te Mirumiru has engrained in their children the concept of Mālama Honua, caring for and having an intimate relationship with their surrounding environment.
Diane Heta, a parent at Te Mirumiru says, “Itʻs nice that my kids can be in an environment where the things that we had when we were kids are now normal for them. Itʻs all very natural; itʻs not just boxes and planks, itʻs cut-off trees, and big rocks, and big bins full of sand, and dirt, and worms, and mud. They get to learn by touching, and playing, trial and error and they come home with an appreciation and learning of what we have. So learnig to grow the vegetables, they take the seeds out, they dig up the gardens, they plant them, they water them, they watch them grow, they nurture them right to the point where they pick them. It becomes normal for them, and I like that theyʻre normalizing that stuff for our kids.”
A few of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage crew and education specialists who visited this school shared a similar reaction, and were inspired by the teaching perspective at Te Mirumiru.
Education Specialist, Shaaroni Lei Wong says, “I really appreciated the mindfulness. The whole school was developed with this sense of what the children needed and how to give them this hollistic look at their world, and their health, and their well-being – and this is an early childhood space. It was particularly unique because it really married their natural space that they already had instead of trying to change the natural space. They connected the natural space with the childrenʻs space in a way that made the children mindful of their relationsihp with nature.”
Norman says that, “If they learn the importance of Papatūānuku now, then they’ll respect it so that when they grow older, they won’t be like the generation that’s here now that has no respect for the whenua. The world is now facing an environmental crisis. And if you don’t do something about it, then what are we going to have? So if you teach the children at this age, they will have more knowledge about it than we did in our growing up. And they’ll probably be the ones teaching us in the future. They will go out and they will spread the word and that’s where the success will be.”