The Ministry of Education’s Creatives in Schools programme will result in a series of brochures for visitors to a remote but significant museum in Banks Peninsula.

In term 1, Okains Bay School was one of 34 schools selected for the Creatives in Schools programme, which saw students engage with local artisans and artists to explore the rich Māori and colonial history of their area.

Okains Bay, tucked into the top of Banks Peninsula, is the home of the Okains Bay Māori and Colonial Museum, which holds more than 3,000 Māori items, including waka and a whakaata (meeting house). The museum has a Whare Taonga and a Colonial Hall that includes a smithy, 10 historic printing presses (six are in working order) and an original colonial cottage.

For almost 40 years, the museum and its grounds have hosted the South Island’s largest annual Waitangi Day commemoration, which has attracted thousands annually. Busloads of tourists from cruise ships which berth at Akaroa 15 kilometres away also used to visit prior to Covid-19.

Suite of brochures

Banks Peninsula local Holly Cunningham is managing this Creatives in Schools project. She has a background in museums and developed lesson plans with the help of her husband Manaia, a former school teacher.

The end goal of the project is that four whānau groups from the 10-student school will each produce a brochure highlighting their favourite taonga. Just prior to the nationwide closure of schools, Holly and the students met with Ariki Creative to discuss the layout of a suite of brochures that will offer tourists different perspectives of a selection of museum taonga.

“There will be four different museum brochures, which visitors can use as tour guides. One might be named ‘Maikara and Nikau’s guide to the Okains Bay Māori and Colonial Museum’ and throughout that, there will be images of their creative responses that we have done in each lesson. There will be four or five of those items in each brochure and on the back of the brochure, a map of where those things are.

“I envisage people will come to the museum, pick up one of these brochures, go around, and hopefully get a sense of the community. And then they might pick up a brochure done by another group of students to find out about their favourite taonga,” says Holly.

“There were not many lessons to go before Covid-19 closed schools, but I am working on a couple of scenarios to finish the programme with an option for online lessons and activities if necessary. Once all the students are back at school, we can complete our mapping lesson, the day in the printery, and end of project celebration planning. The graphic designer has formatted a draft brochure for each of the whānau groups and is standing by for the remaining information,” she adds.

Kete of local talent

A rich pool of talent was available to teach tamariki new skills. They created paintings, collage and mono prints with local artist Sandra Duncan and raranga (weaving) with Sharon Henderson, the custodian from Okains Bay Museum. They made their own hei-tiki with local artist Dianne Wilson after learning about them with Ian Day, the museum’s manager.

A highlight was a day spent with Manaia Cunningham from the nearby Koukourarata Marae learning about Māori technology.

“In the whare taonga we learnt about the early trapping methods of birds and the eel traps – hinaki; mahinga kai – that food that sustains and nourishes us, and we looked at adzes. At the end of that day the kids chose their favourite Māori technology and drew that,” says Holly.

The children discovered people with other talents right under their noses. When a photographer couldn’t come for the planned photography workshop, Lydia Woods, school office manager and teacher aide got in touch with Holly.

“For the museum brochure, they would choose and take an image of one of the buildings at the museum. Lydia emailed me and said she was trained as a photographer – I didn’t know that – and her lesson plan was amazing. They learnt about taking photos – light, angles, making a photo interesting – and then in pairs they photographed each other. Then we went and did the photographs at the museum as well,” says Holly.

Printing with hot metal

It was planned to use the museum’s printing presses to produce images and text; however, this last project is on hold until after the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Print enthusiast Howard Pettigrew was planning to do a printing day. The plan was for the kids to have a go at using four different types of hot metal printing presses, learning to lay out letter by letter. Activities include printing a map of Banks Peninsula with some text on a Farley press, a Ngāi Tahu proverb on a small Adana press and a graphic block print of St John’s Church in Okains Bay on the large Adana press.”

Skills and community building

The project aims to to improve students’ skills in communication, collaboration and creative thinking and raise their awareness of creative careers.

It has also enhanced the wellbeing of ākonga (learners) to be able to connect with local whānau and discover more about the history in the bay. The project has helped students’ wellbeing because they are discovering whakapapa and are able to form links between how their whānau lived in a different time from theirs, says Colin Hammond, Okains Bay School principal.

“The local museum has a superb collection of artefacts from local Māori and early colonial history. Using iPads and other devices, ākonga identified taonga they wished to study. They have then taken a range of photos of their item or place and embarked on building their knowledge of their chosen taonga and compiling it into a brochure that can be shared with whānau and visitors.

“This process has also strengthened community links as locals have been able to share their knowledge and skills with the children of the bay. It is amazing the types of personalities small communities have,” says Colin.

Significant collections

The Okains Bay Māori and Colonial Museum has a significant collection of Māori and colonial artefacts, gifted to the public by the late Murray Thacker, who established the museum.

“Many of the items were regularly lent to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington,” says Holly.

Creatives in Schools

The Creatives in Schools programme partners schools and kura with creatives. Applications for Creatives in Schools Round 2 will open in June 2020 and close in August 2020, with exact dates of applications to be updated soon.

Tamariki kōrero

Q: What did you enjoy the most about the project with the Okains Bay Museum – and why?

A: I enjoyed exploring the slab cottage because it is very old fashioned.

Q: What was the favourite thing you made or did – and why did you enjoy it?

A: I enjoyed making the rose out of flax because it was something I had not done before.

Grace, Year 6

Q: What did you enjoy the most about the project with the Okains Bay Museum – and why? 

A: I liked how I learnt about all the Māori culture and all the old things that happened back in the day because I liked how it performed.

Q: What was the favourite thing you made or did?

A: My favourite part was weaving flax to make a rose.

Jake, Year 5

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Education Gazette.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here