Radical (critical) Kaupapa Maori pedagogy

I turn now to storytelling as pedagogy drawing on discourses around Ruaumoko/Ruaimoko, our earthmother’s unborn child. Robyn Kahukiwa’s book Taniwha (Kahukiwa, 1986) helped to shape a junior elementary school classroom project around Papatuanuku and her unborn child, Ruaimoko. This project was carried out with 14 young children around six years of age. Robyn Kahukiwa is a great storyteller (and artist) who is able to draw from our Maori worldviews and represent these via literature for ongoing storytelling. The ongoing storytelling and translation through art, re-storying, song, and drama then becomes experience for those who actively engaged. They emerge with renewed insights and understandings. In this way her story becomes their story so to speak, in that it becomes their shared experience. This story book became an important part of the classroom project around Papatuanuku, our earthmother, and her unborn child (responsible for earthquakes) because of the ongoing earthquakes we have experienced in Christchurch over the last three years. To briefly background the children involved in this project—not all are speakers of Maori. Many are just beginning the journey into “te reo.” There is a mix of Maori language abilities, with only a few children having some fluency, but with the emergent speakers when there are world-view shifts they are acutely apparent in their conversations as they juxtapose world views. Kahukiwa’s book forms the basis of a video clip—and underpinned the project. The video clip and song became an absolute favorite within the classroom; the lyrics speak of the creation of land through rupture, through the ebb and flow of movements, through life and death. During this project the teacher noticed a little girl digging out in the grounds. When the teacher asked what the little girl was doing she replied, “I am digging down to Ruaimoko—I can see Ruaimoko’s skin.” In further discussion with a whanau (family) member, another child was going to dig down to talk to Ruaimoko and when his Mum asked, “How are you going to talk to Ruaumoko?” He said, “You get a big big spade and dig o all the way down.” Mum said, “That would take quite a long time wouldn’t it?” The child responded, “Ok—I’ve got another idea—we’ll get a microphone and put that down there [to have a conversation with Ruaimoko].”

The project transformed discourses, views, and the physical space of the classroom. This is an example of critical literacy—because it is connected to children’s lives, their experiences, and their ways of thinking about them in a new becoming—a demonstration of storytelling provoking a shift in awareness, increasing the intelligible link to children’s affective domains and responses—from the tremor (and terror) of earthquakes to the sanctity and renewed respect (and searching) for Ruaumoko:

  • ? of storytelling facilitating critical discussion,
  • ? of children and teacher and community in dialogue,
  • ? of children’s exploration and problem solving,
  • ? of children’s stories through their creations,
  • ? of the feminization of phenomena, healing, and sanctity.

Therein lies my provocation: how do we maintain the sanctity of a radical pedagogy for social justice; for what ethically we know to be a right for all of our children: to be free thinkers; to be embracing of life at the horizon with the surety of their own agency? How we do that within Darwinistic pedagogies?

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