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Glenda and Pūtaiao

Glenda Te Rito descends from the Ngāti Hinemanu hapū (Ōmahu), of Ngāti Kahungunu. Both her and her tāne (Ngāti Kurī) are dedicated to ensuring their five tamariki get a good education. In fact, as the pūtaiao teacher in the wharekura, Glenda teaches in the kura that her tamariki attend, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Ara Hou. Read her kōrero here.




I began my teaching career as a new entrant teacher, then shifted to wharekura and accepted the position of the pūtaiao kaiako. Pūtaiao and wharekura are very new to me, this is just my second year teaching ‘science’ in wharekura. I teach all levels, from year 9 to 13. It is a challenge, however I bring my junior teaching skills to the position, these help me understand my students’ learning needs.




While there are differences between science and pūtaiao I believe both kaupapa connect in some ways. Pūtaiao comes from whakaaro Māori, from kaupapa Māori and horopaki Māori. It stems from a Māori worldview, but also gives our ākonga access to ‘science’.




In a recent visit from my student teacher’s tutor, it was suggested that we engage more with kaupapa pūtaiao. The recommendation was to study ‘manu aute’. The pūtaiao content in that kaupapa centres around force, or tōpana. The principles are the same, for example we learn about force in our traditional games such as ‘poitoa’. The resources used to make the ‘manu aute’ are from te taiao (the natural environment) and our tīpuna used these as a pastime and for other purposes such as communication.


When we discuss ‘manu aute’ and ‘poitoa’ we are discussing both whakaaro Māori and science concepts. Forces involved in these pastimes are also evident in projectile motion, for example horizontal and circular motion, and centripetal force and gravitation. My job is to show the connection of physics to te ao Māori and vice versa. I believe that both kaupapa are extremely important for our tamariki and that we should give as much mana to both.


While it is important for our tamariki to learn about traditional practices, it’s also important for them to understand ‘science’. At the beginning of every year I ask my ākonga what they want to learn, so that we can work together to construct our programme. The majority say they want to learn ‘science things’. They want to learn about rockets, forces and chemistry – not just about the ngahere or awa. So it’s important that I listen to them.




Physics and chemistry are difficult kaupapa and the terminology within these scientific concepts are challenging. I can’t be without the Papakupu Pūtaiao. He mihi nui ki a Ian Christensen. Without this resource, I’m not sure that I could deliver a pūtaiao programme. It’s my paipera tapu!


I get extra support from colleagues, also professional development opportunities via online hui, designed and delivered by the New Zealand Institute of Physics. I meet regularly with two colleagues at Karamu High School in Hastings. One teaches Ahu Pūngao or Physics and is a great help. I also meet with David Housden via video conferencing link Zoom. David has penned a number of books about physics, and continues to support my professional development in this area. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about and focussing on physics because that is what our students want to learn about. It’s been invaluable having such great support. Without them, who would verify my mahi?


The kaupapa may change next year - it will depend on what my new ākonga are interested in and want to learn about.




If there is one thing I appreciate more than anything, is the opportunity to work alongside dedicated kaiako of Pūtaiao. I learn better by working kanohi ki te kanohi with people who I can touch base with because they are geographically close, or online. So, for those kaiako who are out there needing support:


  • Study your kaupapa, especially the terminology you need to deliver your programme to ensure students are proficient in both reo Māori and reo Pākehā.
  • There is a lot of content online – use it!
  • Prepare your students well for when they leave kura; so that they are proficient in both languages, strong in their values and beliefs, and have a strong foundation in their tikanga Māori that gives them confidence in applying these in the outside world.
  • Seek out other kaiako in your region who are teaching pūtaiao or science.
  • Make contact and build a reciprocal, professional relationship.
  • Share ideas and resources, ask questions, research together.
  • Be open to planning your programme based on your students’ interests.
  • Make science and pūtaiao engaging so students can connect to it.
  • Read, be well organised – even when you are tired make the effort to read and be prepared for the next day.
  • Open lots of doors for students!


Glenda’s recommended website for her current kaupapa is:

The Physics Classroom


Ako Panuku provides additional support through Te Kāhui Pūtaiao.


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PO Box 603, Whakatāne 3158
e: akopanuku@haemata.co.nz
t: (64 7) 308 6322