Written by My ECE
© My ECE


Giggles were challenged with building an authentic bi-cultural curriculum.

With 75% Maori tamariki they wanted to get it right which meant more than just the use of some Te Reo phrases.


The following is a summary of Rachel's (owner/ manager) and Pania's (Head Teacher) presentation to the ECE Management Forum in 2015.

The team reflected on why and how they did things and how they could be sure if they were doing it well. They needed to be paddling the same waka. A core value of their philosophy is aroha (love) which means valuing what is inside of us rather than about ‘things’. Literacy, numeracy, health and so on is all involved in that.

From revisiting their philosophy sprung four concepts to drive what they were going to do while keeping to their core value of aroha:

  • Whanaungatanga – kinship, reciprocal relationships, shared experiences, sense of belonging
  • Whakamana – enable, empower
  • Kotahitanga - unity, togetherness, solidarity, collective action
  • Kaitiakitanga - guardianship

To put these concepts into action they used the cultural competencies set out in the Ministry of Education’s Tataiako document. They modified their performance appraisal system by ensuring cultural competencies were as clear and as important as the registered teacher criteria. They also held a weekend workshop where staff brainstormed how their mahi (work) aligned with the Tataiako competencies would look in everyday practice and incorporated this as a part of the ongoing coaching to Kaiako (teachers).

During their workshop they realised that te Tiriti o Waitangi was perceived by some as a scary, uncomfortable, boring, historical document with unknown relevance to their mahi (work). Another workshop is planned to provide clarity and ideas for practical implementation of te Tiriti. This will be supported with help from a Giggles Kaiako (teacher) who is passionate in this area. But already a team trip to Waitangi was enjoyed on a beautiful Saturday morning spent with a guided tour and a spot of cricket.

The journey thus far has in itself become positively reinforcing with successes and achievements invigorating the team to further improve and learn. Team members attend Ministry of Education funded Te Reo classes and Te Wananga o Aotearoa sessions each week. Te Reo Maori is becoming integrated and just what they do, for example:

  • Te Reo activity to open staff hui and beginning of coaching
  • Staff on PD bringing back phrases that are:
    • practised by all staff
    • shared with whanau via a newsletter
    • Put up on the wall
  • Te Reo Maori at every mat time and flash cards for activities
  • Kupu hou (new words) sheets around the centre show new words as we use them
  • Kaiako have and share their own pepeha (slogan, motto) including visual representation

With becoming more knowledgeable and experienced the team at Giggles have been able to identify areas where they could do better to authenticate their bicultural curriculum. They identified that their local park, while convenient, wasn’t the most suitable to achieve their goal. While the playground equipment offered other learning opportunities it distracted the tamariki from genuinely connecting with the natural world.

To be bicultural is to develop relationships with papatuanuku (the earth) and to be kaitiaki (guardian) of the land. For this to happen the tamariki need to experience and enjoy the soil, trees, bug hunting, bouncing on branches, hut building and all that the ngahere (bush) has to offer. The team learned from Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere in ‘Te Wheke’ that by exploring the natural environment of Aotearoa tamariki are supporting their taha tinana (physical wellbeing) and learning about foods and medicines from the ngahere (bush/ forest).

Thus the Giggles team changed venue from their local park that was a short walk away to the ngahere (forest), a five minute drive away. They aim to go once a week with the tamariki having visited twice so far. They had been exploring the wider area with teachers now deciding to use a smaller area to set up base, make their own and to venture out from.

Giggles wanted to build a genuine connection with their community so asked their local Marae if they could awhi (help) them once a month to help in their garden, pick up rubbish or help with anything. The Marae visits have become a part of what they do instead of just some place to visit.


Both the tamariki and kaiako value making real contributions pulling out weeds, preparing garden beds for planting and with plenty of unscripted learnings arising.

Bringing the culture into the centre was helped with starting a kapa haka roopu (group) using support from one of the mums. Whanaungatanga links were strengthened by Tuakana (older siblings, relatives, friends) coming to practice weekly and the two separate Giggles centres visiting each other to exchange the kapahaka. After several months practice whanau crowded in to watch just the dress rehearsal. The tamariki are proud and think they are so big.

Like everything in ECE it is the journey not the destination and ongoing self-reflection ensures a path of excellence and quality.

Giggles' next steps include:

  • Remaining vigilant to speak Te Reo everyday
  • Kapa haka roopu to visit other centres to share knowledge and joy of Te Reo
  • Te tiriti o Waitangi workshop to help with understanding and implementing in daily practice
  • Harakeke (Flax) workshop for staff and whanau as part of our Matariki celebrations
  • Soup evening with whanau and sharing of resolutions/aspirations during Matariki

Giggles had a good insight into how well they have been doing when someone mentioned it was Maori language week but it actually wasn't Maori language week. For Giggles it was simply business as usual! 

They have also been delighted to receive cheerful feedback from whanau whose children are coming home teaching them new Te Reo.