Initiative leads to Maori playgroup

Opening day at the Tahuna Early Learning Centre. Photo supplied.
Opening day at the Tahuna Early Learning Centre. Photo supplied.

The initiative of a new resident has led to the rapid formation of a te reo Maori playgroup for Queenstown children.

Wakatipu High School teacher Rawinia Paringatai is the driving force behind Te Puna Ako O Tahuna, or Tahuna Early Learning Centre, which held its opening day at the Queenstown Playcentre in Stanley St on Monday.

Ms Paringatai arrived in the resort in February from Hastings, where her 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son had attended kura kaupapa, or Maori total immersion schools.

''I noticed there wasn't anything of that sort here.''

She took to social media to gauge interest in setting up a playgroup, and a strong response led to the first meeting of interested families a month later.

A core group of about 20 families got behind the formation of an incorporated society to be the playgroup's governing body.

Its mission is to deliver quality early childhood education that encourages children to be active learners of Maori language and culture, using collaborative rather than teacher-centred learning, she says.

It is open to Queenstown families with children aged up to 5, and operates on weekdays from noon to 2pm.

Even Ms Paringatai was surprised at how quickly it got off the ground.

''I didn't expect it to start as soon as it has.

''But there's a lot of people who want to know more about Maori, and not necessarily just the language, but customs, traditions and history.

''It's open to anyone - we've got some Japanese and Thai whanau that come along.''

The playgroup is following the Ministry of Education Te Whariki early childhood curriculum, and a ministry official will visit next week to offer advice on its operation.

''Our ultimate goal is reached when we're open as a fulltime early childhood centre specialising in te reo and tikanga Maori,'' Ms Paringatai says.

''Where do our children go when they leave there? We've been having korero with teachers about potential options for our tamariki after Te Puna.''

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