Infusing Māori myths and legends with science

By Regan Paranihi

Massey Universitys’ Pūhoro STEM Academy is using Pūrākau Māori to train tomorrow’s Engineers and Scientists. 

In 2016, the STEM Academy began to use the Āmua Ao programme to allow Aspiring Māori scientists and Engineers to stay connected to Te Ao Kōhatu as they learned about Te Ao Hurihuri.

Te Haamua Nikora (Te Tairawhiti), one of Pūhoro Learning Navigators said, "We are using the stories of our ancestors to make it relatable to young Māori in secondary school so they can have a space for them in science".

Merging matauranga Māori and Western science is not as strange as one would think. 

Nikora added, "Science is the essence of the environment. Ranginui is above and Papatūānuku is below and us people are in the middle. So the idea came from that mythology".

The application of these stories go beyond science.  The examples of the people and atua help the students develop vital problem solving skills.

Lead Navigator, Leland Ruwhiu (Rangitāne, Te Tairāwhiti, Ngāpuhi) said, "Pūrākau was the natural place for us to have some rich history some rich stories of ancestors who have set examples for us who have gone through their own challenges and solved them".

Incorporating these stories into science creations has opened the minds of these rangatahi to a whole new world.

Nikora said, "Science technology, engineering, mathematics those terms are all Pākehā terms, those teachings are all Pākehā teachings. So we thought how could we incorporate a Māori aspect and that’s when we thought about the legend of Tane and how he created Hineahuone. So from that, it was about finding a Māori pathway, but also a science pathway."

He also adds, "Most of them don't really know about their Māori genealogy, but now they're interested in finding out, they're interested in Te Reo Māori and Māori customs as well."

Ruwhiu said this is an initiative that was inspired by a Newcastle led programme which ultimately sparked this creation.

"They ran some amazing engineering problem-solving focus activities for our rangatahi to engage with thats where we decided to look at pulling in our own history our own stories our own pūrākau".

It is hoped that this programme will be implemented in all Māori Schools across the motu.