Waiata Mai Series: First of its Kind

Any parent of young children will understand the value of a resource that can entertain tamariki while educating them at the same time. And most parents will probably identify with the fact that tamariki will watch videos they like, on repeat, for weeks on end. This is the rationale behind the creation of the Waiata Mai series.

Waiata Mai, a bilingual music video series produced by Maraea Davies (Ngāti Awa) of Hei Tiki Creatives is a YouTube series of 40 songs designed to engage tamariki while teaching basic Māori language sentence structures, using the potential for repetition as a vehicle for memorisation of the various structures. As far as Māori language series for children and their families go, it is the first of its kind; the language can be instantly applied by parents and tamariki to everyday life situations.

The idea for the series evolved from Maraea seeing how much her toddlers loved and learned from YouTube edutainment like ABC, counting videos and other educational videos. “My 18 month old son experienced impressive learning outcomes as a result of his exposure to YouTube. The problem was there were no quality Māori language based videos for children. As a solution we started creating our own,” Maraea says.

“It is easy to plonk your child in front of the box and get on with your own thing, which in my case at that time, was paid work. Thankfully there was enough good edutainment on YouTube that my 18 month old son would sit absorbed for some time and as I would find out once we ended up in preschool, experienced impressive learning outcomes as a result of YouTube. The problem was there were no quality Māori language based videos for children. Here I was – still not quite at intermediate level in te reo, working in Māori TV production, and learning all the words to every song from the “Wiggles” and “Love to Sing”. I remember feeling somewhat aggrieved about the fact that not only were my babies limited to English nursery songs but that my own listening space and learning ability was also being wasted on nursery-English. And so I started creating Māori language videos for my children”.

Using the English videos that most engaged her tamariki in learning as a guideline, Maraea created a few videos for tamariki to watch on YouTube. There was enough interest to warrant a pitch of the series Waiata Mai to Mā Te Reo, who agreed that the production of the series would provide a great opportunity to meet a number of their language objectives and they subsequently provided funding to make the series.

The categories in Waiata Mai focus on different educational areas; Ko Au is based on the child, their whānau and their body; Pātai is based on common questions children ask; I Tēnei Rā looks at children in their everyday settings; Mātauranga contains songs about colours shapes, seasons and time of day and ‘He Tākaro, He Toi’ focuses on activities tamariki enjoy.

The strength of the series as a quality Māori language resource rests with advisors Waitangi and Te Rānui Black who have overseen the project from writing through to the final editing process.  The Māori language used prefers the local Ngāti Awa and Tūhoe dialects- where a preference has had to be made, and Waitangi and Te Rānui have also consciously ensured that the reo used is appropriate for the situation, whether formal or less formal. As far as the video production goes the local preschool community has been invested in the project with a number of preschools and kōhanga opening their doors for filming. “It was easy and perhaps fitting to place much of the filming at Treehouse Bilingual Montessori and Te Waipuna Āriki o Mātangireia given the strong drive of both centres to provide tamariki with a bilingual environment.” Maraea says. “It has also been awesome to have had the support and involvement of kaupapa Māori driven kura like Te Ao Marama Kōhanga Reo, Te Pāroa Kōhanga Reo and Te Orīni ki Ngāti Awa Kura Kaupapa; the affirmation of our reo speaking community provides us with a sense of pride in the mahi we are doing. Beyond this the support and participation from Ngāti Awa and Tūhoe whānau has been just great”.

Maraea said there have been some great unplanned rewards manifest in production, one of which was being able to work closely with Te Orīni ki Ngāti Awa Kura Kaupapa by providing senior students with the opportunity for hands on learning in video production where they were able to help shoot and edit the series.

Students displayed great passion and real natural talent in video production; as a result of this outcome there are now discussions with other community organisations to create more opportunities of this nature for rangatahi.  Maraea hopes that the Waiata Mai series will be as helpful to other whānau at home and abroad as it has been for her and her tamariki. She also feels that there is a definite benefit of the videos being used in childhood centres, especially where teachers may not be fluent speakers of Te Reo Māori. The songs will extend both the tamariki and the teachers.

Maraea is currently looking for additional funding to create new digital mobile Māori language based resources for both tamariki and adults.

For anyone interested in DVDs of the songs or links to the videos, details are available at waiatamai.co.nz.

Phone or email Maraea Davies 027 933 8921, maraea@heitikicreatives.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/waiatamai

Website: http://waiatamai.co.nz

Twitter: @heitikicreative #waiatamai

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