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Matatoki school celebrated Matariki in style. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Matariki celebration amid new beginnings at Matatoki School

New developments are underway to enhance the learning environment at Matatoki School, as the rural institution celebrates another new beginning: that of the Māori New Year.
The school held its Matariki celebration on June 30 with a hāngi and a showcase of the students’ kapa haka skills. Each class presented their learning projects to the assembled parents, expounding on their knowledge of Matariki and the sun, stars and planets.
Outside, larger projects were also in progress.
Behind the classrooms, construction has begun on a sensory garden which will provide a quiet place for students to wander at lunchtimes.
The sensory garden was an initiative by the Friends of Matatoki School parent’s group. It was sponsored by Bunnings Whangamatā, who donated the resources.

“They’ve been planning this for years and to see their vision finally come to reality is wonderful,” school principal Hine Viskovich said.
“There will be little reading nooks where they can just take a book and sit quietly, there’ll be plants they can eat, plants they can smell, plants they can touch … classroom learning can be quite intense, and more and more children need that space just to take a breath and have a quiet chat with their friends.”
A mostly-finished mural covers the classroom facing the road, welcoming visitors with a cheerful native bush scene. One of a pair of artworks commissioned for the school, the mural was painted by Thames artist Kylie Gunn.
“[We] got some funding through Creative Coromandel,” Hine said.
“I wanted [Kylie] to depict what the Matatoki area would have been like before people took over, the kahikatea swamp forest and flax plants that dominated this whole plain, and the birdlife and the rich natural environment that would have existed in those ancient times.”

The second artwork, a waharoa or gateway, will be designed by the students of the school, with guidance from Puriri artist and ex-student Rick Fisher.
The theme for the waharoa is ka mua ka muri – a Māori proverb which means looking back to the past to guide the future.
“Every child will be contributing artwork to the waharoa, and also having the opportunity to work alongside Rick Fisher like a true artist to create the artwork,” Hine said.

“[It will] tell the stories of the past of Matatoki School and the area.
“Next term our whole focus is about our learners building connections with the history of the local environment and the past, and they’ll take those into the future with them, that’s our big goal.”
Construction is also underway on an extension to the staffroom, a build which Hine said was long overdue.