The Ruamano Project

By Emma Scobie-Jennings

The theme of this year’s New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week blog tour is ‘changing the way you see us’. Please scroll down to read the blog post ‘The Ruamano Project’.

Fear by Stephen Bowler is licensed under CC BY 2.0 A spark that was ignited at the 2014 giftEDnz conference is set to become a blaze with the news this week that a proposal for a gifted and talented research project is one of the 40 (out of over 200) that has been accepted for funding from the first round of the Ministry of Education’s ‘Teacher-Led Innovation Fund’.

The project, entitled Ruamano, aims to increase Māori and Pasifika gifted and talented secondary school boys’ achievement and participation in learning through the use of the Real Engagement in Active Problem Solving (REAPS) model.

The First Spark

The initial idea for this project was formulated by Katrina Sylva, a teacher at Dargaville High School. Having been trained as a Te Kotahitanga facilitator and now holding a position as Gifted and Talented Education coordinator, Katrina was inquiring into approaches to engage Māori and Pasifika boys as she had identified that though the school seemed to be catering well for most of the students identified as gifted and talented, Māori and Pasifika boys (even those identified as gifted/talented) were often not achieving at a high level within the school. The Ignited conference provided the catalyst for the development of the project, where June Maker presented her keynote on the REAPS model and Katrina discussed her idea with a number of people, including the giftEDnz Māori Special Interest Group, which includes Melinda Webber and Tracy Riley. Tracy suggested working with Emma Scobie-Jennings, who she had worked with while Emma conducted post-graduate study on Māori giftedness at Massey University. Emma is now the Gifted and Talented Education coordinator at Bream Bay College. Katrina and Emma further discussed the options for a collaborative project while in the shuttle on the way back to the airport, then met several times back home in Whangarei and decided to put the proposal together.

Houhora Heads, Northland, New Zealand, October 2007 by Phillip Capper is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Houhora Heads, Northland, New Zealand

Tracy had further discussions with June, who was keen to be a part of the project and see her model adapted for the Aotearoa New Zealand context. Tracy and Melinda will also be involved in the project, providing academic guidance on the research aspects and assistance in adapting the model for use in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The project will begin with all team members meeting in Term 4 2015 to undertake professional development on the REAPS model and to formulate and finalise a version of the model, integrating the cultures of the schools and those of the students, fitting the model to a Northland cultural context. Different groups within the project team will be performing different functions: a research/data group; a teacher mentor group; and a community consultation group.

Maori warrior by Andrew Turner is licensed under CC BY 2.0The Project

This project was titled ‘Ruamano’ as it reflects the story of the taniwha of that name who took the form of a Mako shark and, though he looked fierce, protected the local people. Māori and Pasifika boys can often be perceived, like the shark, to be intimidating but have much to offer and this project will encourage their positive participation in education and the local community. The project will involve groups of Year 9 and 10 students from each school engaging in a problem solving project in collaboration with their community, using the Real Engagement in Active Problem Solving (REAPS) model. Working alongside the Māori and Pasifika communities, the students will learn about and develop solutions to community-based problems with mentorship and support from key people within their cultural communities and then share their work with the wider community. The students involved will gain NCEA credits for their projects, experiencing academic success which will help them transition into year 11.

In this project, we intend to adapt and test the REAPS model in two Northland secondary schools. REAPS is made up of three models that have been successful in other countries, particularly with indigenous cultures. We have selected the REAPS model as we believe it will provide a way to improve the engagement and success of Māori and Pasifika boys in learning and it fits with the current evidence around factors that contribute to learners’ success at secondary school. Factors incorporated in the model such as building belief in themselves as learners, the competencies needed to be independent learners, meaningful engagement in learning, and having the support and involvement of their iwi, whānau and community are all acknowledged by current research as being important to ensuring Māori and Pasifika student success at secondary school.

This is innovative as a project because use of the REAPS model has not yet been researched in Aotearoa New Zealand and this will allow us to inquire into whether or not this model is effective in engaging and extending Māori and Pasifika boys. The model has problem solving at its core, integrating content into practical, real-life situations, which in order to be effective must be culturally-responsive and engaging. The application of this model in Aotearoa requires the involvement and support of not only the learner, but their whānau, iwi and community, as in order to solve complex problems, different stakeholder perspectives must be considered and understood. Importantly, students will present their solutions to real audiences, not contrived ones, which will be comprised of relevant community members.
Bark cloth Fiji art by Bradley Davis is licensed under CC BY 2.0There is a need to engage our Māori and Pasifika boys in learning. We often hear of the ‘brown tail’ in New Zealand Education statistics and when one looks closer at the statistics, it is the boys who are right at the end of that tail. This demographic also makes up the larger proportion of stand-down, suspension and exclusion/expulsion statistics, as well as that larger part of school leavers with no qualifications.This project targets gifted and talented Māori and Pasifika boys, those with the potential to achieve success but those who often, through disengagement or for other reasons, underachieve or leave school early. The project will create a ‘responsive learning experience’ where gifts and talents will be able to surface and be identified. We will therefore not deny students the opportunity to participate because they do not already have identified gifts/talents.

This project will allow the teachers within Dargaville High School and Bream Bay College to gain professional development and inquire into practices that we hope will address the needs of these students who, fitting exactly with the Teacher-Led Innovation Fund criteria, have special educational needs.

Hawaiian Fire Dancer 075 by Louis Leib is licensed under CC BY 2.0 We feel very privileged to have the opportunity to turn this project into a reality and to find new ways to ignite the fire for gifted and talented students. We look forward to sharing our findings with you.


About the author

Blog author: Emma Scobie-Jennings


Emma Scobie-Jennings is on maternity leave from her position as Gifted and Talented Education Coordinator at Bream Bay College.  She is a member of the board of giftEDnz and co-editor of the magazine.


The views of the authors in these blogs are their own and do not necessarily represent those of the Board of giftEDnz.

blog tour image

This post is part of the annual New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week blog tour. To read other blogs in the tour, or to contribute your own blog to this event, please visit


2 thoughts on “The Ruamano Project

  1. Wow! What an exciting project! Well done Katrina and Emma for bringing such a visionary project together. I will be very interested to follow how the project develops.

  2. This post highlights one of the most under appreciated values of holding and attending gifted conferences. Over the years, I have seen monumental efforts succeed whose impetus was from the gathering of like-minded people. My own advocacy for gifted children was ignited in much the same way after attending a conference when my children were very young and just identified as gifted. Kudos to giftEDnz for being that spark!

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