Traditionally, Māori recognised the value in knowing how to swim competently and were dependent on the water environment for survival and cultural vitality. Māori children were taught to swim at an early age often with the help of poito or floats crafted from dried gourds to aid buoyancy and build water confidence. Learning to swim was not only part of early childhood development but more so a requirement due to the regularity of whanau activities in and around water for work, cultural and recreational purposes.
Stories and legends tell of how Māori ancestors demonstrated their swimming prowess through feats of survival, rescue and escape. The diverse and often challenging nature of open water conditions in Aotearoa/New Zealand meant that Māori adapted several ways of swimming that were both practical and efficient. These methods of swimming are likened to the following modern day techniques;
This resource has been written by Mark Haimona, and draws on the methods of swimming that Māori were renowned for using in earlier times and incorporates modern day techniques and water safety skills to enhance aquatic learning. A broad range of water skills and practices are outlined in the resource for kaiako/teachers, parents or caregivers to choose from that would best fit in with their own programme.
Careful consideration should be given to teaching the appropriate skills based on the individual’s age and swimming ability. The learning activities and skills are set out for students to develop their swimming and survival skills at three different stages of learning. Two key learning outcomes are:
Tamariki (children) are encouraged to build their water confidence and explore their own abilities through a series of activities including, safe entries, free movements, submersion, floating, kicking, gliding, buoyancy, breathing, and propulsion skills.
At this stage, it is essential that the kaiako/teacher offers a safe and enjoyable environment with proper supervision and care. Learning will be enhanced with creative games and activities using a variety of flotation aids, toys and equipment. Tamariki should be ready to progress to the next stage once they are able to swim 5 to 15 metres confidently.
Tamariki develop essential swim and survival techniques through a series of progressions aimed at building towards being able to swim 50 to 100 metres competently. The correct use of lifejackets and dry land rescue techniques are also introduced at this stage to develop personal water safety skills.
Tauira refine their stroke technique building towards being able to swim 200 metres competently and confidently using a combination of swim and survival strokes. To extend their water safety skills, an emphasis is put on adapting swim techniques to open water swimming conditions using a variety of drills and activities.
These additional resources have been developed by Rob Hewitt. There is a Maori and bilingual (Maori and English) version of each resource.
We also have Maori language teaching resources for Kohanga Reo and Year 1 and 2 available for download. These teacher manuals and supporting resources provide a teaching programme kaiako can use to deliver culturally appropriate water safety education.
The Te Kohanga National Trust Board and Te Puni Kokiri have endorsed these resources.