The spirit of maanakitanga through kūmara

| By Te Puna Kindergarten

Last year under the Matariki stars, Te Puna Kindergarten kaiako, Megan Burgess enjoyed the nourishment of a good hangi with kindergarten whānau. And like most good things, it sprouted a great idea.

‘Why don’t we learn to grow our own kūmara?’ Megan questioned among her Te Puna team.

The first kūmara came to the shores of Aotearoa on a waka from Hawaiki, a significant food staple for the early navigators as their communities grew. Today, food like our beloved kūmara, still has the power to bring people together, drawing with it – the spirit of manaakitanga. And in today’s economic climate, access to cost-effective nutrition has become even more relevant.

Megan’s idea bubbled and brewed until the vision enlarged beyond simply growing enough kūmara for the kindergarten whānau. Instead, her dream took shape as a vision for a māra kai collective within the community, including kindergarten whānau, tamariki, iwi, and Te Puna’s Hauora Hub, as a start.

Momentum grew when the kaiako were invited by Chrissy (Ngā Potiki) at Takitimu North to join the Parahia Kūmara workshop led by Kuia ‘Auntie’. Held at Ngapeke Permaculture in Welcome Bay, they learnt about preparing a garden bed to propagate kūmara shoots – tipu, as well as some of the tikanga of kūmara.

Harvest time: clearing the tops of the kūmara stems to reach the sweet tubers.

Discovering together.











A nearby vacant piece of land, previously owned by a late friend of the kindergarten’s, Farmer Burr, and now administered by Waka Kotahi, was offered to Te Puna Kindergarten for use on a short-term basis. This seemed fitting given Farmer Burr was known to grow kūmara and potatoes for Te Puna bellies. With the help of Chrissy (Ngā Potiki) from Takitimu North, tamariki created their own parahia kūmara (kūmara propagation bed) and māra kai on the land.

Preparing the parahia kūmara involved layering sand, mulch, compost – (all provided and donated by kindergarten friends). Next kūmara, kindly donation by Cameron Rd Pak’nSave, were pressed into the soil and sprayed with water then a sheet of plastic was placed over the top to create a ‘greenhouse’ effect.  Once sprouted, the tipu were carefully pulled and planted in ‘u’ formations in the ground, in September in accordance with the maramataka calendar and moon phases.

Te Puna’s tamariki proudly took part in planting the tipu, then patiently, watching them grow long tendrils and lush green leaves. I wonder where the kūmara are? Quietly growing beneath the soil into fat, sweet kūmara!

Harvesting healthy kūmara.

Sharing the joy of harvest.










After six months of growing and maturing, harvest time arrived on the 23rd of March! Kindergarten whānau came together for the mahi, with a special karakia spoken as part of the tikanga. The bounty was shared with Te Puna’s Paparoa Marae through the Hauora Hub. Everyone was impressed with the quality and quantity of the kūmara grown and there is enthusiasm for future collaborations.

And soon, like the path of the moon, the project will come full circle. Back to Te Puna Kindergarten’s Matariki event (18 June) where Megan, Head Teacher Ellen, kaiako, kaimahi and kindergarten whānau will once again come together. This time to eat their very own, lovingly grown, perfectly cooked, kūmara.

Ka mau te wehi Megan, Ellen and the Te Puna team!

Update: every year around Matariki  an annual staff event is held by Inspired Kindergartens that includes an awards ceremony . Our awards are named after – and align to Inspired Values. This year Megan, the lovely Te Puna kaiako mentioned in the kūmara initiative, was celebrated with our Manaakitanga Award for her leadership of the kūmara initiative. Congratulations Megan!