Auckland tamariki are growing confidence and learning about healthy living through dance

Lleuarne Panoho spends her week dancing with tamariki from lower decile Auckland schools and it is making a difference to their confidence, self-identity and well-being.

Published: Tuesday, 24 April 2018 | Rātū, 24 Paengawhāwhā, 2018

The Hī Hī Dance Fitness Programme gets tamariki up and moving and by the end of the term tamariki are volunteering themselves to be on stage and leading their classmates through the routines.

“For some tamariki it takes time for them to get up the courage to join in.  That’s why we do it together. Before you know it, children, teachers and whānau are up on their feet moving and enjoying themselves,” says Lleuarne Panoho, Hī Hī Dance Fitness Programme Leader.

“Our School and our community of learners (Tai Taiako), have been looking at ways to get our students more engaged in learning and happier at school.  I heard about the Programme through a friend and jumped at the chance to have our students do it.  It has made such a difference to their behaviour towards school,” says Jaqueline Yates, Assistant Principal at Manurewa South Primary School.

Jaqueline saw generally quiet children become alive and watched junior students proudly showing how skilled they had become at the moves.  Lleuarne says that by the end of the term she is competing with tamariki for room on the stage, which she thinks is fantastic.

We know that regular exercise is good for tamariki but sometimes it’s hard to get them moving in today’s social media and gaming culture.

“We make exercise fun. I pick catchy songs and tailor our time together to suit the size of the group and their ages.”

Jaqueline agrees that the Programme is fun.  “Students really look forward to Friday’s.  Overall the Programme has given the kids confidence and a good understanding of the importance of regular exercise.  It has connected us as a school as well as making school fun again for students and their whānau.”

Lleuarne would like to incorporate more Māori movement into the programme because she can see rangatahi Māori transform in front of her eyes.

“When I use songs like “Wairua” and “Poi-E” I can see tamariki Māori physically changing.  It’s fantastic! I want to look at using traditional movements like pūkana and wiriwiri in future programmes which could be run similar to Jump Jam.”

This term, Lleuarne and her team of qualified instructors are dancing with approximately 1,500 tamariki from Homai Primary School, Panama Road School, Beach Haven Primary School, Manurewa South Primary School and Onepoto Primary School.

Offering the programme in all schools is the goal but without financial support it isn’t possible. In the past a charge was imposed but after seeing numbers dwindle down to zero Lleuarne knows that whānau must prioritise.

“I target the lower decile schools with high Māori student numbers because for some whānau it’s hard to get their tamariki involved in activities.  By running the Programme at school during school hours, it takes pressure off whānau and tamariki get to learn about living healthy and have fun while doing it.”

Next term Lleuarne will be dancing with approximately 2,400 tamariki from five new schools.

“I love my job and I love working with tamariki. It is hugely rewarding for me to see tamariki step outside of their comfort zone and grow not only in their fitness level but also in their confidence.

Te Puni Kōkiri supports The Oranga Wairua Trust through Matika – Moving the Māori Nation. 

“It is a great avenue for our Trust to be able to utilise.  Without it and support from other organisations we wouldn’t be able to work with so many tamariki.”

Matika – Moving the Māori Nation provides support to improve the lives of whānau, hapū and iwi Māori through active participation and healthier lifestyles.

For more information about Matika - Moving the Māori Nation go here.