The new KukiTime4Kids CD and book is the talk of local schools due to its resounding success in encouraging children to have fun while learning their Cook Islands language and culture through a creative mix of the performing arts.
KukiTime4Kids artist Phoebe Happ, who also works as a voluntary teacher, said the idea came to her three years ago when she realised local children appeared to have little interest in learning te reo Maori.
“There wasn’t much excitement when it came time for Maori class. So I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to produce a CD with child-friendly songs that can help them learn their native language’,” she said.
So Happ got started on the production of a collection of children’s songs for the CD.
She said when she tried to find Maori material or Cook Islands nursery rhymes that were interesting for children, she could only find English ones.
“During my voluntary teaching, I discovered what English songs were popular amongst the children so I translated them into Maori. I got them recorded and published with my daughter Kura singing,” she said.
Happ said she had to find and adapt the latest popular songs that children of today recognised, so they would relate and enjoy them more.
Also involved in the concept was Lily Henry who says making learning fun is exactly what the youngsters needed to get excited about their Cook Islands language.
“We have incorporated other live aspects of the performing arts like dancing, singing and acting – along with the cultural aspect of learning Maori,” Henry said.
“It is perfect for today’s generation,” Happ added.
She believes it is important for children to not only learn their local language but be confident to express it through choreography and acting.
“The songs are designed to sing the English version first and then follow on with the Maori version so the children can remember the meaning of the words through the singing and their acting,” Happ said.
The KukiTime4 Kids trio of Happ, her daughter Kura and Henry, visits schools weekly, teaching children the songs and dances on the CD.
When asked how the schools have responded to KukiTime4Kids, Happ said, “they just can’t get enough of it”.
“The children get so excited when they see our car pull up and are now so enthusiastic to dance, sing and have fun,” she said.
Happ says at the end of the day, it is the schools that are really keen for it.
“They say, ‘yes please, what do we have to do? Just tell us how to organise it’. We just turn up, plug in and dance,” Happ said.
Henry says the schools recognise the team’s passion for children and their real concern for the promotion and learning of the Maori language.
They say that KukiTime4Kids is complimentary to the current system.
“We’re not saying this is the only way that students will learn Maori, but this is one method that we believe can contribute to learning the Maori dialect and help them be more confident in taking part in performing arts,” Happ said.
Happ and Henry say the concept is all about making learning of te reo Maori fun and enjoyable.
“Sometimes children put up an attitude when it comes to Maori classes, but I want to see the perspective of Maori change, so they will see it as a privilege,” Happ said.
The KukiTime4 Kids trio are already getting orders from overseas but have decided to prioritise local needs first.
The CD is not just for schools – parents can use the learning method at home with their children.
For more information or to purchase the CD, contact 70220 or message the Facebook Page KukiTime 4 Kids Cook Islands.
The team will also be located at the back of the market today, selling KukiTime4kids CDs – priced at $35.