The greeting, softly spoken, comes from a pair of eyes hidden behind a flurry of windswept hair created by lunchtime antics. There is a sheepish smile that comes with the words and soon, five little fingers escape into a quick wave before the kaiako (teacher) sees.
It's 12.45pm on a Friday afternoon and the kura's "babies" are supposed to be winding down, lying on the mat after kai time, readying themselves for the next lesson.
But the appearance of a stranger in the new entrants' classroom is causing some disturbance and the grin turns into giggles.
Back out we go before giggles turn into laughter and the whole exercise is ruined.
It's here, under the cover of an almost blossoming pōhutukawa tree I notice the view stretching across Tauranga Harbour to Mauao.
"You're lucky, that area has just been cleared. We couldn't see the water before," deputy principal Te Aoterangi Moore explains.
Situated about 7km out of Tauranga with kiwifruit orchards lining the road, Te Kura o Matapihi considers itself rural.
Founded in 1913, the kura is a full immersion te reo Māori state-funded school catering for new entrants to intermediate-aged students.
But it has changed in the past few years.
While 80 per cent of the approximately 160 tamariki are able to identify as Ngāi Te Rangi, 20 per cent can whakapapa with other iwi within Aotearoa and Moore says there has been a big increase in students wanting to change from mainstream school.
"It's changing mindsets. They did have that intergenerational thing passed down where 'Māori is no good, you've got to speak English'."
Moore's argument for this is simple: "English is everywhere."
And he would know. Growing up around native speakers of te reo Māori in Rūātoki, Moore of Ngāi Tūhoe and Ngāti Pikiao moved to Mount Maunganui College without knowing how to read or write English.
But fast-forward a few years, he completed a teaching degree at Te Whare Wananga o Waikato (University of Waikato) where he was asked to write 3000-word essays.
"It was then I realised how fortunate I was to have Māori as a first language.
"Being in the schools and seeing tamariki with whānau that don't have the reo, I feel it is my role to teach and pass my knowledge onto whānau and tamariki that haven't had that opportunity."
It's then in the conversation Moore stops to think.
"If I hadn't learnt [te reo Māori] or been brought up the way I was, I don't know how I would stand in this world."
And that is why Moore believes the kura has changed - parents don't want their tamariki to consider the same fate.
The changing pace of our world has resulted in a lot of whānau living away from the marae meaning kura, or kohanga reo are acting as the community pillar.
It might not be "better" that way, but at least it resulted in tamariki knowing their native tongue, Moore says.
"People might ask why are you sharing your knowledge with people that aren't your whakapapa, to me it doesn't matter.
"At the end of the day we're all Māori and we all have a responsibility to share and ensure our language continues, survives and thrives."
It's not just the reo that is thriving though, it is the tamariki too.
"The environment's different from mainstream, you just feel at home."
That's part of the reason why Te Ariki Ririnui transferred from mainstream to the kura four weeks ago.
While he escapes from the bustle of the classroom he tells me the thing he likes most about Te Kura o Matapihi is the feeling of family that surrounds him when he takes a hīkoi through the grounds.
The Year 6 student has always had a yearning for te reo Māori and now he has been chucked in the deep end, much to his delight.
"All my life I have wanted to learn te reo. It's a little bit challenging but I think I will try and learn te reo so I can learn better in my other subjects."
While his father has small pockets of reo, Ririnui hopes he will soon be able to teach his dad more.
"I've already learned the karakia and at my old school I wouldn't have learned any of that."
Principal Tui Rolleston says while those students, like Ririnui, who transfer from mainstream schooling find it testing to begin with, they often flourish because the reason they are there in the first place is because they want to learn.
The challenge for Rolleston is ensuring the reo doesn't disappear once tamariki walk out of the school gates.
Rolleston said a lot of the kura's parents did not have the reo either, which meant te reo Māori was only a reality between 8am and 3pm but the school was working on strategies to sustain it.
"We are trying to get it more normalised. They think the reo is only in the school and to be honest, it probably is because you and I wouldn't see it out there.
"But we are making sure that we take them down to Bayfair, where they can actually still speak it down there and learn the language that would be in the shops."
During her 15 years with the school, Rolleston has seen the kura grow from three classes to 10.
She believes that in itself is something worth celebrating because there was resistance to full immersion with the fear tamariki wouldn't understand te reo Pākehā (English).
However, four times a week, for one hour, the senior students learn English.
"We all know that they need to be strong in both English and Māori, but you can't be that when a kid actually knows who they are themselves. And without a doubt, they will stand strong wherever they are."
With the growth of Māori medium education across the motu (country) Rolleston hopes confidence to speak the language in a mainstream setting will grow.
"I think it's an awesome opportunity that kura are actually growing and more parents are putting their kids into kura, or even people learning about the reo because when you learn about the language you learn about the culture.
"And then you have a way better understanding about why you do the things that you do."
It's the reason Amber Gear sent her three children to the kura - but it also resulted in her gaining competency in te reo Māori and leading her to teach.
She said when the moment came to make a decision on where to send her tamariki, it was an obvious choice because while she could teach them English, she couldn't teach them te reo Māori.
Plus she wanted to keep the language alive.
"You're not gonna miss out [on English] because apart from it being everywhere, this is their language and so tamariki are gaining their own language, which they would otherwise be missing out on."
Gear felt herself being left behind once her children were at the kura and it inspired her to take up the wero (challenge).
"I couldn't help with the homework so I started night classes."
Now as a kaiako (teacher) she realises a number of tamariki do not understand what many New Zealanders find easy, such as signs like "stay off the grass".
"It's hard when you are trying to speak Māori continuously. This is where it was born so if you are going to have 'stay off the grass' have it in both languages, it is our national language.
"Keep it fair. There are a lot of tamariki that don't know what those signs say and it's not fair for the world they are living in. It's like they are in a foreign country, but it is their own."
Māori medium education may be growing as Rolleston said but those able to teach are limited.
Te Arawa kaumātua Sir Toby Curtis believes every Māori child should have the right to learn in their mother tongue.
"No one will be divorced from their mother when they are born, as a rule, neither should we be divorced from our language.
"But we are allowing it to happen in this country."
Curtis believes once tamariki become proficient in their own reo, they will become proficient in English too.
For Rotorua's Mataia Keepa, learning in a te reo Māori space made him proficient in life in general.
The 32-year-old describes his time in Māori medium education as "nothing short of extraordinary" but said his "fortune" was the result of tough decisions his mother had to make.
"It was a time when te reo Māori wasn't as popular. My mother had to make some bold decisions on whether she wanted to push her son through a full immersion system without any true understanding on what that machinery may produce at the end.
"But she reaped the benefits of that decision."
Keepa of Te Arawa, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Rārua said his mother thought it was imperative for him to learn te reo Māori and in turn foster the culture that comes with it.
It meant Keepa was growing up in a household practising tikanga Māori.
"I'm definitely a whole lot more grounded in identity, culture and language. And they may interpret it as Mataia being a proud Māori where in fact, those are innate characteristics that I practice unconsciously."
Now working as a consultant, Keepa believes he would not be where he is without the education he had.
Through his years of schooling, he honed his te reo Māori skill set.
Now in his 30s, he views those years as an advantage.
"People only start to excel in their true passion from 15 onwards, which is limited time to become an expert.
"But I've been fortunate I have 32 years of experience in what I consider to be my commercial arm now.
"My job is to help morph televisions shows to be more receptive to a Māori demographic, to be more appealing to a Māori audience, to be more multicultural and to be more involved in the fabric of this country."