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Education for sustainability

Education for sustainability

Sustainability is a critical issue for New Zealand – environmentally, economically, culturally, politically, and socially. We need to learn how to live smarter to reduce our impact on the environment for future generations.

Toitū te Ao carving

"Toitū te Ao"

"A sustainable world"

Toitū te Ao carving.

The carving explores the interdependence and interconnectedness of people and the environment which includes the social/cultural, political, economic, and environmental perspectives of sustainability. It has been created as a visual metaphor representing a Māori world view of education for sustainability.

A range of effective teaching and learning approaches are represented that promote a change in thinking, and develop students’ and teachers’ action competence for sustainability. Images that can be interpreted as symbols for co-operation, inquiry, and experiential learning are part of the Toitū te Ao.

Teachers may choose to share these processes with students and invite them to consider what part of a particular process they are currently working at in their learning.

Cooperative learning

The raranga (woven) whāriki (mat) pattern symbolises cooperative learning. The raranga may reflect:

  • the patiki (flounder) swimming collectively, representing learning together for the better of all
  • the interconnectedness of all aspects of the environment as the individual strands of the mat weave together to create the whole
  • the laying down of a wero (challenge) for people to collaborate to take action for the environment.

Experiential learning

The raparapa (double spiral) pattern symbolises experiential learning. The raparapa may reflect:

  • the connections between prior knowledge and new knowledge gained when reflecting on experience
  • double loop learning where underlying assumptions of how and why things are done are challenged through reflection on experiences
  • the continuous cycle of experiential learning, reflecting, and questioning, leading to students taking informed action.

Inquiry learning

The poutama pattern (stairway of knowledge) of the tukutuku symbolises inquiry learning. The poutama may reflect the learner:

  • moving up and down the stairway and through the layers of the tukutuku as they inquire
  • developing new ideas, conceptual understandings, making connections, and building competencies for lifelong learning through the upward step of the poutama
  • taking time to practice and use new knowledge and skills as they "rest" on the flattened step of the poutama.

Toitū te Ao was designed by Raukura Gillies for the National Education for Sustainability team of advisors as part of the development of a series of resources to support teacher professional development. The carver was Gavin Britt, with input from Chisnallwood Intermediate students who created the carving. Contributions were also made by the education for sustainability advisors and Tuahiwi School.

The carving has been gifted to the Ministry of Education and UNESCO for the length of the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development 2005–2015.

Toitū te Ao was made using a variety of sustainable materials and taonga species (indigenous natural resources) to highlight the importance of Māori being able to access and use natural resources in order to continue traditional cultural practises.

Using Toitū te Ao for teaching and learning

Toitū te Ao can be used as a resource for teaching and learning, to enable students to consider a Māori perspective of the environment.

As students view the carving, ask:

  • What do you see? Make a list of all the things that you see in the carving.
  • What things do you think represent the natural environment? The social environment? The cultural environment? Aspects of the economic environment?

Students can then select a section, piece, or one element of the carving that they can relate to or that creates a focus for them in some way. Ask students to share the story of why they relate to or have chosen to focus on that part of Toitū te Ao.

  • Does your story refer to a "lesson" or experience you have had?
  • What did you learn?
  • How could you share that learning with others?
  • Are there other "symbols" within Toitū te Ao that you might tell a story about and share?

A Māori perspective of the environment

When the carving was designed and created the artist deliberately interwove some ‘symbols’ for us to consider regarding a Māori perspective of the environment. Some of these ‘symbols’ include:

  • Ranginui and Papatūānuku
  • Tawhirimātea, Tānemāhuta, Rongomatane, Ruaumoko, and Tangaroa – some of the children of Ranginui and Papatūānuku
  • Hineahuone – the first woman and Te Ira Tangata – the whakapapa line for people
  • Te Raranga Pātiki – a woven mat in a flounder pattern representing co-operative learning
  • Te Poutama Tukutuku – step-like pattern representing inquiry learning
  • Te Raparapa – double spiral pattern representing experiential learning

Environmental issues represented in Toitū te Ao

Some environmental issues highlighted include:

  • Kapowai – the dragonfly and the ecosystem that it is part of
  • Kauri Gum eyes – a harvest of kauri trees over 1000 years
  • Whole paua shell – a rāhui, mataitai, or reserves to protect and revitalise kaimoana
  • Whale's fluke – New Zealand’s growing industry of tourism
  • All of the ocean Tangaroa’s realm – resource management, quota, foreshore and seabed, land use, pollution
  • Hoiho the yellow-eyed penguin – native species and the issues they face from introduced species, predation, habitat loss
  • Tuatara as the guardian coming through time

Each of these "symbols" could be starting points for a unit of work or inquiry for students to explore.

Updated on: 17 Dec 2020