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A culturally connected curriculum

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At Te Kura o Hiruharama inquiry learning is aligned to the school vision statement. This digital story discusses how 'Hiruharamatanga' is actively incorporated into the school curriculum to ensure the localised curriculum is culturally connected.

The E Tipu e Rea Education Partnership supported cluster workshops for principals and lead teachers to share, listen, reflect and review their curriculum developments. There are three stories in this series:

  1. Developing whānau priorities at Te Kura o Hiruharama
  2. Striving for personal excellence
  3. A culturally connected curriculum

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Promoting professional conversations

There is a strong link between well-being and achievement. Students’ well-being is strongly influenced by a clear sense of identity, and access and exposure to their own language and culture. Students do better in education when what and how they learn reflects and positively reinforces where they come from, what they value and what they already know. Learning needs to connect with students’ existing knowledge asset and a foundation of knowledge on which to build and celebrate learning and success.  

Ka Hikitia

  • What might your students say if you asked them who they are and where they are from? How can you support your students to have a strong sense of themselves and their origins?
  • How could you increase culturally connections with your local place and people?
  • How could you increase the cultural connectivity of your school curriculum?


Kaumatua: This place is riddled in history, riddled in history. We could talk for a month about all the histories here.

Student: Why I like learning about our ancestors is because we get to know our culture and if we didn’t know things about them then we wouldn't have a clue about where we’re from or who our great grandparents are or anything and we’ll just know that we are just Māori and nothing else.

Principal: We had made the deliberate decision to really strongly link our inquiry learning back to our vision statement. Because our positioning had been is that everything that we need to do needs to be contributing to our vision statements. And so the decision was made that our rich concept for term one would be about courage because the word courage is used in one of the vision statements.

Student: What I learned about courage was to be brave, stick up for yourself and take leadership in class. Like if the teacher asks you to do something just be confident and don’t be ashamed.

Principal: After identifying that rich concept we then had to identify contexts. So another slight shift was we decided we would have two contexts because there were two very authentic contexts happening in term one that could be used to explore the concept of courage and what it meant within those contexts and also what it meant for the children themselves.

The first context was around the winter Olympics and you know the sorts of courage that people on bob sleds and things needed to possess to do that. The second context was really authentic for our children because it was around ANZAC day that was coming up. ANZAC day we had the 28th Māori battalion, C Company, and then of course 2nd lieutenant Ngarimu who won the VC during the second world war had been a past pupil here at our school.

Student: I learnt about courage while we studied Te Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu and how courageous he was in world war 2 and I also learnt that I could have courage as well and be confident in everything I do.

Teacher: I thought that the courage unit was especially focused on the kids, because as an example there are 12 kids who are directly related to Ngarimu and you know, they all stood up and they identified with that. We had an inbuilt components about who he was, where he came from, what courageous deeds he did, all the tohus he got. So you had that direct link back to him and you got better school student participation. You got them more interested, motivated, it was the local curriculum, it was driven by the whānau, and so the outcomes were particularly focused on what the whānau wanted and what the kids were interested in too.

Student: Every subject that we get whakapapas back to our ancestors and so that's, that is really great. Learning how they lived, where they lived and things like that and getting to write about them.

Teacher: It is no longer I’m at the front the leader of the pack, it's I am alongside the students and we are all the leaders of our pack. And with our localised curriculum, our Hiruharamatanga which is paramount, it's at the forefront of everything that we do. That has so much meaning to us all because it is who we are. And it then permeates through into everything that we do in our classroom, out of the classroom, in what we learn and how we learn and who is involved and what and how we learn, who has input into that, which is of course the student, whānau, and the staff or myself as the teacher, I’m just a tool that assists with that.

Teacher: The inquiry process lends itself not only to learning for the kids but learning as a teacher. You grow professionally about Hiruharamatanga, whanaungatanga all of that. The inquiry process sort of gave me a whole range of information, of knowledge about where we live and how it’s connected to these kids. And how they can link themselves back to it, how I can link back to it, how I can build their self identity up as a student, and professionally for myself the knowledge that I gained was just so much. Because you get so involved in it, you know, you just immerse yourself into it. And the inquiry process lends itself to all these different paths. You know we went one way and we found out this, and it linked back to another thing that I didn’t know anything about and … it was a great experience. It is a great learning curve to learn with the kids, because thats, because before it was here’s a bit of information learn this, and now it is here’s a question what do we need to do to find out about it and where does this question lead us? It leads, it opens up into all these other avenues which draws in more information and you just go on your little way learning this. Because it’s driven by the kids isn’t it.

Teacher: We have also had Ngā pakiwaitara o Hiruharama. I know that other teachers have spoken to you about this where we’ve learnt about kōrero from this area and that too has been extremely successful. When it has meaning the children really hook in.

Principal: Where to from here? I think what we need to do is reflect on our level of te reo and try to increase that. We need to be incorporating the Marautanga and the New Zealand Curriculum more so we are more active in our use of the marautanga. We need to be exploring the ways in which we can be more actively incorporate a whole range of different aspects of Hiruharamatanga into our curriculum because we want our localised curriculum to be, you know, culturally connected into place and people and there are so many wonderful ways that we can do that so it is that challenge of continuing to find exciting and engaging and authentic ways of realising all of those priorities that our whānau wants.
We are one big fat family …
We are one big family …

Published on: 09 Jul 2010