Local curriculum and Tuia Mātauranga

Tuia te here tangata

Making meaningful connections

2019 marks 250 years since the first onshore meetings between Māori and non-Māori. Tuia – Encounters 250 (Tuia 250) is the national commemoration that recognises this milestone in our history.

Tuia 250 is an opportunity to hold honest conversations about the past, the present, and how we navigate our shared future together. We can speak openly and respectfully about our history, its impact on our people, and the environment. We can reflect on the challenges we face as a nation committed to bicultural practices: how we can enable our diverse cultures to flourish in a shared future that we will be proud to leave for generations to come.

Children and young people are a key focus of Tuia 250. The national Tuia Mātauranga education programme invites kaiako and learners to develop their knowledge of their whakapapa and identity by exploring local history, including the stories of who they are and where they came from.

Te Whāriki is a bicultural curriculum based on the partnership established between Māori and the Crown by Te Tiriti o Waitangi (as expressed in the Te Whāriki foreword). Tuia Mātauranga presents an opportunity for kaiako to explore deeper understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles and the bicultural underpinnings of Te Whāriki.

student dye artwork of Tamatea in his waka

Learner focus

The passage below greets visitors at the entrance to Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi. It speaks of journeys to Aotearoa, meetings, and the beginnings of conversations that continue today.

Quote about navigators coming to Aotearoa

Tuia Mātauranga

Tuia Mātauranga aims to inspire kaiako, children, and whānau to explore their own stories of who they are and where they come from – to develop their knowledge of whakapapa and identity.

The following examples illustrate how Kidsfirst Kindergartens Lyttelton and Te Waenganui Childcare Centre have applied elements of Tuia Mātauranga in designing focus areas for a local curriculum.

Learning local history and pūrākau

At Kidsfirst Kindergartens Lyttelton the children learn about the great Māori navigator Tamatea Pōkai Whenua. He explored Aotearoa from the far north to the deep south in the 1300s. Tamatea was responsible for naming Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour). The cone-shaped hill that rises in the landscape behind Rāpaki also bears his name – Te Poho o Tamatea.

There is a well-known local pūrākau about Tamatea, which generations have told to explain unusual landforms and special features of the district.

Over time, kaiako interest in this local history has led to respectful relationships with people in the community, and the sharing of this pūrākau in book form. Kaiako immediately saw the interest this pūrākau sparked in children. It is now a significant part of the curriculum, told and retold in many different ways, as illustrated in the presentation below.

Tamatea Pōkai Whenua pūrākau


Tamatea Pōkai Whenua sailed into Whakaraupō in his waka with his whānau and friends.

They were looking for a place to rest and were enjoying the beautiful, calm, and sunny day.

At the front of the waka was Tamatea’s toka ahi which was used to create fire at each of their stops.

After some time the weather began to change. It started to drizzle and Tangaroa sent some big waves their way.

Before long the rain got heavier and the waves got bigger.

The waka rocked from side to side and the toka ahi fell out and into the moana.

Tamatea and his whānau fought against the storm.

Finally they were able to pull the waka up onto the beach at Rāpaki.

But they were makariri and hungry. Kei te matekai ia.

The days went by and Tamatea saw his whānau and friends becoming ill and unhappy.

He decided something must be done.

Tamatea climbed te maunga nui behind the beach.

When he got to the top, he called to the atua to send him some fire, “Homai te ahi tapu!”

The atua heard him and sent a fireball through the air.

A little bit of fire fell off at Maruia Springs and a little bit dropped off at Hanmer Springs before landing on the beach at Rāpaki.

Tamatea and his whānau were overjoyed.

They were able to build a fire and keep warm. And they were able to cook their kai.

From then on te maunga nui behind Rāpaki has been known as Te Poho o Tamatea.

Kaiako believe that history comes to life for children when it is connected to the landmarks and places children know. They hear that children talk about Tamatea Pōkai Whenua when they are out and about with their families. The children’s knowledge helps build their sense of identity and place.

Kaiako refer to Tamatea in other ways too. Dispositions associated with Tamatea’s character – pakari, māia, mātua, and kaiarataki – are part of the everyday language in the kindergarten. These dispositions incorporate courage, determination, and leadership. As one kaiako explains, “I feel they (the children) know him so well; they almost feel connected to him.”

What contributed to success here?

Kaiako who:

  • prioritise their obligations to Te Tiriti in their teaching practice
  • value relationships and connections in their rohe as a source of rich learning
  • factor into their curriculum design that deep learning comes from repetition over time
  • are knowledgeable and reflective to the development of children’s learning dispositions that are valued by Māori
  • closely observe children's engagement to create new learning opportunities that take account of their interests.

Tuia Mātauranga – a provocation for thinking differently about local curriculum planning

The kaiako at Te Waenganui Childcare Centre in the Bay of Islands were looking for ways to deepen children’s learning. In Tuia Mātauranga they have found a resource that supports them to do this.

Kaiako first learnt of Tuia Mātauranga when they accepted a meeting invitation sent to local schools and early learning services. During the meeting, kaiako were given a sheet of inquiry-based learning questions to inspire conversations and learning on the four Tuia 250 topics:

  • Voyaging
  • First Encounters
  • New Zealand History
  • Legacy of Learning

Sensing that many of the questions could help them achieve the goals and learning outcomes in Te Whāriki, kaiako applied them as provocations in local curriculum planning.

Questions such as, “Why do we make agreements?” took kaiako in directions they wouldn’t have otherwise gone and encouraged them to draw on resources unique to their location. The result was more engaged learning for children and more opportunities to involve the local community.

For example, the centre’s proximity to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds meant the children were already familiar with Ngātokimatawhaorua, the waka housed there. However, the inquiry question “What would early voyagers need to think about for the voyage to Aotearoa/New Zealand?” led them into investigating how food was caught, kept, and carried by the first Māori navigators.

Children hongi the waka, Ngātokimatawhaorua
Image: A child engages in hongi with Ngātokimatawhaorua at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Te Waenganui Childcare Centre serves a seaside and boating community. Kaiako were inspired by the topics and themes in Tuia Mātauranga. Their local curriculum planning enabled them to work more deeply with the interests and lived experiences of the children and whānau.

What contributed to success here?

Kaiako who:

  • see it as their responsibility to enact Te Tiriti within their curriculum for all children
  • look outwards and approach a new opportunity with openness and curiosity
  • are confident in local curriculum design, including adapting resources to suit their location and learners’ age and capability.

Tuia Mātauranga in your context

Tuia Mātauranga is an opportunity for similar conversations and practice to emerge in your early learning service. Here are some suggestions:

  • check out Tuia Mātauranga for educational resources and ideas
  • reach out to members of your community and explore local facilities to learn about the local history and stories of your rohe
  • refer to Tuia Mātauranga themes and topics as you brainstorm possible lines of direction for your local curriculum
  • imagine planning as a process of deepening learning over time where you return to ideas, experiences, and concepts in different ways.

Tuia Mātauranga has strong connections with each of the principles and strands of Te Whāriki.

Refer to the goals and learning outcomes to prioritise and guide your exploration of the Tuia Mātauranga topics and themes. Making good use of learning outcomes will help you with this.

Drawing on Tuia Mātauranga will also support you in enacting the responsibilities of kaiako outlined in Te Whāriki. For example, an in-depth curriculum investigation of any of the themes is an opportunity for kaiako to:

  • develop further cultural competence
  • integrate domain knowledge
  • be role models for languages and learning
  • interpret theories that underpin effective pedagogy in Te Whāriki, its framework, and intent.

Useful resources


He Kōrero Pūrākau Mo Ngā Taungahanahatanga a Ngā Tūpuna, Place names of the ancestors: A Māori oral history atlas

This book is a useful resource for those seeking information on Māori navigation and navigators.

Find some of the stories from this book online: He Kōrero Pūrākau Mo Ngā Taungahanahatanga a Ngā Tūpuna.

Download the complete pdf.

First Encounters

Let’s be honest – Jenny Shipley

In this video the national coordinating co-chair of Tuia 250 discusses the purpose of marking the first meeting of Māori and non-Māori.

New Zealand History

National Library pūrākau resources

This resource has links to videos, images, websites, and articles of Māori pūrākau.

Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an online reference for information on the people, environment, history, culture, and society of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Papa for Educators

Provides information and resources for educators that could be adapted for use in early learning services.

Legacy of Learning

Bicultural nature of Te Whāriki

Dr Lesley Rameka video presentation on the bicultural perspective of the revised Te Whāriki curriculum.

Place-based education

Māori educationalist Professor Wally Penetito shares his views on the value of place-based curriculum in retaining knowledge of local history and tikanga, as well as challenging taken-for-granted world views.

Tuia 250 an opportunity to share stories

In this video Dr Wayne Ngata, a former teacher and noted te reo Māori specialist, says Tuia 250 is an opportunity to highlight stories of Aotearoa New Zealand. He encourages the use of storytelling as a way to expand understanding of our past.

Wayfinding Leadership: Wisdom for developing potential

In this TEDx talk Chellie Spiller talks about leadership, drawing inspiration from early Māori navigators.