“Young New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori, need to engage with tangata whenua by placing themselves in the broad historical past of Aotearoa New Zealand” (Tamua, 2015).

Doing this allows us to understand what makes Aotearoa distinctive and unique.

Te Takanga o Te Wā is a document published in 2015 to support the understanding of Māori history for year 1-8 students and their teachers. When utilised well, this resource provides all students with a knowledge-base they can identify with. It makes sense for teachers to use a student-centred, localised curriculum when learning about the history of local people and places.

Te Takanga o Te Wā can assist teachers to encourage students to learn about where they live, where they come from, and it may create opportunities to link their own communities with significant events. This places our learners at the centre of a larger picture; where they see they are part of New Zealand history. It enables us as educators to better honour the language, identity and culture of our learners and make learning more relevant, rich and engaging for all learners.

What makes Aotearoa distinctive and unique and how can educators capitalise on this?

This document suggests as educators, we take a step back and listen to our students; acknowledge the special place for tangata whenua and recognise that some will have different experiences from our own. Encourage them to lead other students, invite whānau to school and ‘be the experts’.


“Whatever your situation, it is important that your school develops and maintains a relationship with iwi, hapū, and whānau for the study of history to be relevant and effective for students” (Tamua, 2015).

How teachers can use Māori History

Te Takanga o Te Wā suggests some ways that teachers can support this:

  • What does the community want their children to learn? What do the children want to learn?
  • What is the local iwi/hapū history?
  • Who can come into the school and bring history alive for the students?
  • Oral storytelling and song and integrates students’ families’ stories and experiences into class discussion.
  • Drama is another great way for students to explore telling family history and stories.
  • Utilise family taonga (heirlooms) so students understand who they are, where they have come from and how they can identify themselves and others.
  • Photographs can be used alongside new topics and enhance student understanding of other places and people’s lives.
  • Encourage students to discuss what they see and think about what might have been happening when the photograph was taken.
  • Current events can help make connections to the past and enhance the relevance of new learning. It is real-life.
  • By relating today’s issues to the past, we can view the consequences of past actions and develop the understanding that history is continuous. How can we move forward together?
  • Historic sites, marae, museums bring history alive for students.
  • Their learning is placed in a real-life context and encourages them to learn about their local areas.
  • Te Takanga o Te Wā suggests taking some time to reflect on your own perspective of Māori history.
  • Guide younger students with questions such as: How do I think these people felt? Why did they feel this way? How do I feel?
  • Older students may understand how different perspectives influence historical accounts. Encourage and guide them about valid sources/referencing etc.
  • Some of the material that students encounter when studying Māori history could be challenging or controversial. This does not mean it needs to be avoided. Acknowledge that there are students who may feel strongly about some of what you investigate. This provides a rich opportunity to discuss about ways that opinions and responses can be expressed in appropriate class discussion.
  • Students can create history by taking part in social action they believe in.
  • Taking action creates a greater depth and purpose to their learning and allows students to utilise newfound knowledge and skills.

If you have other ideas for strengthening students’ language, culture and identity, comment on this blog post – we’d love to include them!