In New Zealand, we believe in a holistic approach to learning. Our bicultural early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, highlights four principles and five strands to support in developing an inclusive, child-led approach to teaching and learning.
The principles that underpin the curriculum are:
- Whakamana: Empowerment
- Whānau Tangata: Family & Community
- Ngā Hononga: Relationships
- Kotahitanga: Holistic development
These principles are the overarching themes within the curriculum which are commonly present in all teaching and learning in early childhood environments in Aotearoa.
Below, we highlight the strands in Te Whāriki and how you can implement these into your teaching practice.
New to New Zealand classrooms?
Here are some key te reo Māori words & phrases to know:
- Kaiako: teacher
- Tamariki: children
- Aotearoa: the Māori name for New Zealand
- Te Whāriki: the ECE curriculum - literally woven mat, as a metaphor for the curriculum principles interweaving with the curriculum strands
- Ako: to learn/teach
Look up any other words you don't know using the online Māori dictionary.
Mana Reo: Communication
Children develop literacy first through communication and gaining familiarity with language and symbols. Kaiako can offer opportunities to experiment with language via conversations, storytelling, imaginative play, movement, and expression. Whereas, for tamariki to gain familiarity of symbols they may need exposure to different images and texts as well as experimentation with art and mark making.
Mana Aotūroa: Exploration
Children need to actively explore learn about how things work. Tamariki in NZ are given the freedom to explore their interests and take the lead in what they learn. By allowing children this autonomy, we give them the opportunity to experiment, invent, discover, and problem-solve. They can then make sense of the world around them through their own theories that make sense to them.
Mana Tangata: Contribution
Children who feel a sense of inclusion, who have their diversity celebrated and their own perspectives acknowledged and valued means they are affirmed as individuals. All tamariki should be given equal opportunities to learn and contribute. Kaiako can ensure this by inviting children to participate in a range of discussions and activities.
Mana Whenua: Belonging
Tamariki feel a greater sense of belonging by feeling they have a role to play. In the classroom, simple tasks such as watering the classroom plants or calling in their peers for lunch can encourage this. It is also important for tamariki to make connections between home and centre through the exchange of stories, rituals, or belongings. When children feel safe in their identity and purpose, they then feel safe to explore and be confident in their environment.
Mana Atua: Well-being
When basic needs are not met, children cannot learn. Children are encouraged to freely express when they need help and to begin taking responsibility for their own wellbeing. As kaiako, we can support our tamariki by providing them with opportunities to be independent such as serving their own food at meal time or applying their own sunscreen.