Digital kete connects school community to its history

Issue: Volume 100, Number 16

Posted: 8 December 2021
Reference #: 1HARtz

A digital kete packed with local stories and information is designed to launch Murchison Area School’s journey to develop a localised curriculum connecting students and the community to the area’s history.

Sarah Peacock surveyed the community and forged links with a West Coast iwi to develop the school’s local curriculum.

Sarah Peacock surveyed the community and forged links with a West Coast iwi to develop the school’s local curriculum.

In term 1, 2021, Sarah Peacock, deputy principal of the Year 1-13 Murchison Area School, took a sabbatical to find out more about the area’s local history and contextualised education. 

To establish key learning priorities, Sarah surveyed whānau, students, staff and the wider community about which curriculum topics and learning skills they felt should be prioritised. A key response from all groups surveyed was for the local environment to be used across the curriculum, both in terms of its natural features and its history and stories, and linking this learning to the wider world.

“I’ve been here 30 years now and I know many of the stories, but because our staff has become more transient over time, I could see that knowledge disappearing,” explains Sarah.

“When we have our children here for 13 years, they deserve to know what their place and identity is. I felt we have some wonderful stuff here, but how can we have a resource that is sustainable over time, and that staff can access and get a sense of our place and the identity our kids should have and the pride they should take in our uniqueness?” she asks.

With responsibility for EOTC (education outside the classroom) Sarah wanted to find stories from Māori and European history, which could be shared with students during trips and activities.

“In the school community surveys, it was very strong that families wanted our outdoor environment to be in our curriculum. This fits really well with one of the iwi’s [Ngāti Waewae] strategic goals, which is the notion of kaitiaki around taiao (the environment),” she says. 

Searching for iwi connections

With 94 percent of the 600 plus population being European (2018 Census), it was important to find the stories of mana whenua; this was initially a challenge for Sarah as Murchison sits on the edges of several rohe.

“We were the pathway and crossroads for the traditional Māori pounamu trail, but historically had no Māori settlement. Then when the goldminers came, we were the pathway between the West Coast and Nelson. Then the farmers came, and we were the pathway and crossroads to Nelson. Travel, transport, rest and respite have always been an important part of Murchison’s story,” she explains.

A cross-curricular project saw students record stories about the Atua in the Māori creation story, which can be accessed with QR codes.

A cross-curricular project saw students record stories about the Atua in the Māori creation story, which can be accessed with QR codes.

Sarah eventually connected with Ngāti Waewae, a hapū of Ngāi Tahu, which is based in Hokitika.  Along with the school’s tikanga and te reo Māori teacher, Sarah attended an open day for West Coast schools at Arahura Marae, where they learned more about local pūrākau (legends) and tikanga.

“We had a wonderful day at the marae. Ngāti Waewae are a small hapū and are currently developing a website because schools wanted to know what stories, waiata and haka to use and teach. They also gave us their educational strategy, but they made it really clear that they are building themselves as an entity and making sure they look after their own people first.

“After that visit, I was then able to add a more authentic bicultural lens to our local curriculum; however, this will be a work in progress as this new relationship develops,” she says.

Kete of local kōrero

Sarah’s wider mahi has resulted in a comprehensive digital kete for the school which has information about the area, local stories, events and landmarks. It also includes voice from whānau, staff, students and iwi, including those shared by Ngāti Waewae.

“The kete is a really useful focal point – it’s readily accessible and is designed to be a launching pad. The idea is to inspire our staff to use it and see it as purposeful for our students. 

“For example, studying the devastating magnitude 7.8 Murchison earthquake in 1929 could cover a whole raft of things across the curriculum. The younger students could find out about what happened. At secondary level they could be looking at tectonic plates in science and they can go out and see the evidence and put their hands on parts of the land that have shifted. 

“Then you might look at Rūaumoko, the Atua (God) of earthquakes. That links into our pou which tell the Māori creation story – Rūaumoko is there as he is the son of Ranginui and Papatūānuku. There are definitely ways you can link it right across the curriculum and right across the school,” she explains.

Unique identities

The school’s localised curriculum came from the desire to help tamariki and rangatahi have a strong sense of their unique identity. 

“We want students to know who they are and where they’ve come from. When we talk about making sure that people’s culture is recognised in our school, the kids need to understand that their culture, whether it’s pig hunting at the weekend or helping on the farm, is theirs and it’s important to value that,” reflects Sarah.

Translating the local curriculum into teaching and learning in the classroom will be an ongoing task, but Sarah says the rollout is gaining momentum, with planning happening now for it to be more visible next year.

“We’re learning as we go. Information gathering and finding out what’s important for our communities has all happened but translating what that will look like in the classroom is massive, so there’s still a lot of work to be done at teacher and syndicate level and what that looks like in primary and secondary school,” she explains.

Growing focus on biculturalism

Murchison Area School principal Andy Ashworth agrees that biculturalism is important.

“I think it’s beneficial for all of my students to be exposed to biculturalism. You have to be careful that it’s not just tokenism. You’ve got to go deeper and that’s why we’re focusing on this local history and contextualisation,” he says.

The growing focus on biculturalism has been a journey for the largely Pākehā rural community.

“This year for our Matariki celebrations, we had a huge festival night with a hāngī and we fed 300 people. It was amazing – cultural and generational – and who we should be,” says Andy.

Sarah believes there’s even more of a responsibility to promote biculturalism in a traditionally monocultural area.

“Because if you are sending them out to somewhere in New Zealand, if you haven’t prepared them for the fact that Aotearoa looks different somewhere else, you are doing them a disservice. It’s our responsibility to prepare them for being a New Zealander in the 21st century, whatever that looks like.

“This mahi could be a template for other schools to show how you can gather that local voice, make sure your community is reflected in what you are doing, make the connection with iwi, and make sure that it all fits together. There’s still work to do!” laughs Sarah.

It’s nearly time for a new paint job, but the pou project has visually embedded biculturalism in the school.

It’s nearly time for a new paint job, but the pou project has visually embedded biculturalism in the school.

Pou combine elements of curriculum

Sarah teaches art and was looking for a project for her Year 8 and 9 students to practice painting techniques. Combined with the school’s desire to become more bicultural, she had a discussion with a colleague, Mario Williams, who was teaching the Māori creation story about the separation of Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother to his Year 9 social sciences class.

At the same time, the school was doing professional learning and development (PLD) with Arnika Macphail from impactEd.

“I told Arnika about the planned pou project and asked how I could incorporate digital technologies into art. She suggested we do QR codes to expand on the story of each Atua on the poles.

“We all worked together. I got the students to paint the poles with the Atua. I thought I could use that to teach the painting techniques, Mario was going to teach the stories and then we got the tech teacher involved.

“Two or three people worked on each pole and they had to find out the story of the Atua on the pole. Then they had to write a script and we recorded it – when you scan the QR codes, you can hear the kids telling the story of the Atua,” explains Sarah. 


Murchison Area School.

Murchison Area School.

Strengthening local curriculum

Christchurch-based impactEd has been supporting Murchison Area School to develop its local curriculum. The PLD provider is seeing increased demand from schools seeking help to strengthen local curriculum, says managing director Arnika Macphail.

Arnika Macphail

Arnika Macphail

To gain a broader understanding of their own rohe in Waitaha/Canterbury, impactEd staff have engaged in cultural narrative walks around Ōtautahi, and education days at Tuahiwi Marae with Ngai Tūāhuriri, the hapū that are mana whenua of the land that most Christchurch schools are built on.

“We’ve been doing a lot of mahi around understanding this place for us, not to deliver that mahi on behalf of mana whenua, but to have a bigger understanding.

“It’s important to say that we don’t see ourselves as being the deliverer of the local curriculum. Schools also need to engage with mana whenua, whānau and the community,” explains Arnika.

Special and unique contexts

Keryn Hooker is impactED’s local curriculum lead, and she’s well placed to help schools like Murchison Area School to identify and incorporate their special, unique stories and contexts.

Raised in a tiny rural community in south Canterbury, Keryn says the way she was educated was all about making local curriculum support her learning. With 19 years teaching at Methven Primary School, which included 10 years as one of the deputy principals developing teaching and learning practice to suit their students, she reflects that an authentic, locally based curriculum is highly engaging to ākonga.

“We didn’t know we were developing a local curriculum; we were developing what would work for our kids in this community. For example, our kids go skiing at Mt Hutt for six Fridays in term 3. We started doing studies about avalanches, because actually our kids need to know about that. We ended up publishing a book which we called Avalanche for Dummies and copies were given to junior ski patrollers. 

“It’s celebrating that special and unique place that you’ve got in Aotearoa and embedding the learning within that. That tūrangawaewae for me has 100 percent shaped who I am,” says Keryn.

Who are you?

Every school Keryn works with has different goals and holds different pieces of a puzzle, but she says a key step is to build relationships with the local community (whānau and wider) and mana whenua.

Keryn says local curriculum is not starting from scratch, but how you bring The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa documentation to life in each different context. 

“For example, we sat down with Sarah [Peacock] with all the different pieces; her big focus was around drawing in those local stories and local history. Sarah has done most of that mahi herself – I’ve been a sounding board, helped her with questions for the surveys and we’ve just supported her where we could.

Keryn Hooker

Keryn Hooker

“We listen to each school and what they are trying to achieve. Our starting point is the school’s vision and values – we ask ‘what is your global aim at this school for your ākonga? What’s your vision? How are you working towards that? What’s the one-page summary of who you are so we can all be really clear that we’re on the same page and then we put in the detail behind that’,” she explains.

Always evolving

Local curriculum should always be a work in progress, say Arnika and Keryn.

“That’s one of the things we are open to with local curriculum – that there’s no finished product. Your local curriculum is something that’s consistently worked on and navigated, but once you have your nuts and bolts, you’re working around those,” says Arnika.

“I say to principals that you’re not going to end up with something that gets laminated and spiral-bound and put on a shelf. You’re continually reviewing it,” adds Keryn.

Kete of ideas

A free kete developed from a range of research and resources will be added to a new impactEd website next year, but in the meantime, here are some suggestions for designing a local curriculum that reflects your school or kura, and community.

  • Vision and values are the heart of your local curriculum: how well  do your vision and values reflect you as a school?
  • Effective pedagogy: what does effective pedagogy look like at your place? What works for your ākonga?
  • Coherence: this is important learning not left to chance and includes consistency throughout the school, your graduate/growth profile. What needs clear progress steps?
  • Rich learning: how do you bring the NZC/TMoA to life in your context? How do you include ākonga needs, interests and aspirations?
  • Assessment: do your ākonga know where they are going, how they are getting there and where to next?
  • Whanaungatatanga, tūrangawaewae and mātauranga Māori should always be in your local curriculum kete; who’s voice is missing? What local knowledge, history and landmarks are important? Be clear about how you are honouring  Te Tiriti o Waitangi and embed your cultural narrative.

More information about local curriculum can be found at link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:39 pm, 8 December 2021

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