Museums an asset in local histories education

Issue: Volume 102, Number 2

Posted: 23 February 2023
Reference #: 1HAZYf

Kaiako who are wanting to create authentic marau-a kura and local curriculum experiences should look towards their museums for inspiration to supplement their teaching of the new Takanga o Te Wā and Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curricula.

The museum has off site areas that the students can use to replicate the past.

The museum has off site areas that the students can use to replicate the past.

Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa is sited in a building that  was originally built as a resort/health spa for wealthy tourists coming to Rotorua. As such, the building itself is a historic landmark in the area. The main museum is currently closed for earthquake strengthening, but this has not stopped the museum staff from continuing with their Enriching Local Curriculums (ELC) education programme which has sparked the curiosity and imagination of rangatahi for more than two decades.

With a broad selection of Rotorua-focused programmes for Year 1 to Year 13 students, the Education Team at Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa anticipate the curriculum change will boost registrations from local schools, on top of the thousands of rangatahi already reached every year.

Taupopoki George McLeod, education coordinator kaea mātauranga, says, “What we’ve done is orientate our service to schools by using venues close by and being part of the local council. We were very fortunate to be able to use different buildings near the Government Gardens, including our local library.”

The programme allows students to not only learn about the history of the area, but to also interact with it using objects not easily replicated in the classroom.

“We have quite an extensive hands-on collection of replica objects that we had made of items in our collection that obviously couldn’t be touched because they’re so fragile,” says George.

These objects include traditional Māori spades and waka huia/treasure boxes. The replicas allow students to touch, feel, and use the objects to gain an understanding as to what life may have been like in the past.

There is an on off-site facility that allows students to fully engage with not just objects from taonga Māori but also social history collections. George says that using the old objects ‘blows their minds’.

The students also learn early games and how these were not just for entertainment, but also designed to develop key skills that would be needed as adults.

Education lead kaiurungi mātauranga, Dominique Chandler, says the museum is in the perfect position to support local schools with the new curriculum requirements.

Dominique enjoys working on ways to engage students.

Dominique enjoys working on ways to engage students.

“We design programmes that will give students a deeper insight into our local people, environment, and history; however, we also tailor programmes to individual schools to ensure we add value where it’s needed.

“This is how we created one of our most popular programmes – Ngā Kōrero o Te Kura. It started as a request by one school to learn about their own history and that of the surrounding area. The idea was so well received that we have since personalised it to several other schools in our city.

“It’s this flexibility, as well as our wealth of knowledge and resources, that has helped the museum’s education programmes remain relevant and sought-after for more than 20 years.”

A former local teacher, Dominique has seen first-hand the positive impact the museum’s education programmes have on students.

“These programmes give rangatahi a chance to learn in different environments, hands-on and with unique resources that schools find challenging to provide.

“You often hear the students talking among themselves during and after the programme, and it’s clear a new fascination is sparked in them.

“We play such an important role, because we can enrich classroom programmes beyond what schools can do. Being able to bring children to experience something from the past makes the learning that much more real,” says Dominique.

Museum enhances learning

Kaiako Dana Haimona from Western Heights Primary School has been engaging with the museum for a number of years. A recent project looked at rangatiratanga, of both current and historical leaders.

“We were really wanting to focus a lot on Te Arawa as part of our localised curriculum, and part of that was looking at leaders of the past and their journeys.”

A big part of the project was finding out about Ihenga and his journey to find Rotorua. This learning involved not just classroom activities but also visits to local community sites.

“With these stories, when the students hear of them, and then they’re able to make those connections not only to the characters but the places where those stories took place, it becomes real for them.”

Visits to these places of significance are then enhanced by visits to the museum, which has a programme about Ihenga and his voyage of discovery. Ākonga were able to match what they had already learned with an interactive experience through digital technology to see the journey that Ihenga took.

“There is a lot of hands-on equipment that tamariki were able to touch and really engage with as part of that Ihenga journey. They were looking at the sort of the items that Ihenga would have used in the past compared to what someone on a similar journey may use today.”

George McLeod working with local students.

George McLeod working with local students.

Proactive relationships

Dana says one of the main reasons they use the museum programmes is for an authentic learning context.

“I love how the museum and their kaiako bring the learning to life. It’s always an interesting, fun, and exciting way that engages our tamariki. So, it’s very valuable.”

The museum is proactive in its relationship with schools. They also provide a free bus service, made possible by the generous support of the Ngāti Whakaue Education Endowment Trust board, and have minimal resource fees to ensure all local schoolchildren have barrier-free access to the programmes.

Using a museum is not the only way to teach local histories, but it is a highly valuable resource to blend with other sources of knowledge and mātauranga.

The museum has a variety of tools to aid learning.

The museum has a variety of tools to aid learning.

“We can provide the elements of having an authoritative and representative entity tell them a particular lens of what happened. Our museum collection can enhance having lots of hands-on learning, so it’s not only taking them out of the usual school environment, but also letting students be amongst these taonga, treasures, and works of art from our collection which they otherwise might not have had the chance to do.” says George.

25 years as a community asset

The Rotorua Museum ELC Education Programme – formerly Learning Experiences Outside the Classroom – has been a valued asset to the Rotorua school community since 1998 and will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year.

In the face of recent challenges, including the closure of the physical museum building and two years of Covid-related restrictions, the Education Team has continued to innovate and adapt, finding new ways to connect local rangatahi to the city’s taonga.

This has included carefully curating new, multi-sensory programmes that can be delivered outside the museum’s walls and school tours of the offsite storage facility.

“Whether we’re teaching a group of five-year-olds how to create their own marbling artwork, inspired by local artist Kylie Tiuka’s work, or taking Year 13 geography students through Rotorua’s tourism history, the museum continues to enrich the learning of new generations of local rangatahi,” says Dominique. 

Students can learn about the journeys of the past.

Students can learn about the journeys of the past.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:46 am, 23 February 2023

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts