Connecting to Place

Exploring our social and environmental histories to help strengthen our connection to each other, nature and place.

This page focuses on learning about our place in Aotearoa, with recordings from our Connecting to Place conference sessions, along with a range of professional learning and classroom resources.

Start exploring the links and resources below and use them to guide or spark conversations with colleagues and ākonga.

Connecting to Place Panel Discussion

Paul Murray from Para Kore facilitated a discussion with our five panel members, exploring ideas of connection to nature, place and community.

What does upholding the mana and mauri of the taiao look like for you?
How can Te Ao Māori help us move towards a more relational, holistic and place-responsive approach to environmental education?

You can read more about each panelist below and watch recordings of their separate presentations.

Tane Manukonga - Te Ara Taiao

Stories of School - Hapū Connections and Reconnection to the Whenua

Tane (Ngā Mahanga ā Tāiri) is the Kaiwhakahaere a rohe | Regional Manager for Te Ara Taiao Conservation Education project in the Taranaki rohe. His drive comes from his whakapapa connections to the Maunga, Whenua and Awa from within the Taranaki rohe and he aspires to reconnect our future leaders to the environment through building resilient relationships that lead to the protection of the environment. Tane shares stories from Te Ara Taiao, to provide inspiration and guidance for others.

The vision of Te Ara Taiao o Kaitake is ‘to be a leading local community project that uplifts the natural ecology and mauri of the Kaitake rohe.' Read more about some of the project outcomes in this RNZ article.

Arihia Latham - Kaikōkiri Māori Advisor, Enviroschools

Cultural Safety in Environmental Education

Arihia (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha) is a writer, traditional rongoā health practitioner (BHSc), facilitator and cultural advisor for Enviroschools. She lives with her whānau in Te Whanganui a Tara.

Arihia will discuss cultural safety in the environmental education sector, providing examples and a chance for educators to reflect on their own practices, knowledge and roles in this space.

Read Arihia's article "After the longest school term in history, now is the time to reset" on The Spinoff here.

Justice Hetaraka - HĀ - History of Aotearoa

Whakapapa and Connection to Place; Arts, Te Ao Māori and History

Justice (Ngāti Wai) Co-Founded HĀ – History of Aotearoa in 2019, to develop education programmes that use art and indigenous pedagogy to teach our local history. HĀ’s goal is for tamariki and kaiako to safely engage in our history and be empowered to contribute to our future with a deeper connection to the whenua and to themselves.

Justice has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and Art from the University of Auckland. She studied remotely from Whangarei to remain connected to her whānau and community. Justice is currently supporting the Wai 262 claimants to advance their vision of constitutional transformation.

Mike Elkington - Whenua Iti Outdoors

Strengthening Connection with Te Taiao

Mike (Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Toarangatira ), Kaiako and Kaiārahi Māori for Whenua Iti Outdoors, works with his team to deliver experiential learning programmes that focus on connecting people to themselves, to whānau, to their communities and Te Taiao (natural environments).Using examples from across Whenua Iti and other programmes, Mike will discuss examples of how to enable diverse groups to build connection to and take action for Te Taiao through a Te Ao Māori lens. By creating inspiring and accessible opportunities that link curriculum areas, ranging from Years 1-13, Mike will share the story of Whenua Iti’s journey as a Tiriti partner and building Te Ao Māori into programming and other areas of the organisation. Explore Whenua Iti's education resources here.

Diane Harris - Bledisloe School

Learning in Nature, Local Curriculum and Wellbeing

Diane is the Deputy Principal at Bledisloe School in Te Matau-a-Māui | Hawke's Bay. The school has developed a close relationship with the Ōtatara Outdoor Learning Centre, based at EIT.

Diane will discuss how regular visits to the outdoor learning centre, local marae and significant local landmarks have enhanced wellbeing and local curriculum, with learners and teachers able to connect within themselves, their people, and their environment.

You can read more about the Ōtatara Outdoor Learning Centre on their website here.

Connecting with place to develop or strengthen your local curriculum | marautanga provides clear links between learning, community and the environment.

Watch this video from the Māori History online portal. Professor Wally Penetito discusses the key elements of place-based learning and asks us to "challenge our taken-for-granted world". This resource also includes a list of professional learning conversations that could be used with your colleagues.

Pūtātara is a valuable and relevant resource for educators and students to explore the concepts of tūrangawaewae and kaitiakitanga. Explore the themes, questions and activities on the website and watch this webinar with educator Sarah Hopkinson and teachers from Fergusson Intermediate discussing how they have used Pūtātara to support their place-based curriculum.

Read this Enviroschools story exploring how their visionary processes can help consolidate the design of local curriculum. It includes useful links and ideas for teachers, along with a section of inspiring case studies from schools around the motu, including Learning Barefoot at Paekākāriki.

“It is through play and exploration that tamariki can truly experience and understand their place and each other. Play as a social activity is important for developing confident and capable learners and citizens.’

- Julia Bevin, Principal at Paekākāriki School (read story here)

The integration of Aotearoa Histories into our curriculum, alongside the wider Social Sciences refresh and equal status for Mātauranga Māori, provides a chance to reflect on your personal knowledge and biases. This is an important professional learning priority and there are a range of resources available to help you on your journey, including some aimed specifically at tauiwi and tangata Tiriti.

Engage with Mana ōrite mo te mātauranga Māori | Equal status for mātauranga Māori content, which includes resources and regular webinars with a range of amazing speakers. Reflect on how this mahi overlaps with planning your local curriculum, engaging with the community and connecting with your environment.

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal (in Webisode 2) discusses the kinship-based relationships that underpin mātauranga Māori and other Indigenous worldviews.

We are "part of the web and fabric of life" and our identity is "revealed to us and experienced by us through relationships with specific geographies: with the whenua, with the moana, with our maunga".

Read this Science Learning Hub article about Mātauranga and the integration of Māori and western knowledge, with a focus on the work of Dr Priscilla Wehi, a transdisciplinary researcher weaving together mātauranga Māori, biology, chemistry and culture.

Listen to 'How Can Mātauranga Māori Shape our Future?' podcast (34 mins). Produced by The Spinoff in partnership with Massey University, this episode finds host Stacey Morrison joined by Massey University’s Dr Krushil Watene and development and innovation specialist Alex Hawea from the Western Initiative at Auckland Council.

Read 'Taitā College students peel back layers of postcolonial destruction', by Nadine Anne Hura, published on The Spinoff in September 2022.

Watch this short episode (7 min) from the Land of the Long White Cloud, a seven-part documentary web-series that tells the stories of New Zealanders who are reflecting on their colonial heritage and white guilt, and the ways they push through to find a more healthy Pākehā identity. In this episode, Juliet Batten shares her experiences, being aware of the potential to appropriate Māori knowledge and tikanga while seeking a sense of connection with place and the natural world.

Watch Te Tiriti in the Aotearoa Histories Curriculum hosted by Tangata Tiriti | Treaty People in May 2022 as part of a series of webinars for teachers.

Across the world there is strong evidence for the benefits of learning in nature, with a focus on allowing children and young people to play and explore in their local areas.

People of all ages who participate in nature-based activities tend to be happier and healthier than those who do not. Social experiences in nature foster connectedness to each other and to nature.

- Children and Nature Network, Nature for All report

What does nature connection look like in Aotearoa and how can we incorporate te ao Māori and other cultural knowledge systems that reinforce the interconnectedness between people and te taiao?

Children are naturally curious with a strong kinship towards animals, plants and the landscape, so another important question for educators and whānau to consider is: 
How can we avoid damaging this relationship and connection with the wider world and what role can we play in fostering a lifelong love of nature?

Read about Whenua Iti Outdoor's nature connection programmes, with links to their resources that have been co-created with rangatahi.

Watch the benefits of teaching and learning in nature, a short and inspiring video from the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Explore the learning in nature resources on DOC's website, including a range of activities that focus on using the senses and creativity to strengthen connection with nature.

Read 'Exploring the connection between Kaupapa Māori, outdoor play, and children's wellbeing', by Yasmine Slater (Ngāti Kahu and Te Arawa), Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, published on the NZARE website in 2020.

Read 'Effective approaches to connect children with nature' by Carla Wilson from DOC, which includes a section about approaches for different age groups.

Any discussions around connection to nature and place should highlight the importance of incorporating creativity. This links directly with the Arts and English curriculum, but also reinforces the vital roles of play, imagination and student-led learning.

Artistic and creative approaches (e.g. drama,storytelling, music, dance, photography, poetry,creative writing, visual arts, film) have been shown to be an important way to facilitate and foster affective knowledge and ‘deepen the emotional connections between people and places'.

- From Carla Wilson's Effective approaches to connect children with nature.

Nature Through Arts Collective in Wellington provides a great case study showing how educators and community artists worked together to create magical experiences for local children.

Arapohue School has worked with Danya Hewetson through the Creatives in Schools programme, to design and create beautiful gardens. Named Te Wā, they have decorated it with fine art created by ākonga during weekly Make and Create sessions. Principal Kylie Piper says “While we had a concept of a therapeutic garden including sensory paths, sculptures, carving, mosaic tiling, murals, play space and incorporating Rongoā Māori, we were keen to let our students complete learning inquiries to enable them to design their own projects, to encourage greater levels of engagement and ownership.”

Watch 'Remember your Atuatanga' (Verses in Vision: Truths of Tāmaki). Poem Written and Performed by Kaiya, Ava, Arahi, Piremina, Koromiko, Matariki and Manaia.

Whale Tales was a free family-friendly outdoors arts trail held in early 2022 in Tāmaki Makaurau, inspired by the Hauraki Gulf's threatened Bryde's whale. It included a section for schools, with students designing, painting and exhibiting their artwork alongside professional artists.

The Unseen is a collaborative artwork by artist and researcher Gabby O'Connor. She worked with communities and school children to explore the risks associated with environmental and climate change, and how this might affect the way we manage Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine ecosystems. The resulting collaborative artwork has involved thousands of schoolchildren, as well as their whānau and communities - and 12km of rope.

Registration Types and Rates

NZAEE Members: Online Day Registration only

ONLINE REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED. Members of NZAEE receive a discounted rate. This registration price is for the national Online Day only and registrations close on October 7th.

Non-Members: Online Day Registration only

ONLINE REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED. If you are not currently a member of NZAEE, you can choose to become a member for the discounted rate above, or choose this option to attend only the Online Day. Registration for the Online Day closes on October 7th.

Student or Unwaged: Online Day Registration only

ONLINE REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED. If you are currently a student or unwaged we would like to offer you a discounted rate so you can attend the online day on October 12th. Online Day registration closes on October 7th.

NZAEE Members: Local and Online Day Registration

LOCAL DAY REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED. Members of NZAEE receive a discounted rate. This registration is for both a Local Day and the national Online Day on October 12th. Local day includes catering. Being a member of NZEI Te Riu Roa entitles you to this rate. Registration closes on September 30th.

Non-Members: Local and Online Day Registration

LOCAL DAY REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED. If you're not a current member of NZAEE you can either sign up before you register, or choose this option which includes registration for both a Local Day and national Online Day on October 12th. Registration for Local Days closes on September 30th.

Student or Unwaged: Local and Online Day Registration

LOCAL DAY REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED. If you are currently a student or unwaged we would like to offer you a discounted rate so you can attend both days of the conference. Registration closes on September 30th.

Local Connection Day Registration only

REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED. This registration rate is for those attending a Local Connection Day only, and will not give you access to the online day (live or recordings). This is a set rate for all delegates, including NZAEE members, students, unwaged and non-members, to cover catering costs for the day. Local Day registrations close on September 30th.


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