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The Concept of Mana Aotūroa


Mana Aotūroa is a Māori term that refers to exploration of our environment and curiosity about the world. It is a key strand of our Early Years programme and we believe that this sets the foundation to develop lifelong learners. We embark on a continuous intellectual and personal journey of exploration and inquiry. We learn, discover and try to make sense of our world. This exploratory approach of learning continues into adulthood.


Mana Aotūroa encourages learners to play, explore, experiment, discover, and solve problems in imaginative ways. It encourages learners to be curious, think critically and learn from mistakes. It encourages a growth mindset and the understanding that failure is okay and part of the learning process. It fosters imagination and flexibility of mind. It develops self-reliance, autonomy, inquisitive thinking and creativity. Mana Aotūroa encourages us to keep an open mind and question our assumptions. It keeps us present in the moment but also allows us to learn from the past and plan for the future.


We believe it is important to provide opportunities for children to explore their environment safely. Allow them to use their senses. Let them hold a stick and feel the texture of a leaf. Allow them to bang a pot with a spoon and sink their feet into some mud. Let them mix colours and paint whatever they want. Allow them to break an egg into a pot and experiment to see which objects can float in water. Exploration can be messy but the learning and development is invaluable.


This approach provides opportunities for learners to learn from, respect and understand their environment. Moreover, as children learn about their own world, they begin to dive deeper into understanding the universe and the wonders of nature. Children are naturally curious, they want to look at a snail or see what is under a rock. As they get older, schools should nurture their curiosity and not stifle it by telling them to sit down, don’t move and be quiet.


This exploration involves all aspects of the environment; the natural, social, physical and spiritual world. As we explore these worlds, we pick up treasures along the way and put them into our kete (baskets). These treasures are not physical objects, they are experiences, knowledge, skills and wisdom that nurture our mind, body and soul.


By Tim Maitland



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