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Titiro whakamuri kia anga whakamua
Look to the past in order to move forward

Rata's Waka by Emily Cater

One goal in creating this curriculum was to plant the Orff approach in New Zealand’s unique historical/social/cultural context.  The Orff approach is not a method, rather it is a philosophy that Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman harnessed from the many ideas being explored internationally during the 1950s.  The Orff philosophy is a dynamic approach to music and movement education that is now engaged in by teachers internationally, both in practice an in research, through an international forum based in Salzburg Austria.  It is an approach that has been adapted to different contexts around the world.


Internationally the post war decades saw a lot of educational attention placed on the creative work and play of children.  Canadian painter and arts education advocate Arthur Lismer wrote “first of all we must conceive of education itself as having a creative purpose, a design in which the parts make up a harmonious whole….art can help us restore the balance between information and imagination” (Bieringa & Bieringa, 2016).  A new educational movement emerged where children were encouraged to learn in natural ways through actively engaging with their environments. Educationalist Maria Montessori wrote that ‘education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment’ (Maria Montessori).  In the provinces of Reggio Emilia in Italy Loris Malaguzzi was also developing his now internationally acclaimed educational ideas insisting  “children be free to mix fact and fancy, logic and imagination in any way that their journey leads them to make sense of their world.” (Cadwell, 2003, p.30).  This lead to an educational approach based on the idea that children have a “passion to uncover meaning; to make relationships between what they experience, notice, hear about, see and feel in the middle of living in the world; to create a collective discourse; and to keep going [..] for them, there is no end; there is no one “right” answer” (Cadwell, 2003, p.26).  Malaguzzi describes children as having a hundred languages that require teachers to provide many materials and experiences that allow the child to express themselves fully.


‘The child

is made on one hundred

The child has

A hundred languages

A hundred hands

A hundred thoughts

A hundred ways of thinking

of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred

Ways of listening

Of marvelling

Of loving

A hundred joys

For singing and understanding

A hundred worlds

To discover

A hundred worlds

To invent

A hundred worlds

To dream.

The child has

A hundred languages

(and a hundred hundred hundred more)…

Loris Malaguzzi (Reggio Children)


In post-World War Two New Zealand, arts education flourished, inspired by the international arts and crafts movement but grown in our own unique bicultural historical and social context.   Arts advisor Jim Allen reflects


“Beeby, [Director of Education 1940-1960] had a plan, development in education, a long plan, spread over      many years, the key of his plan, the goal of his plan was the aesthetic in education, Māori and Pākehā”  (Bieringa & Bieringa, 2016). 


Teachers were nurtured as artists themselves and taught how to work creatively alongside children.  Teachers were encouraged to create classroom spaces where children could engage with their environment and express themselves creatively in many different ways such as through clay, paint, poetry, music, drama, and dance.  At the same time the playcentre movement grew in New Zealand applying these educational ideas to early childhood learning. 


During the 1960s, in his work at Oruaiti School in Northland, Elwyn Richardson became ‘an international symbol of progressive education in New Zealand with a particular focus on creative and environmental education’ (Richardson, 2012, 229-230).  Elwyn Richardson says of his work ‘In the Early World’:


This book is about my attempts to understand children, especially their ability and desire to express themselves in their own natural ways.  My attempts began with crafts, and these drew my attention to the individual idiom of each child in art, in music, in movement, in drama, and ultimately in language’ (p. xix).


In 1946, Gordon Tovey became New Zealand’s first supervisor of art and craft for the Wellington Department of Education, a role he held for 20 years. 


‘Tovey’s charismatic style of leadership inspired a national network of specialists who transformed drab schools into environments ablaze with life and colour.  Given full support by C.E. Beeby, the director of education, Tovey revolutionised art teaching within New Zealand and the South Pacific.  By the mid 1950s his northern Māori project had proved the worth of incorporating Māori legends, craft, and song into the general curriculum’  (Te Ara)

The Feilding Panel was carved in 1964 and represents this important part of our arts education history.


“In the Tovey experiment was a very deep idea that by the coming together of Māori and Pākehā some new future would emerge.  It would be artistic.  It would be creative. But it would be political as well.  It would be for everybody.  It was not just Māori children who were going to be affected by the introduction of Māori art into classrooms everywhere, Pākehā would be transformed by that.  There was this idea that as Māori had had to go through a kind of phase of biculturalism just by the shear force of the overwhelming presence of Pākehā in this country, whether they wanted to or not.  There was this invitation, this opportunity for Pākehā to have the same experience.  To have a much closer connection to Māori culture and art and ideas and ways of thinking about the world and what it is to be a person and this would be incredibly enriching for everybody” 

Roger Hardie (Bieringa & Bieringa, 2016).


Gordon Tovey’s daughter says of the Feilding panel:


“This is not Pākehā art.  This is not Māori art.  This is what my father dreamed of.  Was coming together something totally unique and special […] It’s our greatest wish that the creativity and the innovation that was fostered with the children in our schools may that please come back to our schools and our society and we will all be the richer for it.” Gordon Tovey’s Daughter (Bieringa & Bieringa, 2016).


Montessori, Reggio Emilia, The Orff Approach and our own Te Whāriki are now well established as internationally acclaimed models of education.  Modern research in psychology and neuroscience are now able to show these approaches have positive outcomes on children’s wellbeing, and overall education, and is suited to the way they naturally learn and develop.  What was developed in arts education in New Zealand during the post-war years is well worth revisiting. 


What follows is a curriculum for music and movement education based on the Orff approach but adapted to New Zealand’s unique social, historical, and bicultural context.  It has evolved out of research and dialogue with many people of expertise and master teachers in arts education in New Zealand.  Many of these teachers were connected with our earlier arts and crafts education history and have impressed on me the importance of looking back to this rich educational time before we move forward.  It is important that we do not spend time reinventing the wheel out of ignorance for the work that has already been done in this area.  This curriculum has grown through shared artistic endeavours with both Pākehā and Māori educators where the shared goal is enriching the worldviews of all our children in New Zealand schools and recognising our evolving shared culture.  The more recent Waitangi Tribunal report, WAI 262, expresses the belief that it is time we moved towards a more sophisticated treaty partnership recommending that we move towards....


"a twenty first century relationship of mutual advantage in which, through joint and agreed action, both sides end up better off than they were before they started..... " Waitangi Tribunal, 2011, p.17).

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