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STEAM at Te Kura o Matapihi

Tags: STEM/STEAM | Primary |

At Te Kura o Matapihi they recognise the importance of connecting and engaging with the wider world using digital technologies. To facilitate this they employed e-learning co-ordinator, Sandy Bernholdt, who is leading STEAM learning and teaching using the new Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matahiko curriculum content.

Ko te kai a te rangatira, he kōrero, ko te wai a te rangatira, he wānanga. 

The food of chiefs, is discussion, the water of chiefs, is learning. 


The vision at Te Kura o Mataphi is to develop students (ākonga) who are confident in Te Ao Māori me Te Ao Whānui (the Māori world and the wider world). Ākonga are encouraged to remain committed to te reo Māori and tikanga Māori.

At Te Kura o Matapihi, all children have access to digital technologies. The kura provides an integrated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Maths) programme across all levels. Planned programmes encourage the use of digital technologies throughout the whole learning process to enhance and support achievement. Resourcing from the Board of Trustees supports the development of learning programmes.

Taking a future-focused approach, students learn in new ways using digital technologies to support learning, collaboration, and connecting with the wider world. Tamariki learn to take ownership over the thinking processes they use when creating with digital technologies.

Principal, Tui Rolleston explains the school vision, which the Board of Trustees supports by funding e-learning teacher, Sandy Bornholdt. Sandy, an experienced teacher with a deep knowledge of using digital technologies to support and enhance learning, works with kaiako supporting them to use digital technologies in new ways to develop learning. Her role in the school reflects the partnership approach of the school vision, which uses the strengths of all. Kaiako have strengths in te reo Māori and tikanga, while Sandy brings e-learning experience and a high level of interest in STEAM. 

Purpose and pedagogy

Te Kura o Matapihi is committed to implementing a culturally responsive pedagogy. Using an ako Māori approach, grounded in the principle of reciprocity, teachers and students are learning from each other. Teacher practices are informed by research. They are both deliberate and reflective. 

Te Kura o Matapihi do not call themselves a 1:1 iPad school. They purchase technologies to meet their learning and teaching needs. Their aim is to move ākonga from consuming on devices to creating on devices. Implementing STEAM with a focus on using digital technologies supports ākonga to move from being consumers to creators of knowledge. The design learning model they are developing is the driver for this approach. The model provides a process to work through that makes learning more meaningful and draws parallels with the technology learning area, including the hangarau matihiko strands.

“The digital curriculum is about teaching children how to design their own digital solutions and become creators of, not just users of, digital technologies, to prepare them for the modern workforce."

Chris Hipkins, 2018

Having a future-focused approach, the Board of Trustees fund the e-learning leader position as they recognise the value in using digital technologies for learning and creating knowledge that can then be shared with the wider world. The position enables a focused purchasing plan, development of the school curriculum, and professional learning support to integrate digital technologies in the classroom, while continuing to teach in te reo Māori.

Sandy describes her role at the kura, which involves:

  • supporting the teaching and learning and providing next steps for kaiako
  • developing the school curriculum by incorporating e-learning and STEAM into their work and tikanga. 

She explains the reciprocity and collaboration within the kura as kaiako support her with te reo Māori, "in one lesson the two teachers will blend the two together. I might give an instruction in English and the kaiako will step in and translate it into Māori."

Think, Design, Create model

The Think, Design, Create model was developed by e-learning coordinator, Sandy Bornholdt. It supports teacher inquiry, putting Māori first. The model is used both with teachers and students as part of their learning process.

The Think, Design, Create learning model links into the digital strands of the technology curriculum as well as being an inquiry model, Sandy explains. Learners begin by building base knowledge, which is done in learning sprints. They then move through the phases of designing and creating. Time for reflection is important to plan the next learning steps. The cycle is responsive.

Sandy began researching and developing the model when she was at Mindlab. She continued to develop it at Te Kura o Matapihi as part of her teacher/leadership inquiry. This gives her a vehicle for improving her practice as well as looking at how to implement the Hangarau Matahiko curriculum school-wide. 

1. Te whakaaro – THINK – planting seed

The first phase of the model is te whakaaro, which is “to think”. The think phase of the design learning model is about introducing learning and initiating ideas. This is where each learning sprint begins. 

2. Te tipurangi – DESIGN – providing great conditions for growth

The second phase focuses on designing the classroom learning and providing the right conditions for learning. It involves identifying the skills and processes that students need to be taught. Sometimes skills are taught specifically in the Digital Hub (Sandy's room). Students then take the skills back into their classroom to use within the context of their learning. 

3. Te Puawaitanga – CREATE – the thriving tree blooms

The third phase involves creating. Having an outcome at the end is important for providing a sense of achievement. In this phase, students are encouraged to think about their audience. This could be through sharing online or inviting whānau. The final outcome is not always digital.

Panekiretanga – metacognition

The final layer of the model is Panekiretanga, which is about metacognition. Learning preferences are central – understanding how students learn and what they need to learn successfully. Barriers to learning and communicating are identified from the outset and universal design solutions are employed. Teachers identify strengths and needs that students have. Within the model, colours identify different aspects of learning to help students identify and reflect on their processes:

  • kōwhai is about imaginative thinking (being creative)
  • whero is about emotional intelligence (relating to others, expressing ideas and feelings)
  • kikorangi is ordered thinking (using facts, problem-solving)
  • kakariki is about ordered action (planning).

Planning and teaching for STEAM

STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths.

At Te Kura o Matapihi:

  • the focus is "learning by doing"
  • children of all ages participate throughout the year
  • the Think, Design, Create Learning Model helps them to explore and solve problems.

Planning begins at the whole school level with a brainstorm of big ideas. This includes identifying events in the Māori calendar.

Kaiako then take a collaborative approach to planning across teams. The e-learning coordinator meets one-to-one with every teacher in the school to:

  • develop collaborative practices
  • look at how to deliver the curriculum from a 21st-century learning perspective. 

Rubrics are used to help kaiako with identifying whether planning provides:

  • differentiated learning opportunities
  • real-world opportunities 
  • knowledge construction using digital technologies for that part of the process
  • opportunities to use digital technologies to create, not just consume.

These are based on Microsoft's 21st-century learning design rubrics.

e-Learning coordinator, Sandy Bornholdt explains how their planning and PLD supports their design learning model and collaborative practices. Teacher PLD involves whole staff sessions each term to unpack elements of the digital technologies curriculum as well as working with individual teachers to plan.

The think, design, create model forms part of the planning process. Teachers, along with the e-learning coordinator identify all of the learning sprints needed with ākonga. Using this approach, helps the team to think about the learners from the outset and identify how to differentiate and cater for all their needs.

By breaking down the learning students need to do into small steps or sprints, students learn specific skills which they can then apply to create their own learning. For example in a recent unit on engineering, small sprints were developed so students learnt about simple circuits, robotics, and how a solar panel works. Through short sprints, ākonga understanding is scaffolded to build their base knowledge.

e-Learning coordinator, Sandy Bornholdt explains how they introduce different elements of STEAM each term, the co-lab approach, and using technology to meet the needs of all learners. Taking a Universal Design for Learning approach, they represent the learning in different ways for ākonga. It ranges from hands-on computer science unplugged activities to accessing a YouTube clip via Google classroom. She explains the design process and learning sprints are key to meeting the needs of all learners. "We don’t just start at one point, deliver the curriculum and carry on through it, we go back and we reiterate multiple times in multiple ways." 

Co-lab approach

The co-lab is their most recent innovation and is where the team try new ways of collaborating with each other and in working with ākonga.

It involves a collaboration between classroom kaiako and Sandy. An important part of this approach is Sandy supporting teachers in real-time with their professional learning. Beginning with the initial planning, Sandy demonstrates and familiarises teachers the resources they'll be using in the classroom. During the one-to-one hui and as part of the teaching cycles, teachers come to the digital hub where they are supported with skills such as setting up a Google classroom, or learning Scratch or other software relevant to the unit of learning. Teachers then take the technology back to their classroom. Part of that cycle involves reflecting at the end of each term on what they’ve done so they continuously grow their learning and refine or change their approach.

There is reciprocity in learning for both kaiako and Sandy. Sandy supports the kaiako in their classrooms to deliver the curriculum, and kaiako support her with te reo Māori. In one lesson they blend their learning together. Sandy gives an instruction in English and the kaiako translates it into Māori.

The co-lab approach supports student learning beyond the face-to-face time they have with Sandy. Every class has a Google classroom. Students initially learn skills in the Digital Hub with Sandy. When they return to their classrooms, they have access to the resources and media through Google classroom. This adds continuity across the learning spaces. When students return to the Digital Hub, they are ready for the next step, or learning sprint.

Authentic learning

By participating in events such as the MADE Awards  and the eEPro8 Challenge , students have a authentic contexts for learning and an authentic audience. 

Success in 2018  

These awards for movie and digital excellence were awarded to Te Kura o Matapihi:

  • Music video Year 4 – 6, Kāwea Te Reo Māori  – Excellent, exciting, informative, clever, creative and culturally rich. Outstanding work.
  • Documentary Year 4 – 6 Kingitanga  – This is a powerful video that really brings the story and subject to life. Not only it is technically well produced, but also a great deal of work has gone into the creative side, making it an engaging and memorable documentary.
  • Music video Year 1 – 3 Rangi Pukohukohu

STEAM in the classroom

Rather than "do" a STEAM unit, the school focuses on different aspects of STEAM throughout the year.

Teachers work with Sandy, the e-learning coordinator to plan learning sprints and teach students how to use specific technologies within their learning context.

Te Aoterangi Moore planned a science unit for his NE/Y1 class collaboratively with Sandy, which also included the arts and technology. Within the context of science students learned to create and name colours (nga tae). Initially,  Te Aoterangi taught specific te reo Māori with the class to introduce and prepare for the learning. The class then worked in the Digital Hub (Sandy’s classroom), with both Sandy and Te Aoterangi. This collaborative approach resulted in high student engagement, maintaining new knowledge, and making connections across the curriculum. The hands-on aspect supported student learning. Making discoveries within the context of science and the arts created an authentic context for building and using te reo Māori to name colours and learn sentence structures to explain how colours mix together to create new colours.

Sharing learning for an authentic audience

At the end of the topic the class created this movie, which applies their learning in the context of a song and illustrates some of their learning activities. Learning is reinforced for the ākonga and shared with the school, whānau, and wider community via the school's YouTube channel .

Keeri Stanley-Kaweroa teaches a year 5 class. Students created animated movies over a term. Within this context, ākonga developed new learning and skills in: 

  • technology – understanding designing and developing digital outcomes – PO2
    • "In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students make decisions about creating, manipulating, storing, retrieving, sharing and testing digital content for a specific purpose, given particular parameters, tools, and techniques. They understand that digital devices impact on humans and society and that both the devices and their impact change over time.
    • Students identify the specific role of components in a simple input-process-output system and how they work together, and they recognise the "control role" that humans have in the system. They can select from an increasing range of applications and file types to develop outcomes for particular purposes."
  • literacy by writing subtitles and adding narration to the movies
  • the arts through creating models for characters in the films
  • maths working out timings for framing and spacing to move objects
  • science through understanding and representing the different trajectories of objects
  • communication and collaboration.

Keeri and Sandy worked together in a co-lab. Sandy set up tasks for ākonga to develop skills using digital technologies. Keeri translated these into Māori. They worked together in the Digital Hub with the students, then took the learning back into the classroom. Later, ākonga could access "how-to" YouTube videos via Google classroom to revisit their learning. Keeri and Sandy set up a series of animation stations in the classroom. These provided students with different media and methods to create stop motion animations. As students mastered skills they then extended their learning to make their movies more creative. This led to ako – initially, tamariki were learners mastering skills, then they extended their own learning, which was shared back with Keeri.

He oranga kaingakau, hei oranga hinengaro – Once your inner passion is unleashed, so is your mind.

Keeri Stanley-Kaweroa

At the end of the unit, during student-led conferences with parents, students taught the animation skills they had learned to their parents.

Darren Royal teaches a year 4/5 class. He and Sandy worked with his class to rewrite traditional stories into a game format using Scratch . During the process, tamariki write instructions to make their character move. As they “debug” their program, they use problem-solving skills and develop computational thinking skills.

In the video, Darren, Sandy, and the students explain the process of learning specific skills in coding with Scratch and then using these to create a story via video. This process enables ākonga to develop skills in:

  • understanding characters and their motivation
  • identifying and summarising the plot
  • sequencing events
  • computational thinking for digital technologies – PO2
    • "In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students give, follow and debug simple algorithms in computerised and non-computerised contexts. 
    • They use these algorithms to create simple programs involving outputs and sequencing (putting instructions one after the other) in age-appropriate programming environments."

A key to success in students creating a quality product is providing time for them to have multiple experiences in unpacking and consolidating the learning. By creating a series of mini inquiry questions to drive each little learning sprint students developed confidence in coding to make objects move, drawing, and creating a quiz in Scratch.

Using these engaging contexts and focusing on sharing their learning with the wider world meant students needed to tell their story in Māori and translate it into English via subtitles. This supports the school vision of standing firm in Te Ao Māori and the wider world, building a commitment to te reo Māori and tikanga Māori.  

The students' video was submitted to and won digital excellence in the MADE Awards 2018 

  • Documentary Year 4 – 6 Kingitanga  – "This is a powerful video that really brings the story and subject to life. Not only it is technically well-produced, but also a great deal of work has gone into the creative side, making it an engaging and memorable documentary."

Benefits to student learning

Analysing the student data across the school, Deputy Princpal Te Aoterangi Moore found improvement in the children's level of learning along with their behaviour. Data showed improvements particularly in the development of te reo Māori.