Digital Place Based Learning With Kā Huru Manu

Explaining My Passion For Technology Infused History:

After nearly ten years in the IT sector, I quit my job and trained to become a secondary school teacher of English Literature and History. During my year as a trainee teacher I learnt that whilst I loved literature myself, when I ended up breaking it apart with students the text lost some of the original lustre for me. However, I never tired of teaching and exploring History with my students and at the time many digital platforms were becoming viable on the internet to support educators as I started teaching full time.

I used many digital timelines, with students creating their own on topics as diverse as Tudor-Stuart England, Origins of WW2, the Indo-China conflict (aka the Vietnam War) and the Black Civil Rights Movement in the USA. As exciting as this was, I was really keen to ensure my students had knowledge of the history of Aotearoa, New Zealand and was determined to do as much place based learning as we could possibly afford.

To that end, we did field trips to the site of the battle for the Kaiapoi Pa, we stayed at Akaroa where the French and English competed to establish control, Kaikoura and the history of whaling in the area, and finally the impact of the discovery of gold in Charleston, and the arrival of Chinese gold miners in Arrowtown.

When  I changed schools to St Andrew’s College I shared a couple of history themed Chapel services, focusing on Old Collegians who had served and been killed in World War 2. You can read about how I conducted this research in my blog post at the time, and here are a couple of the YouTube clips I recorded about these courageous young men (I even managed to track down the 93yr old sister and conduct a video interview to hear memories of her brother who was killed when his ship was torpedoed:

James Samuel Cartwright – In Memoriam

Barry Martin – In Memoriam

Kā Huru Manu

With that background, you can probably appreciate why I was so excited when I discovered Kā Huru Manu:

Kā Huru Manu, The Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project, is dedicated to mapping the traditional place names and associated stories within the Ngāi Tahu rohe (tribal area). Visit our Ngāi Tahu Atlas to see over 1,000 traditional place names in Te Waipounamu.

Kā Huru Manu leverages the power of Google Maps with digital overlays known as as the Atlas (direct link here) showing places and routes of significance to the local Māori iwi (tribe) called Ngāi Tahu:


Note the digital overlays in green and the smaller circles indicating a place of significance

When you zoom in on the maps you can see specific places with detailed explanations of their significance:


Located around 20 minutes from my house, the spot highlighted by the blue square is explained on the right.

In Te Ao Māori (The Māori World) there is a world called tūrangawaewae which literally means “a place to stand”

1. (noun) domicile, standing, place where one has the right to stand – place where one has rights of residence and belonging through kinship and whakapapa.

I think it is so important that our ākonga (students) have a chance to learn about this incredible history and, ideally, walk around on this land knowing the richness of the ground they walk on. I am hugely impressed (and thankful) that Ngāi Tahu have invested in the incredible resource of Kā Huru Manu and hope that it continues to be populated both for the sake of posterity and also our students and educators alike.

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