The importance of field trips

Kirsten Erasmus and Johnny Horrax, history teachers from Aurora College, talk about a Māori history field trip around sites of significance in Southland. They talked about how the stories they heard were very powerful and how special it was to meet some of  the local people who had connections to these places and knew the stories. Both Kirsty and Johnny felt that the field trips were are huge motivator for being able to teach Māori history.


Key ideas

Professional learning conversations

  1. Why is it important to teach local history when teaching New Zealand history? Discuss with your colleagues how you would go about doing this in your area.

  2. What is Māori history to you?

  3. Visiting local sites of significance with kaumātua is a very powerful way to hear about the past. Field trips could be a critical element in learning about local history. What systems and protocols could you set up  in your school to be able to include field trips as part of your teaching programmes?

Kirsty: I was Southland-born and bred so this land is so important to me and being able to be in this environment and be in the places where I grew up in. For example, Omaui and jumping across the beach, not having any idea that there were Māori ovens right at my very feet is just spectacular and it just made me so aware of this environment in which I live in and the history that I’m walking through.

Rodney: So in here you see where all the carbon and that is, as well. This is charcoal, hāngī rock, it’s fallen out. Carbon burnt wood, some wee bone scrapes around the bottom. So it’s that whole fired up area.

Johnny: We've been trying to find connections and trying to make the whole idea of Māori history a lot more significant towards our local area so we can bring it into the curriculum and so we've been travelling around and learned heaps about the local landscape, the local iwi,and going to places that I didn't even know existed, which I found extremely interesting and majorly significant, which is quite cool. I'm hoping to be able to bring this into the classroom.

Meeting up with the representatives of local iwi has been absolutely really special. I feel as if I've had an insight into something that I didn't know that much about. I learnt a lot and I find it really, really significant and I really would love to be able to get those people into the classroom. I think that would give it a lot more value.

Kirsty: And as a history teacher it’s just so vitally important that those stories come to life, that we understand that, so we can take that back to our students.

Johnny: Because we're all New Zealanders and we all need to know our own history and be connected to this place and I think it's important that every aspect and every perspective is covered so that history is alive instead of just something in a book. So if you can bring these special people into a classroom and even just their ideas cos they are extremely busy, it just gives it more of an insight and makes history alive.

Victor: It would be similar to when a lot of the war parties went through around Banks Peninsula and they captured a lot of the kids and when they got to a landing area, the kids normally ran away and would hide out in the bush and just live together. So it’s really similar when you see raiding parties around the country and they took the kids. Yeah a lot of kids would escape, and they’d all just live together.

Johnny: Specifically how I'd use it in the classroom – there is the option of having field trips and stuff like that, but the actual knowledge itself is a lot more important. I feel as if I'm going to be a lot more confident standing in front of the class.

Kirsty: Being able to bring local Māori history into the classroom is so important that you can go into places where they’ve been, like me, Omaui and showing them those places. That’s where it all comes to life. Not only teaching them Māori history, which is vitally important, but teaching them about the people that lived in this area of the world and how they survived and how they lived. I think it’s a necessity, not only important, we must do it – we have to tell that story.

Johnny: Specifically what I would use, yeah, is going out on the field trips. I think it would make a huge difference for making history significant for us.

Something that I found really, really interesting and when we first started the field trip and we pulled up right in the main part of Invercargill and that was where the waka came up and that’s where they started, where they went and gathered all their food from different directions and how basically Pākehā followed that line and made that the State Highway one, and the trip out to Winton, and the trip out to Gore, and stuff like that, and they are all actually old Māori trails.

And so you could pull that in, you could talk about trades, you could talk about significance, and continuity and change over time – where as how it would have looked like and how it does today. And we could also use that with Omaui as well. So there's a huge amount that could I use and, in fact, there’s a lot of stuff buzzing around in my head right now, thinking about it, but it will take a bit of time to digest.

But it's certainly something that has created a passion, so that, therefore, it will come into the classroom and it needs to come into the classroom. It needs to come all the way through down to social studies, all the way through.