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  • This article tells the story of Chris Ryan, a high school student who investigated the medicinal properties of kawakawa. Chris initially found there was no scientific evidence to support kawakawa as an antibacterial or antiviral agent. He found it odd that science did not back up the Māori practice of using kawakawa in rongoā – their traditional healing system.

    Rights: Crown 2015

    Connected article: The Science of Rongoā

    An article in the 2015 Level 3 Connected journal, ‘Fact or fiction?’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

    Photograph of kawakawa leaf by Simon Waterfield.

    Chris realised that the way in which scientists tested kawakawa was quite different to how it is used in rongoā. The article recounts the steps Chris took to test his hypothesis and his results in proving kawakawa’s anti-inflammatory properties. It also shows the value of a holistic approach to investigations – one that combines mātauranga Māori with science.

    Rights: Judi Lapsley Miller, CC 4.0


    Kawakawa has a number of medicinal applications in rongoā Māori. It is also important in cultural contexts, for example it is sometimes worn as a wreath during tangi.

    Check your school resource area for the article from the 2015 Level 3 Connected journal, ‘Fact or Fiction?’, download it as a google slide presentation from Tāhūrangi or order it from the Ministry of Education.

    Rights: Crown 2015

    2015 Connected Level 3: Fact or fiction?

    The cover of the 2015 Level 3 Connected journal, ‘Fact or fiction?’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand. This issue includes the articles Pseudoscience, Sleep sleuths, Catching a space duck and The science of rongoā.

    Teacher support material and reusable content

    The teacher support material (TSM) can be downloaded from Tāhūrangi (Word and PDF files available). The material outlines key nature of science and key science ideas profiled in the article. It also explores how the article supports students to develop the science capability ‘critique evidence’. The material provides two activities that explore native plants used as rongoā and some of the ethical issues involved with the use of cultural knowledge for commercial purposes.

    The reusable content has text and images from the article.

    Related content

    Students’ understanding about science as a knowledge system can be developed through discussion of the information within our Rongoā Māori article.

    In this activity, Using rongoā Māori, students learn about rongoā Māori through a silent card game.

    Explore our collection of Rongoā Māori resources on the Science Learning Hub, included are helpful notes for teachers. Login to make this collection part of your private collection – just click on the copy icon​​​​​​​. You can then add additional content, notes and make other changes.

    In the article Harakeke under the microscope, learn about the differences between harakeke varieties on the microscopic scale and explore how mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge) can shed light on scientific research.

    The Ethics thinking toolkit provides a structured framework for scaffolding student thinking about the ethical issues surrounding the use of cultural knowledge for commercial purposes.

    Check out our entire range of Connected articles here. We’ve curated them by topic and concepts.

    Useful links

    Find out more about Chris Ryan and his burgeoning science carear in this article from New Zealand Science Teacher.

    The Connected journals can be ordered from the Down the back of the chair website. Access to these resources is restricted to Ministry-approved education providers. To find out if you are eligible for a login or if you have forgotten your login details contact their customer services team on 0800 660 662 or email


    The Connected series is published annually by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

      Published 17 September 2019 Referencing Hub articles
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