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  • Kiwi Kai is an online learning tool that is an ideal context to learn about science capabilities and enduring competencies. Scenarios in this virtual farm encourage the understanding of sustainability concepts and decision-making skills and build mātauranga and science knowledge.

    This is part of a suite of articles designed to support teachers’ understanding of the underpinning science and te ao Māori concepts and deepen student learning as they play Kiwi Kai:

    The four enduring competencies were highlighted in research by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER). They have been identified as key capabilities for lifelong learning by leading science and pūtaiao curriculum experts. These enduring competencies build on the New Zealand Curriculum key competencies and link to current research that has given insight into effective considerations for science teaching in Aotearoa.

    The four enduring competencies

    Drawing on different knowledge systems

    Kiwi Kai presents ideas from knowledge systems such as science and te ao Māori. For example, students are introduced to the issue of pollution in the virtual farm’s awa. Three planting options are given: planting natives (such as harakeke) to restore mauri and enhance biodiversity, planting willows or not planting. Exploring these options, students have a glimpse of what decision making on a farm can be like. Options have different consequences, and these are expressed through the lenses of different knowledge systems. Students can interpret and understand an event or experience through multiple lenses of knowledge. Opportunities to understand decisions and actions from different perspectives lead to a rich depth of understanding of a topic and can be more inclusive as a pedagogy, respecting diversity and encouraging curiosity and open mindedness.

    Enacting a range of science inquiry practices

    By exploring Kiwi Kai, students can experiment with different inquiry practices such as pattern seeking, modelling and testing predictions.

    For example, when choosing what species to plant or which traps to use to control predators, they can:

    • make predictions about what could happen
    • look at the evidence and feedback they have received through the scenarios so far
    • use their prior knowledge and experiences to make a decision.

    Through their choices they are developing competencies – testing predictions, theory building, using evidence and exploring social aspects of science.

    Working with literacy practices of science

    Scientific literacy is best taught in real-life contexts and understood as a community practice underpinned by collective responsibilities. Kiwi Kai involves working through scenarios and making choices on a virtual farm to develop students’ capabilities to understand language related to farming and science, develop scientific literacy and communicate in science.

    Students can also gain awareness of how they interpret sources of information within the online tool, become more familiar with scientific ideas and approaches and understand how they make sense of the various scenarios through their own lens. They can also build metacognition and self-awareness, appreciating that they bring their own knowledge and understanding to the various scenarios that will influence their decisions and actions.

    Using science for decision making and action

    When participating in Kiwi Kai, students are introduced to many decisions and actions that will benefit te taiao, building awareness of the interconnectedness of the natural and social world.

    They can make considered decisions based on investigation and their developing knowledge of science and mātauranga.

    For example, when presented with the options around adding plants to paddock edges on the virtual farm, students must consider where to go for advice and which plants to grow. They encounter the complexity of the scenarios, which encourages them to think about the ecosystems as a whole (systems thinking, making connections) and having to choose between introduced or native species. The scenarios also introduce some ethical considerations such as methods for trapping predators, selling possum fur and different approaches to animal welfare. These considerations provide an opportunity for students to think about and discuss responsible and ethical actions and also help to increase their motivation and ability to take action for te taiao in the real world.

    Teaching science capabilities through Kiwi Kai

    Gather and interpret data

    Students make sense of and interpret the information within the farm scenarios. As the scenarios play out, students observe the consequences of their decisions and infer what might happen next.

    For example, when presented with the issue of stock getting into the forest or wetland, they need to think about the options given: round up the cows and take them home, ask the neighbour to round up the cows and take them home or build a fence around the area. If students can infer what will happen next, they will see that the first two options will not solve the issue and it may keep happening, but with building a fence, the issue will be solved. If the student chooses to round up the cows without building a fence, as the scenario plays out, other animals will also enter their forest. With this feedback, students may start to think of consequences with their choices of not building the fence.

    Use evidence

    Learners support their ideas with evidence. As they make decisions, the feedback can provide evidence of the effectiveness of their decisions in enhancing the environment, biodiversity and caring for people. For example, if they choose to use live traps to control predators, the predators may return.

    Participating and contributing

    After experimenting with the farm scenarios in Kiwi Kai, students can share their thinking about how they could be actively involved in their community to grow food or enhance biodiversity (at school, at home or in their community). Students can relate the learning, skills and understandings they experienced on the virtual farm to a familiar local context such as a school vegetable garden or local farm or marae.

    Related content

    Watch these recorded webinars for more information about enduring competencies, science capabilities and scientific literacy:

    See our gardens collection for more growing-related teaching ideas.

    For other ideas about teaching garden science, see our Garden science Pinterest board.

    Useful link

    See the NZCER research paper Enduring competencies for designing science learning pathways by Rosemary Hipkins, Sara Tolbert, Bronwen Cowie and Pauline Waiti.


    The Kiwi Kai project aims to build an understanding of nature-friendly primary production in an engaging way for ākonga. This mahi has been produced with the support of Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Curious Minds | Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge and many partners.

      Published 24 May 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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