Water education for the next generation through modern tools


‘Water-Smart school’ initiative by Waikato and Waipa Councils (Photo Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, June 30, 2023

The Waikato River is very important to Waikato-Tainui because the history of the people is interconnected with the river and tamariki in Waikato can now learn the importance of valuing water, thanks to a flood of new educational resources.

Jointly developed by Smart Water and the University of Waikato’s Science Learning Hub, the resources make it easier for students to learn about the journey of water from source to tap.

Pirongia Primary School was the first to test the waters. ‘Year 0-1’ teacher Dee Wilson praised Smart Water and said the children loved it.

“The children were engaged in the lesson the whole time. The lesson was presented in a way that they could understand it, and I like how this can be designed and pitched at a higher level for different age groups,” she said.

“The children enjoyed learning about the importance of water, and they all came away with a greater understanding about how we can all use water more sustainably.”

Since engaging with Smart Water last year, Pirongia School have implemented changes to how they use water. They recently installed a rain harvesting system, after winning the Smart Water prize as part of a United Nations World Water Day activity.

Smart Water coordinator, Sirri Smith said engaging children about the importance of water and why it is precious is vital in ensuring they look after and appreciate water now and in the future.

“We want to support teachers and help school children to appreciate how lucky we are to have clean fresh water on tap and be mindful of how we use it.”

The fresh new resources cover various curriculum subjects such as science, technology, English, social sciences, health and maths. While they are aimed at Years 5-8, the lessons can be easily adapted to any age group.

Water education for our tamariki (Photo Supplied)

About Smart Water and Smart Water Schools

Smart Water is a partnership between Hamilton City Council, Waipā District Council and Waitomo District Council. It aims to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of water from the source to tap and support schools, organisations and the community to value water and use it efficiently.

Smart Water Schools resources include nine teaching topics around water with links to unlimited resources. Topics include getting to know water,  water in nature, Te Mana o te Wai(freshwater regulations and management), water in the Waikato, global water perspectives, getting water ready to drink, water use challenge, water issues and effects and being smart with water.

The cultural value of the water resources in the region

For hundreds of years, the Waikato River has provided physical and spiritual sustenance for the people of Waikato-Tainui. The river was a means of transportation for waka and a source of food and resources. Technologies may have changed, but it still has this role today.

The larger community often refers to ‘te mana o te awa’ – the spiritual authority, protective power and prestige of the river. It is seen as a tupuna (ancestor).

The river is seen as a living being that has supported the people of Waikato-Tainui. It is likened to the blood running through our bodies and is seen as being part of the bloodline of the people.

Waikato-Tainui has many pepeha or sayings that acknowledge the connection between the river and the people. One of these is “Waikato taniwha rau, he piko he taniwha” or “Waikato of a hundred chiefs, at every bend a chief”. Taniwha (a guardian) is used as a metaphor for a chief and recognises the many communities along the Waikato River. It acknowledges the connection between the river and the people.

Waikato-Tainui maintains a connection to the Waikato River by acknowledging relationships with taniwha, animals and habitats along the river. The health and well-being of the river are closely connected to the health of the people. Careful management of the river environment is needed to ensure the ecosystem is healthy and, as a result, the physical and spiritual well-being of the people is looked after.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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