Understanding te ao kori

Te ao kori (the world of movement) is a celebration and expression of life through movement that springs from te ao Māori.

The te ao kori resource collection comprises learning experiences that spring from te ao Māori, and integrates health, physical education, and the arts. Te ao kori also offers ideas for planning activities to meet the identified learning needs of ākonga.

To view the related resource, in te reo Māori, go to te ao kori.

This resource enables ākonga to explore the skills, knowledge, values, and attitudes embedded in:

  • health and physical education in The New Zealand Curriculum
  • Hauora i roto i te Marautanga o Aotearoa: He Tauira
  • the arts in The New Zealand Curriculum
  • Ngā Toi i roto i te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

What is te ao kori?

“Tukuna kia topa, kia tiu, kia tau
whakanuia ko te hau, whakanuia ko te wai,
Ko te hā.

Tākiri ko te rā, ko te ura,
kia kōiri ake ko te mura, ko te hā.
Ko te ao e kori ake nei e kori ake nei

Ei, ko te ao kori e.

Ko te oranga o te tangata ko tana mōhio ki te whakahaere i a ia, i tōna taiao i te ao whānui hoki. Kia āta whakarongo, kia āta titiro, kia āta whāwhā kia āta tūpato. He wairua o ngā mea katoa. Hopukina te hā, te kōiri, te pū hei oranga motuhake, whakanuia, whakaarihia, whakamoemitihia. Ko te ao kori ā-roto, ā-waho hei pure i te whakaaro, hei whakakaha i te tinana, hei whakaaio i te wairua.

Ei, ko te ao kori e."

Be free, soar, be at peace,
celebrate the wind, celebrate the water,
celebrate the air.

The sun pierces, gleams.
Flames burst forth, life.
The world moves, it moves.

The wellbeing of a person comes from self-knowledge and confidence in one's place in the immediate and wider worlds. Listen carefully, look with an open mind, touch tenderly, and exercise caution. In te ao kori, all living things have their own energy. Grasp the source, the sound, the movement for your own wellbeing – celebrate it, proclaim it, appreciate it. Te ao kori comes from within but is expressed externally, opening the mind, strengthening the body, and settling the spirit.

Ei, it is alive.

Copyright © Peti Nohotima

Across time, Māori developed ways to sharpen mental and physical agility, hand-eye coordination, and a sense of wellbeing. The environment inspires a wide range of movements, games, competitions, dances, songs, fun, and enjoyment that celebrate life. The activities may be stimulating and challenging, or peaceful and reflective to settle the spirit. They include individual and group activities, language, tikanga, and cultural expression. Te ao kori is a unifying concept that embraces all aspects of identity – whakapapa, whānau, hapū, iwi, whenua, tuakiri, ahurea, hapori, wairua, and mauri. 

This resource collection offers insights into the principles that underpin te ao kori and support kaiako to embed mātauranga Māori within culturally sustainable practice.

The taonga tākaro (treasured games) that make up the activities in the resources collection cover nine topics:

  • Te Taiao | Our natural environment
  • Tī rākau | Stick games
  • Tākaro ā-ringa | Hand games
  • Whai | String games
  • Ngā mahi a te rēhia | Games and pastimes
  • Ngā mahi poi | Poi activities
  • Te kori me te puoro | Music and movement
  • Te reo kori me te nekehanga | Voice and movement
  • Te āta whakaaroaro i te ao kori | Reflecting on te ao kori 

Te ao kori supports the principles of partnership and equity that are embodied in the Te Tiriti o Waitangi and in The New Zealand Curriculum framework, and promotes learning in, through, and about movement, language, dance, drama, music, and the visual arts.

The health, physical education, and arts activities that focus on te ao kori can provide opportunities for ākonga to:

  • develop skills and understanding based on the values, beliefs, and activities of local hapū and iwi through play, games, and other expressions of dance and movement, and art-making
  • use and follow toi whakaari (performing arts) through movement, voice, instruments, and other activities that can be developed both inside and outside the classroom
  • understand that there are different kawa and tikanga practices (see Tikanga guidelines) throughout New Zealand and the importance of respecting, sharing, protecting, and celebrating them, and gain an appreciation of tikanga in their local community
  • explore and understand the relationship between people, cultural traditions, the natural environment, and the values of mana whenua (power from the land), mana atua (power from the spiritual powers), and mana tangata (power from people)
  • experience fun in learning through movement – laughter, playfulness, mischievousness, and exhilaration in physical activity are important aspects of te ao kori
  • explore, create, and perform their expressions of te ao kori in dance, music, and visual art.

The te ao kori learning experiences provide opportunities for ākonga to explore mātauranga Māori. The activities included in this resource contribute to the dimensions of hauora (wellbeing) – taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), taha whānau (social wellbeing), and taha wairua (spiritual wellbeing). Through the dimensions of hauora as a whole, ākonga will begin to learn tikanga and te reo Māori and will be able to use this knowledge to enhance their own hauora, and that of others and of their community.

Te ao kori also provides opportunities to:

  • affirm the status and culture of tangata whenua
  • learn to value diversity and practise inclusiveness
  • understand biculturalism and lay the foundation for multiculturalism
  • involve whānau and community through consultation and programme delivery
  • experience success and provide leadership development for ākonga
  • integrate Māori resources within the school
  • create and perform contemporary expressions of te ao kori.

These learning opportunities within te ao kori also have strong links to the arts:

"The arts are powerful forms of personal, social, and cultural expression. They are unique 'ways of knowing' that enable individuals and groups to create ideas and images that reflect, communicate, and change their views of the world. The arts stimulate imagination, thinking, and understanding. They challenge our perceptions, uplift and entertain us, and enrich our emotional and spiritual lives. As expressions of culture, the arts pass on and renew our heritage and traditions and help to shape our sense of identity."

The Arts in the New Zealand Curriculum, page 9


Exploring Te Ao Kori (published on Te Kete Ipurangi The Online Learning Centre by the TKI Joint Venture for the New Zealand Ministry of Education in 2005).

Text and illustrations copyright © Crown 2005. All rights reserved except: He Kōrero Whakataki copyright © Peti Nohotima; the description of tikanga adapted from Ako: Concepts and Learning in the Māori Tradition copyright © Rangimarie Rose Pere 1982; the whakataukī by Raharuhi Rukupō, public domain; the whakapapa of the tī rākau, the whakapapa of the poi, and the whakapapa of the haka copyright © The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand 1998; the song 'One Day a Taniwha', public domain.

Planning activities for te ao kori

Planning activities in te ao kori can be guided by the whakataukī (proverb):

Karia te māra, whakatōhia ngā purapura, tiakinā ngā tipu kia hua, kia puāwai kia hua ake anō ko te māhuri e.

Prepare your garden, plant the seeds, nurture and tend to the plants, watch them prosper and flower and enjoy the turning.

– Raharuhi Rukupō (c1800–1873), Master carver of Te Hau-ki-Turanga

Exploring te ao kori provides a way for kaiako to approach the Māori world of movement. It offers holistic contexts to meet the learning needs of ākonga through many of the teaching and learning goals expressed in the curriculum documents – health and physical education in The New Zealand Curriculum, Hauora I roto I te Marautanga o Aotearoa: He Tauira, the arts in The New Zealand Curriculum, and Ngā Toi I roto I te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

Tikanga guidelines

In the glossary of health and physical education in The New Zealand Curriculum, tikanga is defined as "custom, rule, way of doing things".

In Ako: Concepts and Learning in the Māori Tradition (Pere, 1982), tikanga is described as rules, plans, methods, approaches, customs, habits, rights, authority, and control. 

Tikanga can apply to all aspects of Māori life, and 'rules' therefore are numerous and diverse. Although aspects of tikanga are common to all Māori, the way in which they are upheld may differ from iwi to iwi, hapū to hapū, and even whānau to whānau. Every iwi, with its hapū and whānau, has a rich heritage with its own tikanga.

The notes on tikanga in this resource provide a general guide for kaiako, but they cannot encompass the iwi, hapū, or whānau variances that are particular to every region of Aotearoa New Zealand. Therefore, it is important that schools consult with local hapū and iwi, to acknowledge and follow local tikanga when participating in te ao kori activities.

Tikanga is about logic and common sense. Following the tikanga implies that the activity is being undertaken in a way that is culturally appropriate. This consideration should not be compromised.

Techniques, tikanga, dialects and popular waiata vary between hapū and iwi. Acknowledging mana whenua and tikanga in your area can begin with conversations and partnerships with ākonga and whānau who bring expertise to the classroom. If you have no Māori whānau, or hapū or iwi connections, within your school, seek introductions to Māori communities through kāhui ako/school networks, or talk to the strategic advisor Māori at your regional Ministry of Education office. 

Some activities in this resource are designed to give kaiako and ākonga the opportunity to explore, understand, and use local tikanga during te ao kori activities. Consultation and involvement of local hapū or iwi will also provide security for kaiako who might have concerns about lack of knowledge and understanding of tikanga. Fear of making mistakes should not be used as a reason for kaiako to avoid including te ao kori activities in their programmes.

By understanding tikanga and its role in te ao kori activities, kaiako can incorporate biculturalism into their everyday practice, rather than simply 'teaching' it.

Helping ākonga to learn

Throughout the te ao kori activities, it's important for kaiako to:

  • show appreciation and acknowledgement of the prior learning and knowledge of ākonga
  • assist ākonga in making links in their learning with other curriculum areas
  • affirm appropriate behaviour, individual effort, and culturally appropriate activities that follow tikanga (see Tikanga guidelines).

Tuakana and teina

Tuakana and teina refers to the relationship between an older (tuakana) person and a younger (teina) person, and is specific to teaching and learning in the Māori context. Within teaching and learning contexts, this can take a variety of forms:

  • Peer to peer – teina teaches teina, tuakana teaches tuakana.
  • Younger to older – the teina has some skills in an area that the tuakana does not and is able to teach the tuakana.
  • Older to younger – the tuakana has the knowledge and content to pass on to the teina.
  • Able to less able – the learner may not be as able in an area, and someone more skilled can teach what is required.

Exploring te ao kori focuses on learning that develops ākonga' social, personal, and interpersonal skills; creative, artistic, and physical skills and abilities; and knowledge and understanding of the significance of cultural practices.

To develop social, personal, and interpersonal skills, ākonga need to:

  • identify how attitudes and values are linked to self-worth and personal identity
  • appreciate their uniqueness and their relationship to community and environment
  • learn cooperative and communicative skills
  • develop confidence in and through physical and artistic expression
  • influence their own and others' hauora
  • develop care and concern for others by respecting others and fostering inclusiveness
  • be both teacher and learner
  • develop an appreciation of their own skills and understanding
  • engage in collaborative activities.

To develop their creative, artistic, and physical skills and abilities, ākonga need to:

  • learn and create movements based on experiences, beliefs, ideas, and feelings
  • explore a variety of locomotor and non-locomotor movements, using the elements of body awareness, space, time, energy, and relationships
  • create movements and dance sequences that are inspired by te ao kori
  • perform Māori movements and dance in informal and/or formal settings
  • practise responding to, reflecting on, and analysing movement and dance in their many forms, including customary and contemporary Māori dance
  • explore and respond to the elements and expressive qualities of music through such activities as listening, moving, singing, and playing
  • sing individually and in groups, using appropriate techniques and performance practices
  • learn to use appropriate construction methods and natural materials, in response to customary Māori objects and images
  • create objects that relate to those found in customary Māori society.

To gain knowledge and understanding of the significance of cultural practices, ākonga need to:

  • identify links between taha tinana (physical wellbeing), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), wairua (spiritual wellbeing), and taha whānau (social wellbeing)
  • derive and use ideas through imagination, feelings, and personal experiences
  • explore the origins of movement, language, dance, drama, music, and the visual arts within te ao kori
  • identify the impact of the environment and other cultures on te ao kori
  • identify and understand how te ao kori can enhance sensory education
  • understand contemporary and traditional tikanga
  • learn through play
  • engage their imagination
  • learn through physical, creative, and artistic problem solving
  • apply a range of movements and dance skills to Māori music
  • develop knowledge and understanding of how Māori movements and dance are communicated and interpreted in different community settings
  • develop knowledge, skills, and understanding of how Māori vocal and instrumental music is communicated and interpreted in different community settings
  • develop an understanding of toi puoro (music) and the cultural protocols of musical performance
  • learn how cultural objects are made and what ideas they convey
  • learn about the purpose and significance of cultural objects to the people who made and used them.


The Ministry of Education wishes to acknowledge Physical Education New Zealand for the initial development of this resource, in particular, the principal writers, Val Irwin, Peti Nohotima, Jan Bolwell, and Andy Fraser.

For giving permission to quote or adapt their material, thanks to Peti Nohotima, Rangimarie Pere, and The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand.