Iakoranga Hunau - Social Sciences

Social sciences education is fundamental to being able to understand the ways in which we, as human beings interact with each other, with our environments and how we utilise the resources that we have and how we invent, design and use systems and strategies for trade, defence, ownership, and competition. Social sciences opens up learning about change, history and society and identity.

Learning about our societies, present and past, should create more questions than answers, but also provide more choices for the future.

Moriori had social rules, conventions and expectations far advanced for their 'isolated' and self-determined culture. Nunuku's law; the covenant of peace is an historical, unique and significant declaration of peace and anti-warfare that predates any Pākehā attempts at anything similar.

Tribal boundaries, social rules and religious affiliation, beliefs and customs all point to an advanced social consciousness of a people maligned over years of marginalisation and mistreatment as being of low intellect and sub-human.


The ancestors 'holistic' world was a world where nothing was left to chance. The environment in which Moriori lived was often harsh and brutal and they knew that to survive they needed each other and they needed strong societal rules. Even the husbandry of resources was managed with extreme diligence and nothing was ever wasted or discarded. Strong religious beliefs enabled Moriori to withstand the forces of natare and often rewarded them with the bounty of te moana (the sea). But Moriori knew that all resources had limits, so everything was micro managed. Even down to quota for trees, number of birds taken, fish caught and berries picked. It was never the wholesale pillaging of the forests or seas that we witness around the planet today. Moriori were there for the long-haul. They were always planning for tomorrow. Living and moving from season to season, food source to food source, always with a view towards long-term survival.


Te Ao (our world) is populated by many peoples, each with their own unique views, customs and traditions. Indigenous peoples from across this vast (but shrinking) world of ours are too often marginalised, dispossesed, colonised, assimilated, disadvantaged, over represented in the wrong statistics and treated with silence by the few organisations that have the power or voice to effect change.

It is only through looking at the attitudes and actions of others that we will truly understand those others and what motivates them.

History is a good teacher, but standing fast to one's beliefs, adhering to the laws of man and respecting paptuanuk' (mother earth) is so much more essential for survival now, than it was 180+ years ago.  This tangata-maka (crazy) world we now live in is may well be "connected", but has never been more disassociated; with the atua (Gods), the whenua (land), the tikanga (customs) of indigenous peoples or with each other on a human level. Social Sciences learning should encourage intercommunication before we lose those skills to our digital devices.


For the ancestors of today's Moriori, having an understanding of these things was essential for their very survival.

Why learn about social sciences?

Scientific knowledge and awareness helps us with problem solving and decision making in many areas of life. Many of the major challenges and opportunities that confront our world today need to be approached from a wholistic scientific perspective, taking into account social, global, cultural and ethical considerations.


According to the New Zealand Curriculum document, Science Education is about:

Science is a way of investigating, understanding, and explaining our natural, physical world and the wider universe. It involves generating and testing ideas, gathering evidence – including by making observations, carrying out investigations and modelling, and communicating and debating with others – in order to develop scientific knowledge, understanding, and explanations. Scientific progress comes from logical, systematic work and from creative insight, built on a foundation of respect for evidence. Different cultures and periods of history have contributed to the development of science.

How is the learning area structured?How is the learning area structured?

The social sciences learning area is about how societies work and how people can participate as critical, active, informed, and responsible citizens. Contexts are drawn from the past, present, and future and from places within and beyond New Zealand.

Achievement objectives for social studies at levels 1–5 integrate concepts from one or more of four conceptual strands:


Identity, Culture, and Organisation – Students learn about society and communities and how they function. They also learn about the diverse cultures and identities of people within those communities and about the effects of these on the participation of groups and individuals.


Place and Environment – Students learn about how people perceive, represent, interpret, and interact with places and environments. They come to understand the relationships that exist between people and the environment.social-sciences-unit-plans


Continuity and Change – Students learn about past events, experiences, and actions and the changing ways in which these have been interpreted over time. This helps them to understand the past and the present and to imagine possible futures.


The Economic World – Students learn about the ways in which people participate in economic activities and about the consumption, production, and distribution of goods and services. They develop an understanding of their role in the economy and of how economic decisions affect individuals and communities.


Understandings in relation to the achievement objectives can be developed through a range of approaches. Using a social inquiry approach, students:

ask questions, gather information and background ideas, and examine relevant current issues

explore and analyse people’s values and perspectives

consider the ways in which people make decisions and participate in social action

reflect on and evaluate the understandings they have developed and the responses that may be required.


Inquiry in the social sciences is also informed by approaches originating from such contributing disciplines as history, geography, and economics.


Learning based on the level 1–5 social studies achievement objectives establishes a foundation for the separate social science disciplines offered in the senior secondary school.

At levels 6–8, students are able to specialise in one or more of these, depending on the choices offered by their schools.

Achievement objectives are provided for social studies, economics, geography, and history, but the range of possible social science disciplines that schools can offer is much broader, including, for example, classical studies, media studies, sociology, psychology, and legal studies.



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