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  • Freshwater is defined as inland water – springs, streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. It includes water that is stored in glaciers and under the ground within soil and in aquifers. Freshwater is part of the water cycle, which is in turn part of the Earth system.

    Rights: © Crown Copyright

    Waitī – reflecting on our freshwater environment

    This infographic from Environment Aotearoa 2022 highlights the benefits we receive from and the pressures we place on our freshwater ecosystems.

    Download a PDF of this infographic.

    Source: Ministry for the Environment, Stats NZ and data providers and licensed by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

    Freshwater connections

    Freshwater is a big topic – there are many starting points for context-based learning, and most are underpinned by the concept of connections.

    Connecting to place – mātaiahikā

    Aotearoa New Zealand is fortunate to have a significant amount of freshwater – most learning centres will have a local stream, river, lake or wetland located nearby. Making use of a local water body fosters ākonga’s connection to place and to those who live in and care for the natural world within the rohe. It creates opportunities for ākonga to connect with tangata whenua as kaitiaki and fosters connections within the community. It also provides opportunities for learning and action that is responsive to local situations.

    The activity Exploring my local lake has suggestions for connecting to a local freshwater body virtually or in person. Use it as a framework to explore other freshwater options. Titiro – observing my environment is also useful for gathering information about the local environment.

    Interconnected systems

    The natural world is highly interconnected. Freshwater is a component of many of the Earth’s systems, spanning the atmosphere, the living world and the physical Earth. This concept is sometimes referred to as ki uta ki tai (from the mountains to the sea) – the interconnectedness of freshwater systems, catchments and the life they support. Freshwater ecosystems can be viewed as catchment areas that create unique habitats for plants, animals and other living organisms.

    In mātauranga Māori accounts of natural systems, people are typically positioned inside the system as an interconnected part. Because we are part of these systems, everything we do has impacts. The articles Our freshwater 2023 and Waitī – freshwater environments briefly describe the pressures on freshwater systems, their current states and the impacts this has on environmental and human wellbeing.

    Water views and values: true or false? – graphic organiser

    Reset Incorrect Reset All Check Answers Full Screen Print Page Download Exercise



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                  Water views and values: true or false? – graphic organiser

                  Use this interactive graphic organiser to explore your personal views and values relating to water. Place each statement card where you feel it belongs. There are no right or wrong answers.

                  Connections across multiple learning areas – mātaiaho

                  Learning about freshwater systems spans multiple learning areas, including science, health, social sciences, mātauranga, environmental education and sustainability. Umbrella concepts like wai ora (water as a resource that provides sustenance for life) and te mana o te wai (the first right for water being with the water) provide provocations for cross-curricular learning. Where water was once viewed as a commodity by some parts of society, many now recognise that the mauri or wellbeing of water (water quality) is crucial for the wellbeing of the ecosystem, human health and the economy.

                  Interactive planning pathways

                  The planning map below provides a gateway to collections of articles, multimedia and student activities grouped by common themes or contexts. By using a combination of these resources, teachers can combine conceptual understanding and capabilities development into relevant learning experiences.

                  This interactive image map features a lake ecosystem backed by mountains

                  Planning pathways using freshwater resources

                  This interactive groups Hub resources into key science and mātauranga Māori concepts.

                  Select here to view further information, the full transcript (with PDF download option) and copyright information.

                  Science capabilities

                  Learning about freshwater offers opportunities to use and strengthen students’ science capabilities. Environmental reporting like Our freshwater 2023 and Waitī – freshwater environments uses data gathered by science and mātauranga Māori as evidence of the impacts humans have on freshwater environments. Many of the articles and activities have diagrams for ākonga to analyse and interpret. There are also many opportunities to engage with science and even take action within the local community. This last aspect – the ability to get involved and take positive action – is an important way to support ākonga to feel empowered and to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the state of some freshwater systems in Aotearoa.

                  Related content

                  The planning pathways featured in this article have a selection of resources on freshwater. Explore the freshwater topic for additional materials.

                  The Hub has extensive resources on water quality and freshwater ecosystem restoration. Explore these curations:

                  Explore the range of resources in our Freshwater – lakes and rivers Pinterest board.

                  Useful link

                  Stats NZ and the Ministry for the Environment report on different aspects of Aotearoa New Zealand’s environment every 6 months. Access the reports here.

                    Published 12 April 2023, Updated 12 April 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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