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  • Kiwi Kai is an engaging online learning tool – this virtual farm allows students to explore the relationships between a healthy environment, healthy kai, healthy people and communities. The goal is manaakihia te taiao, whakatipua he kai hauora and manaaki tāngata – care for nature, grow healthy food and care for the community. Students experience some day-to-day tasks of farming life and appreciate what it means to practise kaitiakitanga and care for the environment while making decisions about growing healthy food.

    Toitū te marae a Tāne, toitū te marae a Tangaroa, toitū te iwi.

    If the land is well and the sea is well, the people will thrive.

    The following resources are designed to support teachers’ understanding of the underpinning science and te ao Māori concepts and deepen student learning as they play Kiwi Kai:

    Kiwi Kai: Teaching and learning opportunities

    Kiwi Kai reflects the environmental and cultural uniqueness of Aotearoa New Zealand. It weaves mātauranga Māori, te ao Māori, te reo Māori and me ōna tikanga throughout the simulation and resources alongside science and other knowledge systems.

    Kiwi Kai exposes students to a range of sustainability issues. It has been designed to encourage students to explore concepts and develop skills such as evidence-based decision making, using and critiquing evidence, critical thinking, problem solving and systems thinking. The goal for students playing Kiwi Kai is to balance caring for biodiversity (manaakihia te taiao) on the virtual farm with producing healthy food (whakatipua he kai hauora) while taking into consideration community wellbeing (manaaki tāngata). This can be achieved by using sustainable approaches to farming and food production. Further explore Kiwi Kai teaching and learning opportunities in Unpacking science teaching with Kiwi Kai.

    Nau mai ki te mahi ahuwhenua!: Welcome to being a farmer!

    Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi.

    With your food basket and my food basket, the people will thrive and be healthy.

    This whakatauākī speaks of community, collaboration and a strengths-based approach. It acknowledges that everybody has something to offer, a piece of the puzzle, and by working together, we can all flourish.

    Introducing Kiwi Kai’s virtual farm

    There are many different approaches that can be taken when using this online learning tool in the classroom. Using questions to prompt students’ thinking within an inquiry model is one approach.

    An overarching question such as "He aha he kai hauora? (What is healthy food?)" could be used to guide a learning inquiry. Through discussion, students could consider how taiao ora (a healthy environment) nurtures healthy food as well as healthy people. Healthy food is about more than just eating the right foods – it is about the environment the food comes from, how it has been cared for, what resources have gone into making it and how it is shared to ensure everyone can access our healthy Kiwi kai.

    Examples of other prompting questions to examine:

    • What is a healthy environment?
    • How can we grow healthy food while looking after nature and the community?
    • What is needed to grow healthy food?
    • What do we think sustainable farming is?
    • How is food produced in Aotearoa New Zealand?
    • What is the role of an ahuwhenua (farmer)?
    • How can communities work together to help each other grow healthy food?

    Other concepts that can be explored by navigating through the online learning tool are:

    • taiao ora (healthy environment)
    • whenua ora (healthy land)
    • tāngata ora (healthy people)
    • mauriora (give life, energy, vitality)
    • kia kaha te kai (give strength and energy to food)
    • te mana o te taiao.

    Playing Kiwi Kai’s virtual farm

    Setting up

    You will need devices (for students to play solo or in pairs) and a reliable internet connection. The online tool works best using the Chrome internet browser and is designed for use with Chromebooks.

    Pair play encourages students to read, discuss and debate options to make evidence-based decisions. It also offers reading peer support when accessing content via text.

    Getting started

    • Share the Kiwi Kai link:
      This website introduces the player to:
      • the farm and community
      • the three goals they need to balance
      • key features of the resource
      • and links them to the Kiwi Kai app (
    • Ask students to customise their avatar.
    • Explain or demonstrate to students:
      • If you need help – Kiwi is the main guide throughout, supported by other characters, giving helpful information and explaining options for decision making as players visit different habitats.
      • What to do – Once the player visits a habitat, Kiwi will explain scenarios and give options. It will also remind players of the tasks required to care for the habitat and any crops or livestock within it.
      • Purpose – Players can collect points and icons by completing scenarios as well as tiered badges (for example, Pātiki Protector Silver) for making choices that encourage sustainability and biodiversity.
      • Notebook icon – Players can check their progress by clicking the notebook.
      • Map icon – Players can visit other areas of the farm whenever the map icon is displayed. This avoids them feeling ‘stuck’ in one place.
    • Click on the map to visit the ‘large’ pātiki (paddock) and get started with caring for the farm and producing food.

    Outline of play

    As students explore the virtual farm, they will encounter quests in each habitat they visit. They must make the best choices they can, using the evidence available. Choices are rewarded with badges, points, icons or coins if they support a healthy environment, healthy land and healthy people (taiao ora, whenua ora and tāngata ora).

    For example, as part of the Awa Ally quest, students are presented with the problem of a polluted stream. To deal with the pollution, they must choose whether to plant beside the stream, and if they do, they must choose either native or introduced trees. Each choice has different consequences.

    Thinking about taiao ora (a healthy environment) during this quest, students could consider the benefits of planting natives for nature, biodiversity and people. Benefits of native plants include that they:

    • provide food sources for animals
    • provide ecosystem services like flood protection and erosion control
    • benefit the soil and land
    • are suited to local conditions
    • are culturally important and provide resources for people (for example, harakeke).

    As planting native plants has cultural, social and environmental benefits, cares for people (shows manaakitanga) and enhances biodiversity, it is one choice that contributes to the reward of a badge for the Awa Ally quest.

    Healthy nature, food and people

    The big science idea represented by Kiwi Kai is interdependence: living things have a mutual reliance on each other and natural processes.

    These are the key understandings to explicitly unpack for students:

    • When one process or species changes, the whole ecosystem is affected.
    • The choices we make and actions we take influence other living things.
    • With care, understanding and knowledge, we can make a positive impact.

    Food provides people with energy and nutrients so they can live, be well and grow. Farming healthy food requires cultivation and care as well as consideration of environmental, cultural and social impacts when growing and distributing kai. Everyone working with the land works in complex situations – balancing the needs of the environment and people.

    Exploring kaitiakitanga

    Kaitiakitanga is the practice of physical and spiritual guardianship, protection and conservation of the natural environment and the resources within it on which people depend. It is considered an obligation of mana whenua to care for the lands and waters to which they whakapapa (have a genealogical relationship) as kaitiaki. Kaitiaki are active custodians, exercising mana and carrying out the tasks of guardianship over a particular resource or area through tikanga and connection to whenua (land). Planting, harvesting, storing resources and exercising care and best practice are all part of the role of kaitiaki: to be guardians of the mana, the tapu and the mauri of the environment. Kaitiakitanga involves the responsibility of active custodianship for the benefit of natural resources, te taiao and people.

    Extending learning with te ao Māori concepts

    You may also wish to explore te ao Māori concepts such as mauri, manaakitanga, mana, taiao ora, mahinga kai and maara kai. The concepts are further explained in the articles Te ao Māori concepts within Kiwi KaiNgā ariā o Te Ao Māori kei roto i te kēmu Kiwi Kai.

    The article Kiwi Kai – key terms provides explanations of te ao Māori and science concepts encountered when using Kiwi Kai.

    Related content

    Explore sustainability as a concept in Aspects of sustainability.

    Learn more about the environmental impacts of farming through time in Aotearoa in these articles:

    The article Understanding kaitiakitanga includes some key aspects and examples of kaitiakitanga.

    These links may also be useful for students to explore. The following resources and concepts could also be considered for examining in your classroom as extension activities and/or further learning:

    Useful link

    Para Kore is a Māori, not-for-profit, zero-waste organisation with a vision of oranga taiao, oranga whānau, oranga marae.


    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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