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  • Kiwi Kai is an online learning tool that provides a fun and engaging way to explore science concepts, sustainability, social decision making and systems thinking through the context of simulated farming and food growing. Students experience making complex decisions through evaluating evidence, problem solving and trying different strategies to balance growing food with social and environmental considerations. There are strong links throughout the tool for teaching science concepts, key competencies and science capabilities.

    This is part of a suite of articles designed to support teachers’ understanding of the underpinning science and te ao Māori concepts and deepen student learning as they play Kiwi Kai:

    Science focus: Living world, nature of science, science capabilities.

    Some suggested science and social science concepts featured in the virtual farm

    Students can explore:

    • food production – ahuwhenua
    • life processes
    • how living things respond to changes in their habitat
    • sustainability
    • te mana o te taiao
    • building curiosity and developing scientific thinking
    • decision making and problem solving – hui and wānanga
    • how people view and use places differently
    • values, including Māori values.

    Many concepts could be learned – focusing on a few can often be more powerful. Develop your learning outcomes and success criteria from these concepts as well as the nature of science strand and the science capabilities.

    Some examples of learning outcomes

    Students can:

    • explore present and future issues with food production
    • understand the needs of living things for growth and development
    • recognise how living things respond to changes in their habitat – for example, pests and weeds
    • explore and express their values and the values of others – for example, manaakitanga, awhinatanga, aroha, ecological sustainability and diversity
    • make links with growing healthy food and the health of te taiao
    • understand the roles of science and mātauranga Māori in food production
    • make links between scientific knowledge and everyday decisions and actions
    • recognise that applications of science through the decisions and actions of people have environmental and social consequences.

    Play Kiwi Kai as part of an integrated science programme

    By engaging with Kiwi Kai’s virtual farm, students can gain an appreciation of farming systems and the science concepts that underpin farming practices. The online tool also provides opportunities to show how science can be interrelated with other subjects and used to inform decisions. Kiwi Kai builds skills in interpreting scientific information, using and critiquing evidence and working towards real-world sustainability. It is a great introduction to the science capabilities and different knowledge systems, encouraging students to participate and contribute to sustainable food systems within their communities.

    Teaching about sustainable food growing

    Sustainable food growing is about meeting today’s food needs without compromising on the needs of future generations. Growing sustainable, healthy food demands that we look after community, land and the environment while making considered choices about farming methods and approaches.

    Biodiversity on a farm is important for disease resistance, pollination and the sustainability of ecosystems. Biodiversity is the wide variety of life we experience on Earth. A diversity of living things on a farm (rather than a monoculture of only one species) is often considered to encourage healthy soil production and reduce environmental impacts.

    Sustainable farming and food production take into account the wider ecosystem and have sufficient land set aside for flood protection, erosion control and habitats for a diversity of species. Sustainability involves balancing rights, roles, and responsibilities: we all contribute to the quality and sustainability of social, cultural, physical and economic environments through our actions and decisions.

    Kiwi Kai can provide a context to delve into these concepts, question and reflect on learnings and form deep understandings about the health and wellbeing (hauora/ora) of the land, environment and people and how they are connected.

    When students make decisions that encourage biodiversity, healthy soil and land and community outcomes, they are rewarded with points, icons and incentives.

    Students are presented with scenarios that incorporate social, cultural and environmental aspects of farming. They must evaluate the various impacts to make a decision that will give the best all-round results.

    Science concepts and Kiwi Kai quests

    Kiwi Kai explores healthy food production (whakatipua he kai hauora) as well as caring for nature (manaakihia te taiao) and people (manaaki tāngata).

    Through quests on the virtual farm, students can investigate how to grow healthy food alongside caring for nature and the community. They must choose which paths to take, trying different farming methods/techniques and finding out about their implications for nature. They also see that farming requires complex decision making alongside a systems approach, encouraging future thinking about the bigger picture.

    Ideas for unpacking knowledge and reflective questioning

    Below are some example questions and ideas that could assist teachers to unpack science and integrated learning before, during and after experiencing the online tool. Educators can encourage metacognition, scientific thought, skill development and local action using Kiwi Kai.

    Download a PDF version of the questions here.

    Before playing Kiwi Kai

    Context: Personal connections

    Prompting questions

    Students connect to the context and explore the local situation.

    Teachers provide opportunities to explore prior knowledge and experiences.

    Teachers provide opportunities to consider the local situation.

    Where does your food come from?

    Who has access to food-growing gardens or maara kai?

    What do living things need to stay alive and grow?

    What local farms, orchards, growers or gardens exist in your area?

    How is local food produced, distributed and consumed?

    Which foods come from somewhere else?

    While playing Kiwi Kai

    Context: Observing, experimenting and considering choices

    Prompting questions

    Students experiment with ideas and strategies and are exposed to many options of sustainable farming.

    Students examine available evidence and information to make informed decisions.

    Teachers can encourage critical thinking, creative thinking, reasoning, problem solving and collaborative practices through questioning and reflecting.

    What do you think will happen if you make that choice? (predicting)

    What happened when you …? Are you on the right track with your choices?

    Which information is important to consider when making that decision? (use evidence)

    Which values and knowledge are you relying on when you make a choice?

    Which actions did you decide on? Why?

    Which decisions so far have had positive impacts on the health of te taiao (environment), the whenua (land) or tāngata (people)?

    Reflecting on the simulation

    Context: Coming to conclusions and developing explanations and solutions

    Prompting questions

    Students experiment with ideas and strategies and are exposed to many options of sustainable farming.

    Students examine available evidence and information to make informed decisions.

    Teachers can encourage critical thinking, creative thinking, reasoning, problem solving and collaborative practices through questioning and reflecting.

    Students consider systems thinking and sustainable food systems.

    Students consider real world action.

    What causes and effects did you notice in the simulation?

    How sustainable do you think your farm was? Why?

    What evidence did you see that your farm was nature friendly and encouraged biodiversity?

    Where were different types of animals found on the farm?

    How did they respond to the actions in different habitats? (aquatic species need actions in the wetland or stream, while forest birds mostly need action in the forest)

    How did you care for people (manaaki tāngata) as well as the land (manaaki taiao) through your choices?

    What learnings from the simulation can you take to the real world?

    What foods that are currently coming from elsewhere could be grown in your community? How can you personally contribute to food production and sustainable food systems?

    Did you achieve the goal of improving biodiversity while growing healthy food and taking into consideration the needs of people? Why or why not?

    The article Exploring enduring competencies with Kiwi Kai has additional pedagogical approaches to support learning while using the simulation.

    Go to the Kiwi Kai online tool here or

    Related content

    The articles Te ao Māori concepts within Kiwi KaiNgā ariā o Te Ao Māori kei roto i te kēmu Kiwi Kai provide additional information for exploring te ao Māori concepts in the context of farming and food production.

    For more information about riparian planting and ideas for action, see the article Planting stream edges | Te whakatō otaota ki ngā tapa kōawa.

    Explore futures thinking further with the Teaching futures thinking article. Follow up with the activity Futures thinking toolkit – this supports students to develop futures thinking capabilities.

    For more background information about biodiversity and sustainability, see the Biodiversity article and Sustainable farming video.

    We’ve curated resources under the biodiversity concept and sustainability topic. Use the filters to find particular resources and curriculum levels.

    See the gardens collection for more growing-related teaching ideas.

    For other ideas about teaching garden science, see our Garden science Pinterest board.


    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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