Tamariki School

Learning and the Curriculum

Developing Cognitive Skills

Because the opportunities for self-directed learning through play are so vast at Tamariki our children develop high-level cognitive skills and abilities – including the executive functions (e.g., planning, goal-setting, social awareness and emotional intelligence, etc.) and meta-cognition (the capacity to reflect about their own thinking) – from a very early age.  These skills and abilities develop over time in accordance with each child’s individual learning path. Feedback from outside educators (e.g., sports instructors, educators from the Christchurch City Council, camp managers) strongly suggests that, in general, Tamariki children are noticeably more advanced in these areas than children from other schools. 

It is suggested that the early development of these cognitive skills in Tamariki children occurs due to the need to self-manage and self-regulate throughout the school day.  Our children need to be able to manage the various opportunities on offer at Tamariki, they need to plan, to make decisions, and to set goals and priorities so they can decide which of the classes, activities or games they will participate in on a given day.  

The children are also required to make bookings to use certain spaces and equipment within the school.  Each of these spaces and pieces of equipment has certain time, activity, safety and scope limitations on their use, and the child needs to consider these.  It often occurs that a child wants to make amendments to the rules around certain bookings and equipment use. To amend such a rule, the child needs to call a whole school meeting. This requires the child to find a chairperson (who can be any willing child at school), put forward their proposal to the meeting, follow and engage in any discussion about the matter during the meeting, and then put the motion forward to be voted on. And then accept the group decision.

The Teachers' Role

Tamariki teachers are required to delicately balance offering input (without dulling down the child’s natural curiosity) and avoiding taking over completely.  Our experience at Tamariki – informed by research and years of observing how children best develop through freedom and play – indicates that teachers are most effective in facilitating learning when the child invites their participation or input.  Our role is to observe, listen and reflect on the child, to inform us of what the emotional, social and learning needs of the child are. 

When interacting with the children in meetings or in conversations, teachers may indirectly encourage the children to consider the following questions to help develop the child’s inquiry:

·         Who am I?

·         What do I need to achieve this goal ?(A self-determined goal)

·         What do I need to do, and how do I do it?

·         Things aren’t going right? How can I address or change things?

·         What are my responsibilities with being part of a community?

·         Who do I like to spend time with, and Why?

·         Why is my behaviour getting this response?

·         How do I manage my frustration/feelings?

Developing Goal Setting and Reflection Skills

We provide an environment which is purpose-built to facilitate the learning progressions through free play and participation in a working democracy. This environment supports goal setting and reflection.  Children are able to set learning goals and reflect on their participation, progress and achievements in the areas of skill acquisition, awareness, and their place in the world – in fact, for all of their learning. 

Our students are constantly setting their own goals. These may not necessarily be written down in a formal class context but are evident by the child’s decisions, their actions, and via conversations with the students. We value our student’s ability to set their own goals. For these to be authentic and true to the Special Character they are often not formalized, as they are intrinsic and private to the child.

Children can work with resources repeatedly, and in different ways, as a result of reflection on their experiences to date.  They persevere with projects and other tasks, to attain the outcome they have set e.g. repairing a bike, learning the multiplication table.

The outside environment is purposefully designed to generate infinite learning experiences through free play.  There are identified locations around the grounds which provide transitional platforms for the children to make their next steps into other play zones around the school.  An example of this is the mound.  It is a high point from which children and adults can observe numerous areas of play.  At this place, like many others within the school, children can reflect on their day, process and integrate their learning, and generate goals for venturing into new and different play experiences.  

Example of the Process of Goal Setting and Reflection

For example, a possible goal for a child could be around finding a way to engage with people they may not have engaged with before.  These children could be older and this could involve an element of risk.  To take this risk will involve courage on the child’s part. Thus the child may use a strategic location, such as the mound, as a vantage point to observe and reflect on the possibilities for engagement by using self-questioning, inner dialogue.

Example inner dialogue regarding a Goal

‘I’d really like to play with [name] and [name] making a submarine’

Some possible questions that could be asked in self-reflection are;

How might I approach them? 

What would I say?

Is this something I’m really keen on doing?

 What would I do, there is only one large box to use, could I share with them? 

How could those children react to me? 

Will they be kind and accepting of me?

What will I do if they reject me?

Following this inner talk the child may choose to act based on his own responses to the questions he has asked himself.  If the child makes the decision to try to engage in the play and takes the steps he had processed in his previous self-talk and he then succeeds, he has achieved his goal. 

If the engagement isn’t successful and he meets with some resistance from the other children, then the next step in the process is to call a Small Meeting.  These meetings provide our children with the opportunity to receive feedback from the other children in a safe environment and also provide them with the opportunity to give their own feedback as well.   This feedback will be about how the child felt and what his thinking was for the engagement, with the other children also sharing their thoughts and reactions.  The teacher who is at the meeting may offer questions and other verbal prompts to help the child clarify and communicate his thinking.  The chairperson will listen reflectively and also may offer some possible solutions. 

A Small Meeting usually results in the parties agreeing to a plan that will enable everyone’s goals to be accommodated. The child /children will offer a reassurance that they will work on the proposed goal.  If the same or similar issue is revisited in another meeting then the same teacher and chairperson is asked to attend the meeting so that the continuity of the relationship is maintained.  Consequently the opportunity for deeper learning, more reflection and inquiry into one’s self, others and interest areas occurs. 

Learning Areas from the Special Character

 “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

 – Aristotle


At Tamariki school the philosophy is governed by the goal to know thy self.

This is developed through;

·         the authentic acknowledgement of the child’s voice

·         an approach of empathy, understanding, compassion, authenticity, trust  and non judgement

·         the meeting system as a safe structure and process for dispute resolution, reflective dialogue, learning conversations, community discussion, awareness and democracy in action

·         self managed learning

·         freedom to be who you  are

·         social awareness

·         the development of emotional Intelligences


The children engage in play for much if not all their day at Tamariki school, this play is;

·         self-chosen

·         self-directed

·         an activity in which the structure and rules emanate from the minds of the players

·         imaginative

·         nonliteral

·         mentally removed in some way from ‘real’ or ‘serious’ life; and involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind.

·         self managed, self regulated, developmental learning

·         co-operative

The philosophy and pedagogy reflects and understands the true nature of the child and their need to self discover through the vehicle of play.

·         The play takes numerous forms. See Importance of play.

·         the child has the responsibility of  ownership over their learning this entails the capacities of resilience, perseverance, innovation, creativity, emotional awareness, self regulation, self reflection, integrity, bravery, and intuition

·         freedom to explore, develop and innovate

·         opportunities for reflection

·         strong relationship development and support

·         child’s voice being authentically acknowledged

·         an emphasis on the development of language and communication

·         a purpose built environment

·         humour and positivity



·         all members of the community, apart from pre schoolers, 5 year olds and their caregivers, who are in school are expected to participate in the Meeting System

·         all children and adults of the Tamariki community  have  the right to speak and vote in the meetings

·         the children are aware that the system is majority rules

·         the children develop awareness that fairness, understanding and respect informs the process

·         put downs, humiliation and exclusion are not acceptable

·         all children have the opportunity to be a chairperson for a meeting, they also have the right to decline an invitation  to be the chairperson as well

·         motions for proposals need to be brought to whole meetings for discussion and voting

·         children need to make considerations about others, themselves

·         in  the pursuit of an objective which involves shared resources, changing rules or creating a proposal the children need to consult with the community at a whole school meeting before acting.

·         the children develop a high level of oral communication skills, emotional intelligence and social awareness through the meeting system

·         because the children are part of the decision making process they take responsibility for maintaining the decisions and hold one another accountable to the rules and processes decided on through democracy

·         the children experience an environment in which they can use their voice to express themselves.


Emotional and Social Wellbeing

“If the emotions are free the intellect will look after itself” 
A S Neill

This is developed through;

·         a focus on emotional intelligences

·         meetings, for the purpose of conflict resolution, communication, relationship development, rulemaking and reflection having priority over all other learning.

·         Emphasis on communication skills,

·         empathising with other people

·         acceptance and honouring of difference

·         acceptance and honouring of self

Learning Areas from the NZ Curriculum


At Tamariki School children learn reading, writing, speaking, listening, presenting and viewing;

·         Speaking and Listening through small and whole school meetings

·         Story reading and discussion many times daily in the little kids’ room

·         Language games in the little kids’ room

·         Younger student reading classes in the little kids’ room

·         Younger students writing activities in the little kids’ room

·         Role playing games and imaginative play

·         Constant negotiation and sharing of ideas as play activities are set up

·         Children aged 9 and over working on individual programmes daily for English-one on one with a teacher or in pairs

·         Daily classes in English for year 7 and 8 students, and year 5 and 6 students who choose to work in the big kids’ room

·         IEPs for reading and writing for year 5-8 children working regularly in big kids’ room

·         All students work at their individual level and pace

·         Children are encouraged to do English learning in the context of following up their own interests

·         Daily writing class offered for younger students  

·         Reading modeled constantly as children often choose to sit and read, and older students read to younger students

·         Reading skills developed through games such as Magic

·         Unlimited access to school library and use of the National Library and public libraries

Mathematics and Statistics

At Tamariki School children learn:

·         Maths learning is a part of many play activities e.g. woodwork, cooking, hut building, card and board games

·         Maths games in the little kids’ room

·         Counting activities in the little kids room

·         Children aged 9 and over working on individual programmes daily for Maths, one on one with a teacher or in pairs

·         Daily classes in Maths for year 7 and 8 students, and year 5 and 6 students who choose to work in the big kids’ room

·         IEPs for maths for year 5-8 students working regularly in the big kids’ room

·         All students work at their individual level and pace

·         Maths teaching in line with the New Zealand Numeracy Project with lots of emphasis on different learning styles and use of concrete materials and maths games

·         Daily maths class offered for younger students

·         Children actively involved in fund raising

Social Science

At Tamariki School children learn:

·         through real life experiences outside or inside the school

·         through the worlds of books and the internet

·         by exploring and analysing people’s values and perspectives and evaluating their own values and perspectives against these

·         through visiting experts

·         through participation in the Tamariki Whole School and Small Meeting System which develops understanding of how societies work, and about people’s rights and responsibilities


At Tamariki School children learn:

·         through practical experience and experiment

·         through fun

·         through inquiry questioning

·         through the worlds of books and the internet

·         with an emphasis on the world immediately around them

·         increasingly, as they get older, through systematic investigations

·         with an emphasis on sustainability

·         through their own areas of interest

·         from experts

·         through the Science Road Show and similar school trips

·         through units of work offered in response to children’s expressed interests

·         through units of work offered to cover curriculum strands

·         through science exploration kits e.g. electricity, magnetism

·         through child initiated projects which involve science concepts e.g. leverage, floating/sinking

·         through child initiated exploration of the physical world e.g. how water creates erosion

·         through designing their own recipes in the kitchen – the practical understanding of Material World properties and change


At Tamariki School children learn:

·         through self chosen practical experience with a range of construction equipment

·         through attending Phillipstown Technological Centre in years 7 & 8

·         through cooking and gardening

·         through making gifts on special occasions

·         through integrated units of study e.g. designing a new go cart and creating it out of old bike parts

·         through the woodwork room which is available to all students at all times

·         through hut building and improving the design of their huts

·         through their fundraising efforts e.g. food technology and systems when the year 7 & 8’s cook for the whole school, or do sausage sizzles etc.

·         through donations of resources e.g. the big boxes – turning these into vehicles etc.

·         through self-chosen play with the manipulative equipment

·         through designing resources required for their games and role-plays

Learning Languages

·         Staff and the community incorporate Te Reo into everyday practice

·         NZ Sign Language taught and practiced by students and adults

Staff and the community are actively encouraged to bring their language skills into the school.

The Arts

The arts are integrated into every learning context. We also workshop the arts. Apart from the possibilities offered by integrated topics, children learn the arts through:


·         the skills available amongst the parents and teachers (instruments, styles, singing)

·         practical experiences: playing, creating

·         listening and moving to music

·         attending concerts

·         participating in concerts

·         having a range of musical instruments available to create music with e.g. ukuleles, recorders, keyboard, piano etc.

·         participating in the year 7 & 8 fundraising busking group

·         free/self-directed play

Visual art

·         the skills available amongst the parents and teachers (pottery, printmaking, design, painting, drawing)

·         practical experiences

·         lessons provided by a specialist art teacher 2 afternoons per week

·         an emphasis on the environment around us

·         visits to galleries

·         visiting experts

·         visiting the art gallery to attend lessons by experts

·         art room and art resources available to students at all times

·         Students Art Scrapbooks – initiated and maintained by the students


·         the skills available amongst the parents and teachers

·         participating in the school concert

·         choreographing items for the school concert

·         spontaneous dance sessions  initiated by students within their free play

·         planned dance lessons for the School Concert

·         planned dance lessons for body/movement awareness


·         through the skills available amongst the parents and teachers

·         through participating in the School Concert

·         through spontaneous/improvisational concerts created by the students

·         through designing scripts for videos produced by the students

·         through the imaginative play and role-playing games

Health & Physical Education

Personal Health & Physical Development

At Tamariki School children learn about their health and safety through:

·         learning within a caring community

·         making healthy choices in the course of their daily life

·         open discussion and meetings

·         self chosen physical activity throughout the day

·         beach safety classes

·         playground safety agreements

·         making agreements about safety and wellbeing together

·         experts who teach the year 7 & 8’s regarding body changes and sexuality

·         challenging physical activities during the annual EOTC camp for students aged 9 and over

·         physical and camping safety issues during the annual camp for all students (We have 2 camps per year)

·         discussing and developing of safety rules and procedures during and for free play activities

·         identifying risks

Movement Concepts and Motor Skills

At Tamariki School children learn about movement and coordination through:

·         self chosen physical activity throughout the day

·         inventing and playing their own games

·         adapted “standard” games

·         swimming and simple life saving procedures

·         gymnastics and/or other outside classes and activities

·         experts who come into the school to teach sport skills e.g. Ripper league, kiwi sports, etc.

·         access to sports equipment – available to students at all times

·         access to Sports Field and outdoor environment at all times

·         access to the school Gym for physical activity on rainy days

·         the opportunity to challenge themselves and develop skills at their own pace

·         the opportunity to consolidate their learning and confidence and practice their skills for the time period they need to before moving onto their ‘next step’

·         the opportunity to organize and participate in an broad range of large group games – often spanning the entire age-range of the school

Relationships with Other People

At Tamariki School children learn how to get along with others through:

·         learning within a caring community

·         mediated help with problems

·         respecting other people and their opinions

·         respecting and learning to understand Tamariki school’s prohibition on violent games

·         learning about the impact competitive attitudes can have on or relationships

·         participating in Small and Whole School Meetings, which develops skills in: expressing ideas, needs and feelings; communicating; listening to others points of view; interacting with others; understanding the roles and responsibilities of being a member of a community

·         spending significant periods of time in child initiated games and activities which require them to effectively communicate with others

·         resolving conflicts without adult input e.g.– discussing their hut design ideas and working through possible solutions

·         Tamariki’s strong focus on developing trusting, supportive, and respectful relationships between community members

·         the modeling of appropriate behaviour(s) by the adults

Healthy Communities and Environments

At Tamariki School children learn to create healthy community and environments through:

·         learning within a caring community

·         specific learning foci: e.g. considering and identifying together what makes a good learning environment, a healthy outdoor environment, etc. and working together to achieve it

·         participating in Tamariki Community projects

·         school safety rules relating to food e.g. healthy eating food choices – no lollies or fizzy drinks at school

·         year 7 & 8 fundraising – designing healthy meals, with vegetarian options, to sell

·         learning about healthy food choices e.g. the food pyramid

·         the Special Character Values – participating in meetings to create rules for the school which support a healthy community/environment

·         constant involvement in Whole School and Small Meetings which develop understanding of the way in which people’s attitudes, values, and actions, contribute to healthy physical and social environments

·         the opportunity to plan activities for the whole school community e.g. obstacle courses, whole school water day


Tamariki School has the following self review cycle:

We review an aspect of either literacy or numeracy each year. Other learning areas of the New Zealand curriculum are scheduled on a review cycle.

Once the review has been conducted, it may highlight strengths within the school and also identify areas for development. These areas are defined and a plan of action is implemented.




Focus Curriculum area


Early Literacy



Digital learning in Math

The Arts


How effective is the school being in accelerating learning and adding value for the 2017 writing target groups.

Health and PE


Either Literacy or Numeracy – focus question to be determined



Either Literacy or Numeracy – focus question to be determined

Social sciences


Click here if you would more information on the Tamariki Self Review Cycle




This page was last modified on: 24 Jun 2017 22:15:06