Otari School - Te Kura o Otari

Derivation of Topics 

Overarching and Annual Themes

The Environment or Te Taiao, is an overarching theme from which each strand derives topics. From this overarching theme there are eight annual themes. These annual themes are used for choosing and planning topics.





Physical Phenomena


Plant life  



Urban Environment               

Sub Themes

In the Original and Immersion Strands the Environment annual themes drive topic selection. These will often be integrated through a number of learning areas. The Montessori Strand may also integrate sub themes. Within the Montessori Strand this is done through The Great Lessons.

Planning Approach

The following approach is used at Otari School when teaching topics:

Selecting the annual theme and curriculum foci.

A child will explore topics related to each theme during their eight years at Otari School. Teachers will brainstorm possible science, social science, health and technology topics, identify the strands to be covered and possible contexts.

Selecting the Topics

Topic selection may vary from class to class. Each strand and/or syndicate will meet and brainstorm topics together. Following this teachers will select topics for each of the topic curriculum areas. Consideration will be given to the following:  

  • Learning needs of children
  • Previous learning areas covered
  • Local, national or international events and  interests
  • Local  resources
  • Teacher interests and strengths teaching approach to be used.

Planning the units

The initial planning is done in strands and/or syndicates. Teachers meet and help each other identify possible achievement objectives, learning outcomes and learning experiences. When planning for a multi level class, achievement objectives may be selected at one or two levels and adapted for the children through the learning outcomes, learning intentions and activities.

Delivering the learning programme – Possible Approaches:

Principal’s View

A uniformed and prescriptive approach throughout the school is not effective at a School with three strands and multi level classes. It is the Principal’s view that regardless of approach, it is teacher enthusiasm, creativity and commitment that are the most important factors in engaging young learners, and therefore important teachers at Otari School are provided with the freedom to select from a variety of teaching approaches.

Learning area based

Teachers deliver a Science, Social Science, Technology or Health unit which may have links to other curriculum areas, but is not integrated.


Teachers deliver a number of learning areas through one topic. Learning experiences will meet objectives in two or more curriculum areas.

Otari School Inquiry Learning

Through professional development involving advisors from the College of Education, Otari School developed an inquiry learning approach in 2008. Teachers are encouraged to use this approach at least once a year.

Action Learning

Action learning is another form of Inquiry Learning. It follows Gwen Garwith’s action learning format, teachers will develop information skills and strategies through a comprehensive six stage process:

  • Deciding
  • Finding
  • Using
  • Recording
  • Presenting
  • Evaluating

Prepared environment

A particular feature of the Montessori class, the prepared environment allows children to explore and learn from activities they select independently. These are prepared by the teacher to develop concepts related to the learning focus.

Overarching Themes and Science

The overarching themes are not used for planning in all curriculum areas. They are especially relevant for the teaching of Social Science and Science topics throughout the year and will also be integrated within literacy and the arts. As they are environment based the themes are especially relevant for the teaching of science. This is illustrated on the following pages, showing the themes as they apply within the context of The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

A student’s eight-year science/ pūtaiao programme 

A child who started at Otari School would expect to experience the following science coverage:

The New Zealand Curriculum and The Otari School Curriculum

Programme 1 

The Nature of Science + The Living World/ 

Life Processes 



Programme 2 

The Nature of Science + Planet Earth and Beyond 

 Earth Systems 

Interacting Systems 

Astronomical Systems 

Programme 3 

The Nature of Science + Physical World 

Physical inquiry and physical concepts 

Programme 4 

The Nature of Science + Material World 

Properties of change and matter 

Chemistry and Society 




Physical Phenomena



Plant life



Urban Environment

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa me Te Marautanga o  Te Kura o Otari

Generic characteristics integrated within all Pūtaiao strands: 

Science Investigations - Ngā momo Tūhuratanga Pūtaiao                                                  

Science Literacy -  Te Reo Matatini o te Pūtaia Uses of Science - Te Whakamahinga o te Pūtaiao 

Programme 1 

The Natural World/  Te Ao Tūroa  

Guardians: Papatūānuku and Ranginui 

The Organism/   Te Rauropi 

The Biological Environment/Te Taiao 


Programme 2: 

The Natural World/  Te Ao Tūroa  

Guardians: Papatūānuku and Ranginui 

The Earth/ Papatūanuku 

Astronomy/ Ranginui 

Programme 3: 

The Physical World/ Ō Ahupūngao 

Guardian: Tāwhirimātea 

Force  and Motion/        Te Tōpana me te Nekenga 

Te Ngaru me te Ngotangota 

Te Hiko me te Autō 


Programme 4: 

The Material World/   Ō Kawekawe 

Guardian: Rūaumoko 

Chemical properties and changes/ Ngā Āhuatanga me ngā Panoni Matū 

Chemistry and Society/ Te Whakamahi Pūmatū     

The Structure of Matter/      Te Hanga Matū 

Fourth Strand: (underpins all Pūtaiao learning) 

The Philosophy and History of Science - Ngā Tauatake Pūtaiao me ngā kōrero-o-mua  




 Physical   Phenomena 


Plant life 




Urban Environment 

Otari students will be ready for secondary school, having covered the full range of learning opportunities provided at the school within the science/ pūtaiao learning area.

166 Wilton Road, Wilton, Wellington 6012 Telephone: 04 475 3018 Email office@otari.school.nz