The Te Rito Toi Mission

TE RITO TOI HELPS TEACHERS work with children when they first return to school following major traumatic or life changing events.  It does that by providing research informed practical classroom activities and lesson plans to help children better understand their changed world and to begin to see themselves as being part of the promise of new and better futures.  Te Rito Toi seeks to imbue the return to school with the joy, possibility and beauty of the arts to re-engage students with the wonder of learning. Te Rito Toi is based on understanding that the arts are uniquely placed to lead a return to productive learning when schools reopen.

Te Rito Toi Philosophy

AT THE HEART OF TE RITO TOI is the understanding that schools must help children make sense of the present and give them tools to imagine a better future. After disasters and crises, schools should as a first priority help learners safely explore the changed world in which they live by addressing the stories, concerns and questions they have. Based on international research that confirms the central role of the arts in meaning making and the renewing of hope, Te Rito Toi positions the arts at the centre of children’s return to schooling after disaster.

Contributors to Te Rito Toi

Te Rito Toi is made possible by its wonderful contributors. Individual lesson plans remain the intellectual property of their authors.

Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in making and researching applied theatre and drama education. He has made theatre in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, earthquake zones and with the homeless. He is the Academic Director of the Creative Thinking Project,a multi and cross disciplinary research programme that investigates the nature and application of creativity in everyday life.  His work in Christchurch schools following the series of earthquakes  lead to UNESCO funded research and programme development and the development of the Teaspoon of Light Theatre Company. Peter’s most recent research includes multi and interdisciplinary studies on the creative pedagogies and the arts, the nature of embodied learning and the pedagogy of surprise.

Professor Mutch is a professor of Critical Studies in Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work and focuses her research on disaster response and recovery. She is also the Education Commissioner for UNESCO New Zealand. Dr Mutch came to The University of Auckland following many years as a primary teacher, teacher educator and policy advisor. Her teaching and research interests are in research methods, education policy, curriculum development and social education. She has published in scholarly books and journals on qualitative and mixed methods research, social studies and citizenship education, education history and policy, curriculum and evaluation theory, and the peer review process. Most recently, following the Canterbury earthquakes, she has focused on the role of schools in disaster response and recovery. Her disaster-related research has taken her to Australia, Japan, Samoa, Vanuatu, Nepal and China.

Professor Dunn’s research interests are diverse but connected – linked by a passion for the Arts, applied theatre, drama, play, and playfulness. Across these fields she has engaged with young children, secondary students, adult drama learners, young people from refugee backgrounds and people living with dementia. Within the context of early childhood education, Julie has investigated connections between child-structured dramatic play and adult-structured drama education, with a major component of this work being the possibilities these approaches offer for the development of children’s language and literacy. Julie is particularly interested in the role of the adult in children’s play, and in extending teacher and parent understanding of the vocabularies of play.

Professor O’Toole is the Foundation Chair of Arts Education at the University of Melbourne (and also Australia’s first professor or chair of Arts Education). He was formerly Professor of Drama Education and Applied Theatre at Griffith University. He spent twelve years teaching in secondary schools, becoming a Senior Teacher and Head of Curriculum, and also worked in theatre-in-education and community theatre companies as writer, education officer and director. For over thirty years he has been teaching and researching in Colleges of Advanced Education and Universities, and has taught and demonstrated arts pedagogy and curriculum at all levels from pre-school to adult, and on all continents.

Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh is an Auckland-based Pacific poet and scholar of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English, Scottish and French descent. She was the first person of Pacific descent to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland, where she now lectures in both creative writing and Māori and Pacific literary studies. Selina’s work has been widely published and has appeared in a range of online and hardcopy literary journals and anthologies including Blackmail PressWhetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poetry in EnglishMauri Ola: Contemporary Polynesian Poetry in English–Whetu Moana II (Auckland University Press/UHP), Best New Zealand Poems 2006Niu Voices: Contemporary Pacific Fiction 1 and The Contemporary Pacific (UHP). Tusitala Marsh was named the Commonwealth Poet for 2016. In August 2017 Marsh was awarded the New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2017–2019.

Poutokomanawa is a bicultural collaboration that supports Māori voice, leadership and decision making in the growth and development of arts based pedagogy in New Zealand schools.  The work aims to acknowledge and support those working in Māori immersion settings and to honour the expertise and pedagogical knowledge being developed in these contexts. Our collective advocates for learning that is grounded in: creativity, artistry, wellbeing, child-led exploration and play, the natural environment and local place-based curriculum.

Poutokomanawa is the central pole of a wharenui (meeting house).  It is the heart of the wharenui, supporting the whole house and connecting earth and sky.  It is a piece of art, representing ancestry and story.  As a name for our collective it signifies the aim we have for our mahi: to create a space for creativity, growth and learning that supports the heart of the child.

Ginnie Thorner has loved working in drama education for 29 years. She is a specialist dance and drama teacher in Christchurch working with students aged 5 – 18yrs and also works with teacher trainees. Most of her work is focused on drama for inquiry – usually in science, humanities and hope. She has a real passion for student voice and student devised work, and helps students use theatre to express their thinking around issues that they experience in their world.

Darren Powell is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education and Social Work. Darren’s previous career was as a primary and intermediate school teacher. Over an eleven year period he taught students across all year levels (Year One – Eight) in schools in Auckland, Glasgow, London and Nottingham. Based on his work with children, Darren developed an interest in children’s experiences of health and physical education and conducted research that explored children’s understanding of concepts such as ‘health’, ‘fitness’ and ‘fatness’. Darren is also a recent recipient of a Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Fund Fast-Start Grant and is conducting a research project about the impact of marketing health to children in New Zealand.

As a first-generation New Zealander, Dagmar Dyck is an artist, researcher, art educator, and social justice advocate. Her navigation in and around different worldviews is at the heart of her identity and arts practice. She regularly exhibits nationally and internationally, with her work held in significant national collections. Dagmar is Deputy Principal at Sylvia Park School where she champions Pakirehua (whole school inquiry) and The Arts. In 2019 she completed her MProf (Hons) in Education at the University of Auckland. Her dissertation topic involved examining art teachers’ beliefs, attitudes and pedagogical practices and how these could affirm Pasifika students’ success as Pasifika. Dagmar’s maternal lineage hails from the Wolfgramm and Hemaloto kainga from the village of ‘Utungake, Vava’u, Tonga. Her paternal lineage includes Dutch, Polish and German ancestry and links to her father’s birthplace in Gdansk, Poland.

Christa is a research assistant in the Centre for Arts and Social Transformation. She was part of the team conducting research into school use of Te Rito Toi after Aotearoa New Zealand’s first two lockdowns. Christa has degrees in the Visual Arts and Art History, post-graduate qualifications in teaching, and is currently undertaking a Masters of Social and Community Leadership. She has taught Years 1-13 in schools, and separately, for eight years headed the Year 1-13 schools team at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Christa has provided visual arts professional development support for teachers for over ten years. Christa developed the Te Rito Toi resource The Long and Short of It, and supported Dagmar Dyck in the development of Making a Kahoa Kakala, and The Magic Seashell.

Briar O’Connor currently studies at the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work, University of Auckland. Briar does research in Community Empowerment, Teacher Education, and Primary Education. Her PhD is a case study of how child protection policies become implemented, embedded and integrated (Normalization Process Theory) in a school.

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