Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • This Connected article is based on an interview by Susan Paris with environmental scientist Dr James Ataria (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa). James’s work focuses on the impact of toxic chemicals on the natural world. The interview shows how James’s identity both as Māori and as a scientist contribute to the way he undertakes research.

    Cultural knowledge – and knowledge from local people – is very important in my work.

    Dr James Ataria

    Use this article to help students understand how scientific, cultural and local knowledge can all help to find solutions to issues such as pollution.

    Rights: Crown 2015

    Connected article: Learning from the tangata whenua

    An article in the 2015 Level 2 Connected journal, Have You Checked?’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

    Photograph courtesy of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.

    The interview covers the work that James undertook looking into the pollution of the Ahuriri Estuary – both identifying what was causing the pollution and how serious it was. A rāhui had been placed on the estuary and local Māori provided James and his team with important information about the changes at the estuary over time and the best places to find flounder and cockles to study.

    This article supports the science capability 'critique evidence' – encouraging students to evaluate the quality of scientific data.

    Nature of science, key concepts and science capabilities

    The Understanding about science substrand of the nature of science is the curriculum context for this article.

    Key nature of science ideas profiled are that scientists:

    • evaluate the trustworthiness of data by asking questions about investigations carried out by others
    • undertake more than one trial to provide sufficient evidence to support a theory
    • replicate investigations to critique the evidence or data provided by other scientists
    • check that there are enough samples to reliably establish a conclusion or theory
    • look carefully at the way data has been collected when they consider investigations done by others.
    Rights: Dr James Ataria

    James collecting samples

    Dr James Ataria collects samples from the Ahuriri Estuary to measure the pollution levels.

    Image is from the collection of Dr Ataria and used with permission.

    Key science ideas within the article cover how:

    • the quality of water affects all animal and plant life
    • water quality can be investigated by analysing the chemicals in it.

    Check your school library for the article from the 2015 level 2 Connected journal ‘ Have You Checked?’, download it as a Google slide presentation from Tāhūrangi or order it from the Ministry of Education.

    Rights: Crown 2015

    2015 Connected Have You Checked?

    The cover of the 2015 Level 2 Connected journal, ‘Have You Checked?’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand. This issue includes the articles Why do our muscles get tired?, Operation duck pond, Learning from the tangata whenua and Heat it up.

    Skateboarding image by William Warby, CC BY 2.0.

    Teacher support material

    The teacher support material (TSM) can be downloaded from Tāhūrangi (Word and PDF files available).

    There are two learning activities that support the science aspects of the New Zealand Curriculum. These can be adapted to support your students’ learning needs.

    • Working together to solve problems – focuses on the idea that the world today faces some complex and significant problems that cannot be solved without the collaborative expertise of a range of stakeholders. Examples include climate change and the obesity epidemic. These are often referred to as wicked problems.
    • Learning from mātauranga Māori – explore further the idea that human activity can have an impact on the land in ways we may not expect. Ideas for extension learning are included.

    Literacy strategies also support students to understand, respond to, and think critically about the information and ideas in the text.

    Mātauranga Māori

    For an introduction to mātauranga and science, read Mātauranga Māori and science. Discover many more resources in our Mātauranga Māori topic.

    You may also be interested in our webinars discussing mātauranga and science:


    The article Estuaries – a context for learning has links to resources that cover biological and ecological functions, cultural and economic aspects, geological and geographical features and human impacts on estuaries. Protecting estuaries explains land management and traditional Māori practices that are effective in maintaining estuarine functions. Working together to restore the Ōngātoro/Maketū Estuary looks at the role of participatory management between Māori, local government and others.

    Follow up with the activity Estuaries – a Māori perspective.

    Wicked problems

    The articles below explore some wicked problems that can be used to support students at all levels to think about issues that are large and complex and affect us all.

    Literacy links

    The Connected article Te tapa ingoa explores how early Māori went about naming and grouping the plants and animals they found around them.

    Explore more examples of how mātauranga Māori and science can interact to create new knowledge and guide further action in these Connected articles:

    Check out our entire range of Connected articles here. We’ve curated them by topic and concepts, including Mātauranga and pūtaiao Māori.

    Ideal for NZC levels 1 and 2 is the Building Science Concepts: Book 22 Life between the tides.

    There are more resources from the School Journal and Building Science Concepts in the Useful links section below.

    Useful links

    See Dr James Ataria profile on the Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (NPM), the Māori Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) website. You could also read about He moemoeā mō Ahuriri: A vision plan and health assessment for the Ahuriri Estuary.

    Te Kāhui Māngai (Directory of iwi and Māori organisations) is a useful tool for anyone to find out basic information about iwi, hapū and marae.

    Building Science Concepts books:

    School Journal:

    There is a range of questions and activities designed to get students to critique evidence under the Five science capabilities section on the Tāhūrangi website.

    The Connected journals can be ordered from the Down the Back of the Chair website. Access to these resources is restricted to Ministry-approved education providers. To find out if you are eligible for a login or if you have forgotten your login details, contact their customer services team on 0800 660 662 or email


    The Connected series is published annually by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

      Published 28 October 2021 Referencing Hub articles
          Go to full glossary
          Download all