The Arts
Ngā Toi


The exemplars in this book should be considered in conjunction with the discussion in Book 16. Opportunities for children to be creative and imaginative through the arts are woven throughout Te Whāriki. The 2007 New Zealand school curriculum identifies four disciplines of the arts. These are: dance, drama, music – sound arts, and visual arts. The curriculum reminds us that:

The arts are powerful forms of expression that recognise, value, and contribute to the unique bicultural and multicultural character of Aotearoa New Zealand, enriching the lives of all New Zealanders. The arts have their own distinct languages that use both verbal and non-verbal conventions, mediated by selected processes and technologies. Through movement, sound, and image, the arts transform people’s creative ideas into expressive works that communicate layered meanings.

Arts education explores, challenges, affirms, and celebrates unique artistic expressions of self, community, and culture. It embraces toi Māori, valuing the forms and practices of customary and contemporary Māori performing, musical, and visual arts.1

In international early childhood literature, the best-known examples of learning through the visual and the dramatic arts come from Reggio Emilia and the work of Vivian Gussin Paley. Paley’s books are studies of imagination, caring, and thoughtfulness. In her book Bad Guys Don’t Have Birthdays: Fantasy Play at Four, Paley writes:

This year three themes dominate the stage: bad guys, birthdays, and babies. What does it all mean? The magical rhythm that bounces back and forth between this odd triad is just beyond my reach; I can feel its presence but am hard put to identify the tune or carry the melody. One must be able to see through the disarray and concentrate on the drama.

Yet it is not simply a matter of concentration. When I care more about what the children say and think than about my own conventionality, those are the times I sense the beat and hear the unspoken lines. As I try to measure my responses to the forms and ideas of this emerging society that inhabits my classroom, it becomes necessary to grasp its point of view:

I pretend, therefore I am.

I pretend, therefore I know.2

The arts exemplars in this book are viewed through one or more of the three lenses outlined in Book 16:

  • a lens that focuses on assessment practices, referring to the definition of assessment as "noticing, recognising, and responding" from Book 1 of Kei Tua o te Pae;
  • Te Whāriki lens;
  • a lens that focuses on the symbol systems and technologies described as "the arts".

In this section

Last updated: 21 May 2015