Youngsters schooled early in Waipā history

Hundreds of Waipā pre-schoolers are getting a head-start on local history.

It’s been 12 months since the Te Awamutu Museum, Education and Research Centre secured a three-year contract with the Ministry of Education. The contract sees staff developing customised programmes, using uniquely Waipā stories, people, places and taonga, for use with school groups.

For the first time, early childhood centres have been included – and requests are flooding in.

Waipā District Council’s museums and heritage director Anne Blyth said free, customised programmes for pre-schoolers had already reached close to 400 children across nine centres, mainly in the Waipā district. Those numbers are far higher than expected and are rising as word gets around, she said.

“We’ve really had a fantastic response from the early childhood sector. Teachers are very keen to get us along and have us involved with the children. It supports the curriculum and we can customise the programme in a way that suits tamariki and teachers best,” Blyth said.

“We have wonderful Waipā stories to tell, lots of interesting things to show the kids and it’s a fun time for everyone involved. And of course, we hope that by introducing children early to museums and what they offer, we’ll spark a lifelong passion for history and learning.”

Te Awamutu’s Flourish Early Learning is one centre that’s jumped on board, hosting education facilitator Kerrin Carr. Kerrin, assisted by his puppet Marvin, talked about tuna, told stories and discussed the history of Te Awamutu, what its name meant and why.

Following the visit, children did their own research. The programme kicked off questions and activities to support numeracy, saw the class visit the library and Te Awamutu War Memorial Park, and drove questions on subjects ranging from Anzac Day to how long an eel can grow.

Teacher Annie Andrews said it was a fantastic day which began a “learning journey” about a huge range of topics for weeks afterwards.

“The visit from Kerrin was just brilliant and our tamariki really, really enjoyed it. It stimulated a lot of other activities which we were then able to combine with literacy and numeracy, science and te ao Māori. It created lots of discussions about taonga and our own precious things. We can’t wait for the next visit!”

Blyth said early childhood centres wanting to take part in the programme needed to book by emailing The educator would usually visit the centres, or children and teachers could travel to the Te Awamutu Museum, Education and Research Centre in Rickit Road.

“It is usually easier for us to go out and visit but we’ve found that our visits often see classes coming back to see us within a couple of months,” Blyth said.

“And that’s fantastic because we want children to feel very welcome and comfortable here in this environment. This is a community space, full of all sorts of important and interesting things and we welcome anyone.”

Opening hours at the Te Awamutu Museum Education and Research Centre are 10am – 4pm Monday to Friday and 10am – 2pm on Saturday and public holidays.

Waipa District Council Communications

Education facilitator Kerrin Carr chats to children at Te Awamutu’s Flourish Early Learning about the hīnaki (eel trap) they made.