14.03.2014 - Natural Sciences Sector

Promoting transmission of traditional navigation knowledge in Pacific classrooms

© UNESCO, 2013 Master navigator, Tua Pittman, talks to workshop participants about traditional voyaging.

A UNESCO Workshop on “The Canoe Is the People” interactive educational resource, jointly organized by the Cook Islands Ministry of Education and UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems programme, was held on 3-6 December 2013 in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Thirty teachers and curriculum developers from across the Pacific, including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, were brought together to work with the interactive educational resource called “The Canoe Is the People: Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific”.

This online educational tool brings into the classroom the in-depth knowledge that Pacific Islanders possess about their ocean environment. It was especially conceived to encourage Pacific youth to take pride in their heritage, and to keep their ancestral knowledge alive.

“The Canoe Is the People” resource pack includes: 1. an interactive multimedia resource that is available either online or as:


  • a CD-ROM;
  • a Teacher’s Manual;
  • a Learner’s Text; and
  • a large Poster and Map.

It is designed as an Open Education Resource that can be adopted and adapted for use in different education curricula, as well as in different languages. Currently the online resource exists in English and New Zealand Maori, and the full resource pack is also being adapted from English for use in the Maori school system in the Maori language.

The objectives of the workshop were threefold:

  • to familiarize educators with “The Canoe is the People” educational resource and to map it to country-specific curricula.
  • to develop work units based on “The Canoe is the People“ that reinforce the inclusion of Pacific Islander knowledge in the classroom.
  • to allow for reflection on how Pacific Islander knowledge is recognized and integrated in learning and teaching programmes across the Pacific and how the “Canoe is the People” resource pack can be used to strengthen such efforts.

During the workshop, participants were particularly interested in sharing information about educational practices and the contexts in which educators work in different Pacific countries.  The strong engagement and interest in the workshop and its outcomes, as well as the high level of participant satisfaction, underlined the relevance and value of “The Canoe is the People” as an educational resource for the contemporary Pacific.

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