What is Mana Atua? A Super Simple Explanation in Less than 500 Words

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Mana atua

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What is mana atua?

Mana atua means developing personal well-being

Can we dig a little deeper?

Words often have more than one meaning. In a literal sense, Mana Atua refers to spirituality, well-being, and the sacred power of God or the gods. In education, Mana Atua has come to refer to well-being.

The concept of well-being encompasses the physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of health. This concept is recognised by the World Health Organisation.

A western worldview often seeks to keep spirituality out of the classroom. We may want to focus solely on things that we can see and observe. However, spirituality is seamlessly integrated into Māori ways of teaching and learning.

It’s often visible in things like a prayer to open the day or bless the food at meal time. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of karakia (prayer) as part of learning and teaching, but it is a cultural preference for some learners.

How does this help describe a learner-centred teaching environment?

Mana Atua helps describe a learner-centred teaching environment because it’s clear that the learners’ personal well-being is important. This takes us beyond academic achievement. If appropriate, it allows us to tend to the wairua, or spiritual aspects of our learners.

Encouraging Mana Atua in the classroom can also be about any of the following:

  • Allowing learners to express themselves creatively through other forms such as art or music.
  • Giving space to talk about matters that are spiritually important to learners, for example, tikanga or practices around food and food hygiene.
  • Engaging with the natural world or environment whenever possible for experiential outdoors learning.
  • Giving time and space for celebrations of special times in learners lives, e.g. when a child is born or other important life milestones.
  • Providing whakatuakī or proverbs to discuss and think about.

Developing personal well-being teaching in a way that is safe, both cultural and in other ways. It also means that your learners feel confident to manage and express themselves,

  1. What do you do to develop personal well-being in your learners?
  2. How comfortable are you with this idea of personal well-being connecting to the spiritual health of your learners?

How can you use Mana Atua to create learner success?



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Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

4 thoughts

  1. Thank you for this discussion on Mana atua, Graeme. I liked your perspective and will be guided by it in my personal reflection on well-being in the classroom.

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