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Te Ao Māori gets Minecraft experience for Kiwi schools

09 Sep 2019
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 This week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week), so what better way to inspire children to flex their tongue than to take the language directly to a popular classroom learning tool: Minecraft.

Minecraft: Education Edition now includes a story that brings traditional Māori to kids – in block form. Called Ngā Motu (The Islands), the experience was commissioned for students to experience and build on life in a Māori pā and learn more about Māori language and culture.

Minecraft is already helping to teach skills and historical lessons in classrooms – some teachers use Minecraft to teach programming, or to reconstruct Gallipoli in-game.

But building a Māori-inspired theme comes with challenges, especially when there’s very little time to do it.

Game Designer Whetu Paitai, who works for Piki Studios, had only five weeks to design an educational theme that reflects Māori culture.

Paitai designed Ngā Motu, which is described as an immersive Minecraft world where mobs of moa and kiwi flock around the palisades of a traditional pā with a waka hourua floating in the harbour.

Students can build their own wharenui and learn words in te reo Māori from friendly guides modelled on Paitai’s own children and their friends, or via in-game exercises.

The game’s resource packs swap typical Minecraft swords for more appropriate patu and soon intrepid voyagers will be able to visit taniwha living off the coast as the game grows.

“We’re believers in learning being organic, being able to explore all the elements, because nothing in our lives exists in isolation. Our mission is for everyone to be able to play these games and see more than just what a waka is – they’ll be able to see how it fits into that whole world,” says Paitai.

“It was important to make sure te ao Māori was respected as its own being, the mana and cultural IP of each artefact upheld and maintained throughout the process.”

Microsoft New Zealand education lead Anne Taylor says that Māori must be more than just a language week. It needs to be taught throughout the year if Māori is to remain a thriving part of New Zealand culture.

“That’s why Microsoft is investing in resources that inspire students to explore te ao Māori while having fun and challenging their imaginations – this is how we create a culture of lifelong learning.”

“The creativity and attention to detail with which Whetu has approached this project just blew us away. What he’s created goes way beyond what we could ever have expected.”

Nga Motu will eventually be offered across the global Minecraft Marketplace, but for now it’s available as part of Minecraft: Education Edition to every state and state-integrated school.