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Our Conceptual Curriculum

From 2018, Whakarongo School is developing a conceptual approach to the curriculum.  This sees a concept, and supporting big idea, forming the basis for purposeful and relevant integrated units of learning.  

Literacy, Mathematics and the Whakarongo Kid form the FOUNDATIONS of our curriculum and are integrated through all learning.

Our conceptual curriculum approach will draw on the foundations and the wider curriculum areas; being split into two key areas: STEM & HEArtSS.  

  • STEM integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics alongside the curriculum foundations.
  • HEArtSS integrates Health, Environmental Studies, The Arts and Social Sciences alongside the curriculum foundations.


The focus of learning is defined through a concept - not a topic (e.g. conflict, not war).  Unlike more traditional learning models, which concentrate on facts, conceptual learning focuses on understanding broader principles or ideas (what we call “concepts”) that can later be applied to a variety of specific examples.  The concept forms a key part of the Big Idea.

                                            Concepts vs. Topics



Needs and Wants

History of Computers


City Council systems, Patriotism


President, Mayor, Helen Clark


Mother & Child, Forgiveness


Weather, The Civil War, Growing Older


Native Americans, Christmas, The Glass Ceiling

What a conceptual curriculum focuses on:

  • Concepts over content - Think big picture, not activities.  

  • Less is more - Working with fewer concepts means learners can use and extend the knowledge and skills present in a meaningful, formative way.

  • Prior knowledge - Takes time to nurture student’s interest and make connections to the concepts they are learning.

  • Makes transference of learning a goal - Students have opportunities to transfer and apply their conceptual understanding and skills to new contexts.

  • Shows how the disciplines of knowledge (subject areas) naturally transcend formal boundaries and work together in real life contexts and problems.

At Whakarongo School, we use the big idea to explore multiple subject areas (transdisciplinary) using an inquiry lens (whereby students pose questions; identifying and analysing a problem), computational thinking, and project based learning to meaningfully explore and develop understandings, as well as solutions, in authentic learning contexts.