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Current as of 02/10/14 07:40PM NZST

School lessons come to life at historical thermal village

By Kara Segedin

Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust provides tourism and educational experiences through a living Maori village in Rotorua where geothermal resources are still used for cooking and bathing.

Over 11 years, the trust has given visitors the chance to learn about New Zealand's history in a living environment.

The trust wants to ensure its history is shared with students and that Whakarewarewa becomes the ultimate learning experience.

Renee Nathan is the business development manager for the trust and has been involved with the tourism industry for a number of years.

The $10,000 from the 12 Days of Christmas will be used to develop an online and onsite educational resource for schools and teachers to use before, during and after a trip to Whakarewarewa. These resources will meet education curriculum standards for geography, arts, economic development, social development and science.

"We want to go back to the grass roots and let New Zealanders know this is their history," said Ms Nathan.

In April, the village will celebrate the centenary of the first registered guides at the site. Today, several fourth-generation guides show guests around.

Whakarewarewa gives visitors a chance to experience the unique lifestyle of the Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao people, who have lived in the area for 300 years.

"Our role is how to ensure it is protected," said Ms Nathan. "If we don't look after it, it could be destroyed."

Visitors to Whakarewarewa get to see how geothermal activity is used in everyday life, with hot springs and steam vents used for cooking and the natural mineral waters used for communal bathing.

Since the early 1800s, the Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao people have welcomed visitors and guests into their homes. Most came to bathe in the natural hot pools.

The Tuhourangi people of the village Te Wairoa prospered from an increased number of visitors to the Pink and White Terraces but in 1886 Mt Tarawera erupted, burying the village and destroying the terraces.

Many of the Tuhourangi survivors settled with relatives (Ngati Wahiao) at Whakarewarewa and tried to rebuild their lives. With the destruction of the Terraces, Whakarewarewa became a highlight for tourists to the region.

Ms Nathan said one survivor of the eruption, a woman named Sophie, started showing visitors around the area.

The trust will tailor the programme to fit the science and social studies curriculums and adjust the resources for different age groups.

Students will look at the way of life in the community and the issue of sustainability, of using and protecting resources.

The trust is also developing a science and volcanology programme.

* Keep the change

Today, the New Zealand Herald features the last of 12 hard-working charities which have been selected for a $10,000 donation from Auckland International Airport.

The winners were chosen by an independent group of advisers for the company, which collected the $120,000 from change left by travellers this year.

- NZ Herald

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