Interdisciplinary connections


I am interested in establishing an interdisciplinary relationship between Te Reo Māori and Classical Studies. Though a range of connections between the two subjects is available, I am choosing to focus on developing a unit in the context of mythology.

Ancient Greek and Māori mythologies are fundamental to Western and Māori share striking similarities. For instance, the mythologies involve similar narratives, themes and characters (e.g. Gaia and Papatūānuku are both mother earth figures who birth a race of gods; Persephone and Hine-nui-te-pō are both goddess rulers of the Underworld, etc.).


“You can begin to understand their horizon as well.” – Joyce Thomas (2011).

A benefit of the relationship between Te Reo Māori and Classical Studies is the potential for students and teachers to develop empathy for Western and Māori cultural heritages.

“Previously unconnected connections are made.” – Dr. Deana McDonagh (2011).

In learning about the connections between Western (Pākehā) and Māori myth systems, this context has the potential to foster a sense of unity (kotahitanga), which is important considering New Zealand’s fragmented past. Through exploring the similarities and differences between the two mythologies, it is possible to provide students with a learning experience that will build their own cultural identity within the bicultural context of New Zealand.

Mathison & Freeman (1998) iterated that interdisciplinary studies promote positive attitudes towards subject matter. The topic of mythologies is a rich context in which students can explore similarities between two cultures that are often seen as inherently different. In seeing the connections between Western and Māori mythologies, students could develop a more positive attitude towards other contexts which involved Māori and Pākehā, such as, the Treaty of Waitangi.


While the development of empathy is desirable, how the teaching and learning programme is designed must provide clear pathways for students to not only establish, but see value in the connections between Greek and Māori mythologies. Working with the Te Reo Māori teacher in achieving a cohesive interdisciplinary unit could prove difficult. For example, Mathison & Freeman (1998) pointed out teachers struggle to abandon old pedagogies and content they are familiar with. Yet, by establishing common goals and parameters to work within, we could provide students with the opportunity to develop empathy and cultural identities, while still maintaining the academic integrity of both subjects. Mulligan & Kuban (2015) provide one such model for guiding interdisciplinary collaboration, though despite being based on literature and practice, does come across as simplistic (i.e. the need to have a compromising attitude and equity for all involved feels pretty mandatory given the circumstances).

Recognising that the beginning of an interdisciplinary relationship will get better over time is important in overcoming short-term issues that may arise. While I agree with Thomas (2011) who pointed out the need for a shared language to be developed to facilitate interdisciplinary cohesion, McDonagh’s (2011) claim that “not being experts is an advantage” in working with a discipline outside our expertise felt too optimistic. Being an expert is always an advantage! Yet, I acknowledge that she was simply perpetuating a mind-set that might be helpful to adopt.



Mathison, S., & Freeman, M. (1998). The Logic of Interdisciplinary Studies. Retrieved from

Mulligan, L. M., & Kuban, A. J. . (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from

ThomasMcDonaghGroup. (2011). Interdisciplinarity and Innovation Education. Retrieved from



3 thoughts on “Interdisciplinary connections”

  1. It is true that we do struggle to abandon old pedagogies. But to me your idea shows such a huge amount of potential that there needs to be work done to make it fit. How do you think you will manage to get it off the ground. Are you dealing with a number of people. Could you use early adopters an early majority to help drive a bedding in process that sees change occurring over a year or two?


  2. Hello Cris, great blog on the interdisciplinary connection between subjects. I liked that you want to link the Western and Maori culture. Since I have been introduced to Maori legends, I can see for myself that they are similar. But I had previous experiences with Western mythology, therefore I am not quite sure where you would start in your class to take it back to students past experiences. I am also puzzled by your statement; ” Working with the Te Reo Māori teacher in achieving a cohesive interdisciplinary unit could prove difficult.” I took part in TeReo course last year with Te Wananga o Aotearoa ( I would strongly recommend to all teacher take part in this lovely Maori education. During my time with Maori teachers, I have learnt that they are extremely open and supportive for us Pakeha to learn and work with them. Hopefully, you will find it easier, rather than difficult. Best of luck with your connections.


    1. I like the effort being made to combine cultures too. And I admire how you manage to study while teaching and raising small children Rebecca. I had a look at the Te Reo course and it looks good. I have a support crew at school (the canteen manager, the Te Reo teacher, a learning support staff member, the iwi liaison). All these people have been endlessly willing to help me with my reo and how to use it in everyday conversations. They are all awesome and there are many others out there who will help. We just need to stand up and be counted and put the effort into learning the language to help understand the culture.
      Tama tu, tama ora
      Tama moe, Tama make
      He whakamana i a koe
      To stand up and be involved is to be fully alive
      To sit back and dream is to be diminished /dead
      You are what you make of yourself.
      I created this whakatauaki with the help of the friends mentioned above. and I genuinely believe it: we are what we make of ourselves and we need to put the effort in to be bicultural – no one can do it for us.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s