For five weeks over July and the start of August 2023 I had the pleasure of hosting my friend and mentor Tim Taylor on a tour of the North Island of Aotearoa. We visited Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Plimmerton and Auckland’s North Shore. We taught in schools, we presented workshops on our new book Try This, and we teamed up with Whakarongo Tauranga as co-facilitators of the DI Trust’s Mantle of the Expert winter school. It was a delight to connect with colleagues from around the country and a privilege to be invited into classrooms. In other posts I’ll share more detail about the content of the workshops some feedback from participants, and news about exciting new PLD opportunities and projects that have grown out of the tour. For now, though, a brief reflection on the experience of working alongside a master teacher.

I learned so much from observing and teaching Tim’s practice. I know all the teachers we worked with felt the same way – the children too. Great teachers open spaces for exploration and meaning-making that imprint in the memory and stay with you long afterwards. And where a great teacher is also a master in Dramatic Inquiry, as Tim is, something even more powerful can happen. It’s to do with the conscious conjuring of the aesthetic through embodiment and the senses; it’s about the paying of deep serious attention; it’s about authenticity and reciprocity; and it’s about sensing connection between what’s happening in the room right now and big human experiences in the past, present and future. It can be hard to put into words, at least in the English language. With my limited understanding of te re Māori I find myself reaching for kupu like ‘wairua’ and ‘ako’ to express these concepts and their transformative potential.

Great teaching is also ephemeral. While people in the room might remember it forever, the moment passes without trace. Sometimes we can capture a flavour of it through sound or visual recording. And sometimes, if the master teacher is generous and reflective, as Tim is, we can invite them to explain and demystify their practice for others to learn from. I’m thrilled that with the support of teachers, parents and tamariki, we were able to take dozens of photos and video clips during our tour. I’m also pleased to report that I asked lots of questions and took lots of notes. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be working with Tim to craft these into learning stories, videos and other materials to share with you. Here be riches, folks … Watch this space!

Photo by Michelle Hall, Makaraka School, Gisborne

An Introduction to Mantle of the Expert with Viv Aitken, Tim Taylor and Whakarongo Tauranga

I’m so excited to announce the launch of this new podcast which has been a labour of love for the past two years.

Join me as I indulge in a VERY enjoyable and wide ranging conversation with Tim Taylor and Whakarongo Tauranga about the ten core elements of Mantle of the Expert; how to plan for them, and how they contribute to effective teaching and learning.

Full information about the podcast series, and access to episodes can be found at this link.

We’ve decided make this project available through a ‘pay what you can afford’ approach using the ‘buy me a coffee’ platform. If you like what you hear please share the link widely.

Introduction and Episodes 1-3 (including bonus episodes) are available now. Click the FOLLOW button on “Buy Me A Coffee” and receive info about future episodes as these are published.

Our other podcast series “Effective Teaching in Mantle of the Expert” will also be republished on the platform in due course.

The DI Network Aotearoa has used some of its Networks of Expertise (NEX) funding to set up a new website, to be launched soon. Here’s a glimpse of the cover page (still in development).

The new site will be dedicated to the work of the DI Trust including NEX funded projects. It will include: information about Dramatic Inquiry, details on cluster meetings, and a range of free resources to support teaching in dramatic play, process drama, drama for learning and Mantle of the Expert. It will also provide links to the best national and international material on all aspects of DI including Commission Model, and Rolling role.

I’ll let you know when the site is launched and I hope you will subscribe. It’s very exciting to see things within NZ evolve to the point where a site like this is needed. It’s great to know that we’ll soon have a platform to represent the whole spectrum of approaches our community is passionate about.

To be clear Mantle of the Expert Aotearoa is not going away … after discussing different options with the website development team and others on the Trust, I definitely want to carry on with this site – which has been a labour of love since 2009. The focus here has always been on Mantle of the Expert, and there’s benefit to maintaining a dedicated space for this. You might see something of a shift towards posts written in my personal voice (like this one!) since I’ll no longer be posting on behalf of the wider DI community. I’m looking forward to sharing my own reflections, learning stories, and tips. And I hope you’ll enter into dialogue through the comments.

Along with the new website, the DI Trust has developed a social media strategy so you should see more ‘action’ on the Facebook pages associated with the DI / Mantle of the Expert community in New Zealand. Personally I have left Facebook so have asked the DI Trust to “rebrand” the Mantle of the Expert Aotearoa facebook page and reinvent it for use by the wider the DI Trust community. I also encourage you to check out the Drama NZ site as there are rich process drama resources there too.

Exciting times! I hope subscribers to this site will stay connected and also take these new opportunities as they arise.

Posted by Viv Aitken 23.2.22

I could not be more proud and excited to make this announcement….

The Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust – formed last year by a hardworking group of volunteers from across primary, secondary and tertiary sectors – has been selected by the Ministry of Education as a Network of Expertise (NEX).

Networks of Expertise funding supports subject associations and other peer-to-peer networks to deliver support for teachers and kaiako. The DI Network Aotearoa Trust is registered as a Network to support learning across curricula and learner pathways a recognition of the way DI can create authentic, engaging, meaningful and embodied teaching and learning experiences across the curriculum and across all sectors of education.

It’s great to know that Drama New Zealand, the subject society for drama is also included as a registered NEX – we will keep working closely with them as well as other organisations and networks.

With recognition from the Ministry of Education, and the significant funding that comes with it, the DI Network will be able to continue to strengthen its existing activities and create new resources to support New Zealand teachers with an interest in dramatic play, drama for learning, process drama, Mantle of the Expert and other DI approaches – with an emphasis on culturally sustaining processes and practice.

Work has already begun, with cluster meetings, workshops, symposia, teacher-teacher support and networking opportunities being planned around the country. Details of these will, of course, be shared on this site as they are finalised. A key objective of NEX funding is to offer professional development at low-cost, or no-cost to teachers, so watch this space!

Gaining NEX status marks an exciting time for education in Aoteaora and a significant turning point in the growth of Dramatic Inquiry in New Zealand. The growth of DI in Aotearoa has been a slow unfurling over many years. It has taken the passion and dedication of many wonderful teachers, mentors, researchers, teacher educators, and school leaders and this moment is a credit to everyone involved. Now many more teachers and kaiako can be supported to join our community – and countless ākongo will have opportunities to collaborate, engage, think with their whole bodies, question, create, explore multiple perspectives, and grapple with complexity as they enjoy learning in imagined worlds.

Ngā mihinui.

Viv Aitken (co-chair, awhi rito)

See also: From 'Underground' to Trust 
The story of Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa

Planning is underway for a much anticipated event in the Dramatic Inquiry Network’s calendar for 2021. Our first symposium for many years will be held in Gisborne in the October school holidays (8th – 10th October). Past symposia have been amazing events, in which teachers have shared practice and learned from each other. With so many exciting projects happening in classrooms around Aotearoa, we’re thrilled to be able to set up this opportunity for teachers to come together once again and continue the ako within dramatic play, drama for learning, process drama, Mantle of the Expert and the other DI approaches.

The beautiful setting of Whāngārā marae (40 minutes from Gisborne – the setting for the Whale Rider movie) will provide a special space for us to explore what it means to work with DI in the unique cultural context of Aoteaora. A key focus for the gathering will be considering culturally sustaining practice within our teaching and within our processes as a Trust. To this end, we will be asking everyone who attends to stay on the marae and enjoy the complete experience.

The weekend will also include the AGM of the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust and sessions where we plan for the future activities of the Trust. These are open to anyone interested.

Many thanks to the busy team already working hard to bring this exciting event together. We will be doing all we can to make this a low cost / no cost event for teachers. More information will be shared soon. For now, please put the dates in your diary and please get in touch if you would be interested in presenting on your your practice as part of the symposium.

For expressions of interest or more information, please email and include ‘Symposium’ in the subject line.

After many years of informal networking, and more than a year of careful planning, I’m excited to announce that a group of colleagues from around Aotearoa has formed a Trust dedicated to supporting the future of Dramatic Inquiry in this country. The Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust is a holding name. We intend to review this over time as we form an identity and processes more aligned with te āo Māori.

For more on what Dramatic Inquiry involves – click here!

The Trust has developed a governance structure based on the metaphor of the harekeke. There’s a Board of four (Te Awhi Rito) which includes two chairpersons, with one identifying as tangata whenua. The idea is that this group supports and upholds individuals or groups (Rito) who wish to lead projects, networking and professional development around the country. In turn, the Board is supported by and accountable to our advisors / mentors and other inspirational people within our field, present and past (Kaumatua / Tupuna).

The Trust has been formed with no formal membership model. This means anyone from the wide community of educators around Aotearoa with an interest in Dramatic Inquiry and a passion for sustaining and growing it in future, is welcome to attend meetings, feed in ideas, lead and contribute to projects. The goal is to work together maintaining a fertile soil so that the flowers and fruit of the harekeke can emerge from our projects for the benefit of all tamariki. A key premise of the Trust is that it is run on a not-for-profit charitable basis, with resources freely available to all. Another core focus is on culturally sustaining practices and processes that will help Dramatic Inquiry evolve within the unique context of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Trust hui and other events will be advertised on the ‘Events’ calendar on the front page of this website. The first of these will be held on Thursday 17th December at 3pm over zoom. We will keep subscribers to this website informed on key developments, but are also creating a dedicated mailing list for anyone who would like to be notified directly of Trust matters, including hui. To be included on the Trust mailing list – or for any other information about our activities please email

Please also let us know if you are interested in offering workshops, mentoring or training. We are keen to strengthen our existing networks of expertise and are looking for leaders in this mahi from across all sectors of school and kura.

UPDATE April 2021 – Our Trust’s application for funding under the Ministry of Education’s Networks of Expertise scheme was SUCCESSFUL!

This means we have funding to allow us to extend and strengthen our mahi

Heartfelt thanks are due to Whakarongo Tauranga, Renee Downey, and Carrie Swanson who have agreed to take roles alongside me (Viv Aitken) in the first iteration of the Board. And to Viv Smith, Michelle Hall, Annette Thomson, Gaenor Brown, Priya Gain, Sue Bleaken, Angela Hodgkinson, and mentors Tim Taylor and Rawiri Hindle. All these good folk have put many hours of selfless effort, thought and aroha into the formation of this entity. It’s very humbling and exciting to have reached this point and we look forward to watching the Trust grow from strength to strength in future.

Kotahi te aho ka whati;
ki te kāpuia e kore e whati
One strand of flax is easy to break, but many strands together will stand strong

  • Viv Aitken December 2020

I’m delighted to share this resource created by the fabulous year two teaching team at Hillcrest Normal School: Catherine Blewden, Jordyn Lye, Ashley Patterson, Anna Harrison, and Tina ter Ellen. The planning was inspired by other home learning adventures “Dog Squad”, and “Troll Hunters”. The teachers originally designed the resource for use during home learning in Lockdown, but found it worked equally well back in the classroom.

Teachers worked so hard to craft this adventure, particularly Catherine who did the research and Jordyn who created the slides. It was inspiring to see the effort and care the teachers put in to the process, and to see how obsessed children and teachers alike became with the life story and achievements of NZ science legend Joan Wiffen! This is just the kind of local content we need more of in our classrooms, I reckon…

The team have generously made their planning available to others through this website. Links to the first two episodes are given below, with an overview of the rest of the unit. Please email Viv if you’re interested in accessing more. It’s freely available for individual teachers who wish to use / adapt it.

I understand Catherine and the team have moved on to writing a new adventure based on Antarctic exploration. Good luck – and we look forward to hearing how that one goes…

CLICK HERE for link to “Fossil Hunters” overview

CLICK HERE for chapter one

CLICK HERE for chapter two

Very excited to announce this PLD opportunity which runs 16th July19th August and can be accessed by teachers from all over Aotearoa.

Tim Taylor, Viv Aitken and Whakarongo Tauranga are producing a five-part podcast series exploring different aspects of Mantle of the Expert.

CLICK HERE to read more about the presenters

The weekly podcasts are available on subscription. Each will be supported by reading material, an interactive google doc, and a live zoom discussion (dates as below). Participants will be encouraged to try out new strategies in their classroom, with an opportunity to reflect and ask questions within a supportive environment of the zoom hui. We’re really excited about this format. It’s not a ‘course’ – there are no ‘assignments’ – just lots of invitations to dialogue, reflect and try new things. You can take part as little or as much as you wish.

The podcast series has something for everyone. For beginners, there’s a once-off introductory session with a follow up zoom hui ($20+GST), while more experienced practitioners can sign up to an additional four podcasts and zoom hui to look at specific teaching tools in more detail ($100+GST). Special price for school groups of 6-10 teachers ($500+GST).

For further information about how it all works, have a listen to this short audio clip:

Here’s the link to the enrolment form:

And here’s the email address if you have any other questions

Luca’s image of ‘Max’ – from the Dog Squad Hero’s Board

It’s a great pleasure to share this slide show (see link below). It’s an overview of a Mantle of the Expert – inspired adventure called Dog Squad. These slides represent the culmination of an incredible team effort over the last few months. Inspired by the work of Tim Taylor and exploremore, the planning for Dog Squad was originally written by Renee Downey (Otaika Valley School) and Viv Aitken, trialled by Renee in her class, and then further developed by teachers from Hillcrest Normal School.

Dog Squad was originally developed for use during lockdown – to support home learning in levels 4 & 3. We wanted to see if we could provide ‘distance learning’ with the qualities of Mantle of the Expert – and encourage children to learn through imagination, embodiment and creativity away from their devices. As you can see from the samples of work on the slides, it was a great success with buy-in from a large number of children and their families. Children responded in all sorts of highly creative ways – the level of commitment and self-directed work was amazing! I think everyone involved would agree that the experiment brought home the potential for Mantle of the Expert in the digital age.

Hillcrest Normal School has continued to work with Dog Squad through the transition back to face-to-face learning – so this version is hot off the press! Slides and examples of children’s work are shared with permission – these are only a small sample of the many creative responses that have been produced.

The collaborative process of working on this resource has been unforgettable and wonderful. The story deserves telling in much more detail – and will be in future. And there are other adventures still in development that I hope we can share in time (I’m looking at you Fossil Hunters team!)

The generous teachers who created Dog Squad are happy to share the slides they created for each episode on a case by case basis – so please email on if you would like to request access to those.

For now, here’s a small taste of what has taken many hours of hard work from passionate and committed teachers – and their students.


Coming up VERY SOON, Drama New Zealand is offering two FREE workshops for primary and intermediate teachers looking at dramatic inquiry for home learning / distance learning. These will be held over ZOOM and facilitated by Viv Aitken and Renee Downey. Further information below (including full flier and facilitator biographies)

There has already been a lot of interest in these workshops, and they are almost full, so please contact Drama NZ to register your interest (links are shown below). Depending on demand, we may repeat the workshops again in the near future. LINK TO FORM