These concepts for Mantle of the Expert units of work were designed by third year students as part of their learning on TEAL 387 at Waikato University. My thanks to these students for agreeing to allow their ideas to be shared with other teachers. They are loosely categorized according to the main curriculum learning areas that they cover – though the ‘incorporated’ approach of MOTE means that each concept gives opportunities to teach right across the curriculum including opportunities for rich learning in Maths, Literacy and ethics / values. Key competencies are not indicated but are core to any MOTE experience.

Please note, these concepts provide only the broad framework for planning – naturally a great deal of micro-planning would be required for individual lessons and to ensure teaching for learning. It is important to note that the concepts as they stand do NOT include indications of drama conventions and other drama for learning strategies which the teacher would need to use.  And naturally, the direction of the inquiry would flex and change depending on the interests of the children in the class. Nonetheless, I think you will agree that these concepts provide a stimulating set of NZ based ideas for MOTE units – and we really need to start building a collection of those!


MOTE CONCEPT 1: Relating to Others – technology – writing

HOOK Message in a bottle
COMPANY Counsellors
EXPERTISE – FRAME Reintegration into society
Previous successes Migration support, prisoner rehabilitation
CLIENT Red Cross
COMMISSION Write a support plan to help a family of long term castaways reintegrate into NZ society
What if…
  • The proposed site for relocation is unsuitable for some reason
  • Objections from neighbours
  • Family wishes to maintain aspects of its castaway lifestyle
  • There are funding constraints
  • Family members have experienced psychological effects from isolation
  • Family members need help to understand modern technology
  • Report writing
  • Creating a Concept design for suitable accommodation
  • Reading complex texts (complaints)
  • Persuasive writing
  • ‘replaying’ key moments from life on the island.
  • Creating diary entries from family members
  • Interviewing teacher in role
  • Writing reports
KEY TENSION Funding is suddenly cut by the main sponsor of the programme -Which bits of the reintegration plan can we cut out?
  • Presentation of ideas and arguments to the client
  • Ritual – extracts from written reports ‘layered’ over images from the role pla
  • Reflections written privately on paper and placed into a bottle – as in the ‘hook’

Big question …… What does it mean to ‘belong’?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original planning concept by Anna Johnston ….. Please acknowledge original authors if making use of this material for any purpose.





MOTE CONCEPT 2: Estimation of weight and size – geography – technology

HOOK Effigy of protester objecting to the cutting down of a large tree – pacified when discovers the tree is being shifted not killed
COMPANY Transport company
EXPERTISE – FRAME Shifting large objects including those with special cultural or personal importance
Previous successes Successfully lifted out the dead tree from one tree hill. Dealt with cultural issues sensitively
CLIENT Project Jonah
COMMISSION Develop a plan for lifting and shifting a pod of whales that keeps rebeaching on a local beach.
What if…
  • It is difficult to get to the beach
  • There is no special machinery designed for this kind of lifting
  • There are cultural implications with local iwi who prefer to let nature take its course
  • Scientists disagree as to the causes of the strandings
  • The whales are of very different shapes and sizes – We can’t weigh them.
  • Planning a route
  • Concept designs for lifting gear
  • Talking to a local elder (teacher in role)
  • Persuasive writing
  • Interpreting complex texts
  • Estimation of weight, size etc.
  • Plus inquiry – research into whales
KEY TENSION A regional council in another area hears about the relocation and asks for a whale to be placed in their harbour – as a potential tourist attraction. Scientists have said the whales will find their way back to the pod OK but is this the right move?

Big Question…… When is it right for humans to intervene in nature?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original planning concept by Kerri Jones ….. Please acknowledge original authors if making use of this material for any purpose.





MOTE CONCEPT 3: Social Studies – Statistics – History (Te Tiriti o Waitangi)

HOOK Overheard Skype call between Utrovian government minister and John (later revealed to be our CEO) discussing the urgent over -population problem
COMPANY Diplomatic services
EXPERTISE – FRAME International relations – particular sensitivity towards indigenous peoples and multiple perspectives
Previous successes Peace negotiations between countries following conflict
CLIENT Utrovia Government department
COMMISSION Utrovia has acquired an ‘unpopulated’ offshore island to provide space for its excess population. Aim was to build a model society…. highest ethical / moral standards. Have now discovered a previously unknown race of indigenous people on the land and are unsure how to proceed. Company is asked to help with sensitive negotiations
What if…
  • There is a significant language barrier
  • We need to visit the island but it is hard to get to
  • An illness on the island as a result of our visit
  • Tension between young and old people on the island.
  • Young people welcome development and unwilling to listen to caution.
  • Older people are aggressively opposed.
  • Power and water shortages in Utrovia due to overcrowding
  • Deciphering codes
  • Interpreting gesture / non-verbal body language
  • Planning a route
  • Report writing
  • Debate (in role) and other drama for learning conventions – multiple perspective
  • Statistics, estimation of supply
  • Newspaper reporting
KEY TENSION Client pushes for a treaty to be written up with the majority of islanders
  • Depending on decisions made by the company
  • Images of Utrovia and the island in future times
  • Articles of the Treaty of Waitangi read out loud in parallel to articles of the Utrovian treaty

Big question ….. How do human beings share this world fairly?
Adapted from an original plan by Jesse Lee. Please acknowledge original authors when making use of this material for any purpose




MOTE CONCEPT 4: Environment, technology & design

HOOK Effigy – someone reading a newspaper article – obviously upset. Content of article slowly revealed – about kiwis being killed by dogs in the bush
COMPANY Bird sanctuary designers
EXPERTISE – FRAME Experience in dealing with NZ indigenous birds
Previous successes Reintroduction of Kea into South Island areas
CLIENT Department of Conservation
COMMISSION Design a purpose – build sanctuary for kiwi within the breeding programme
What if….
  • Limited funding is available
  • Visitors to the sanctuary need to be able to see the birds in action – but they are nocturna
  • The resource consent requires us to deal with the smell
  • Budgeting
  • Concept designs
  • Technology
KEY TENSION Locals object to the building of the sanctuary arguing that the birds should be supported to live in the wild not in captivity
CLOSURE Recommendations delivered to the client

Big question…… How do we preserve creatures in a natural way if they cannot survive without our help?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original planning concept by Holly Morell ….. Please acknowledge original authors if making use of this material for any purpose.




MOTE CONCEPT 5: Social studies – fairytales – writing

HOOK Teacher in role as reporter outside the courtroom – reporting on the accused in very negative language
EXPERTISE – FRAME Scrupulously fair and non judgemental. Offer representation to those accused of terrible crimes.
Previous successes
CLIENT Wolf from Fairytales
COMMISSION Wolf has finally been captured after 3 pigs and riding hood crimes. We are to defend him.
What if….
  • Wolf finds it difficult to talk to us
  • We have incomplete information about the crimes
  • We come under attack from media and other members of society for defending the bad guy
  • The wolf has family who are hurt by what has happened
  • Careful questioning of wolf (teacher in role)
  • Investigation of clues (science, temperature)
  • Defending ourselves against attack
  • Drama for learning
  • Persuasive writing
  • In role exploration of multiple perspectives
KEY TENSION The lawyers for the other side refuse to share some evidence with us – how do we get them to ‘play fair’
  • Court case – key moments from the event
  • Writing in role as wolf from jail

Big Question …… How do humans treat others who have done bad things?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original planning concept by Arie Paton….. Please acknowledge original authors if making use of this material for any purpose.




MOTE CONCEPT 6: Social history, Health

HOOK Fragments of a ‘lost’ audio tape – historic radio advert advertising trips to the pink and white terraces
COMPANY Researchers for historical documentary film company
EXPERTISE – FRAME NZ based. Particularly good at finding the human element to history. Sensitive to cultural difference. Scrupulous about telling the truth and protecting sources.
Previous successes Quality research for documentaries about NZ history – settlers,
CLIENT Sky International History Channel
COMMISSION Research for a documentary on the ‘lost stories’ of the Tarawera eruption…
What if….
  • An important letter is discovered from the time but it has bits missing.
  • Some stories have never been written down but are hinted at in papers etc
  • Descendents are hard to locate – can only be interviewed over SKYPE
  • Some of the stories from the time have grown and changed (through rumour)
  • Descendents reveal personal secrets but ask us not to include them in the documentary
  • Writing – the possible missing bits
  • Research of primary sources from the time
  • In role interview – Feeding back our interviews via oral presentations
  • Writing in role
  • Teacher in role
KEY TENSION We are pressurized by the client to emphasise a story that we are not sure is 100% true because it is dramatically interesting
Client pressurizes us to include the personal / private information in the documentary
CLOSURE Opening sequence for documentary prepared and played out to client

Big Question …… How do we remember the past and why do people sometimes want to forget it?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original planning concept by Abby Richardson….. Please acknowledge original authors if making use of this material for any purpose.





MOTE CONCEPT 7: Food and Nutrition, Fairytales, design, technology

HOOK Story book of Jack and the BeanstalkThe unfinished ‘ad’
“Sick of not knowing what is in your food…?” Students invited to finish the slogan for a vegetable growing business
COMPANY Produce growers and developers
EXPERTISE – FRAME Specialists in heritage and special value / unusual vegetables. Relying on natural selection processes rather than GE
Previous successes Re-introduced the purple carrot, generated a special line star fruit to suit growing conditions in NZ
CLIENT Jack – a young businessman
COMMISSION Jack has saved some magic beans from the beanstalk. Needs to know how to grow them successfully. Can’t rely on chance like last time. Tried chucking some through the window but they didn’t germinate. Advice on growing them?
What if….
  • Labels for the ‘trial’ plants get wet before lamination.
  • Weather warning – unusual fros
  • We find holes in the leaves – some kind of infestation?
  • Will caterpillars take on magic growing powers?
  • We discover the beans lose their magic gradually over each generation
  • Jack’s Mum wants to sell the beans at a huge profit
  • The giant’s wife is worried that cloud land will be overrun by tourists climbing the beanstalks
  • Planting trials
  • New labels – need full scientific information
  • Plant care
  • Creative writing / newspaper
  • Research into basic genetics
  • Debate? Design flier?
  • Hotseating, In role taking different perspective on the issue
KEY TENSION We receive notification from the man who traded the cow for the beans – he wants to claim intellectual property rights over the beans
CLOSURE A meeting with Jack where we report our findings and make recommendations

Big question …… How much can we really understand and control nature?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original planning concept by Stacey Tomich….. Please acknowledge original authors if making use of this material for any purpose.




MOTE CONCEPT 8: Ethics, writing for purpose

HOOK Teacher in role as shelter worker overwhelmed with all the work. Unable to think straight to finish her poster appealing for homes for the animals. Asks for help with this
COMPANY People who run an animal Sanctuary
EXPERTISE – FRAME Offer good quality care and make sure animals are rehomed to suitable families
Previous successes Have rehomed some hard-to-care for animals (e.g. dogs requiring lots of exercise onto farms, injured geckos to an elderly gent who only needs a companion animal for a short time but really cares for them)
COMMISSION To care for and if possible rehome some unusual animals from a family circus that has had to close unexpectedly.

  1. One elderly lioness
  2. Three performing ponies – have always been together
  3. A chimpanzee that has always lived with humans but is starting to become aggressive


What if….
  • We don’t have any suitable accommodation for the new animals
  • Money is tight for food etc
  • Our paperwork (application forms) are not up to scratch
  • The chimpanzee is refusing to eat
  • The neighbours complain about the noise of the lioness roaring
  • Sketches of suitable accommodation
  • Budgeting
  • Rewriting application forms
  • Researching suitable diet.
  • Research into behaviour of captive primates
  • Talking (in role) to international expert
  • Problem solving (technology?) and persuasive writing
KEY TENSION We have inquiries about adoption from another circus but receive some information that they have mistreated animals in the past.
CLOSURE Company needs to decide its actions –Freeze frame moments from the animals’ future lives

Big Question ….. Should humans use animals as companions?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original planning concept by Aimee Welburn….. Please acknowledge original authors if making use of this material for any purpose.




MOTE CONCEPT 9: Cultural understanding, science (electricity)

HOOK Effigy of someone engaged in a tricky job ‘dissembling’ a tree
COMPANY Arborists
EXPERTISE – FRAME Broad experience in dealing with trees – trimming, reshaping. Also specialise in live removal and replanting of large trees
Previous successes Many years of corporate and council work on trees in parks, near tall buildings etc.Successful removal of important trees during construction of State Highway 1 commission – professional development and a ‘qualification’ to show an understanding of electricity and the dangers of working round powerlines
CLIENT Rototuna Developers
COMMISSION Move large Kauri tree to a nearby site as part of new mall development
What if….
  • Developers want the tree moved soon – and it isn’t the best time of year
  • There is a powerline close by the top of the tree
  • We need to make decisions about the equipment we need to hire
  • Protesters object to the moving of the tree
  • Finding out practicalities of moving this species of tree
  • Applying our understanding of electricity and powerlines
  • Measuring and estimating weight, height
  • Drama for learning multiple perspectives
  • Writing to protesters
  • Talking to protesters
KEY TENSION We discover that the tree has particular significance to a local hapu as it is their ‘whenua tree’ where many Maori have traditionally returned the whenua (placenta from childbirth) to the soil beneath the tree
CLOSURE Students decide the best way forward (research into issue)Present ideas to the clientReading of ‘the Whenua tree’ short story

Big question….. What is our relationship to whenua?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original planning concept by Kim Wilson….. Please acknowledge original authors if making use of this material for any purpose.




MOTE CONCEPT10: Ethics, fabric design,

HOOK You tube clip of wearable arts fashion show
COMPANY Costume designers
EXPERTISE – FRAME Costumes for performances/ stage shows
Previous successes Eco friendly costume designs for a school production + a theatre company
CLIENT SAANZ (Stop animal abuse NZ)
COMMISSION To design 2 animal costumes for the launch of the new company to raise awareness of stopping animal abuse
What if…
  • Fabric testing’s – materials not suitable
  • Cost of fabrics + shipping prices
  • Fabric suppliers – finding eco friendly/organic materials
  • Sewing – the fabrics are too thick/thin, seams noticeable etc
  • Research – costume era/ clients needs
  • Report writing
  • Measurement of fabric
  • Concept designs/ sketches
  • Budgets
  • Research on clients needs/wants and what to make it authentic
  • Sewing prototypes
  • Report – what would best suit clients needs from testing/research
KEY TENSION Supplier for company misinterprets companies ‘only use organic materials’ policy and start buying in possum fur for animal costume designs. Client doesn’t want the media getting the wrong impression as some may see killing possums as animal abuse.
  • Students explore the possum threat in NZ and why people use their fur
  • Present to client on why they should/shouldn’t use possum fur in design (whichever choice the class has chosen to go with from their research)
  • Moments in a box – ritual where students put their prototype in a box to send to the client
  • Reflection – memories in a book. Reflecting on the MOTE.

Big question …… How can human beings treat animals with respect?
Adapted by Viv Aitken from an original concept by Rebecca Board. Please acknowledge original authors when using this material for any purpose.