Topic Explorer guide

Student using Topic Explorer for inquiry on a laptop

Image: All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Topic Explorer helps you find quality, curated resources on a range of topics that inspire and support inquiry. Learn about the topics and resources included in Topic Explorer and how to use it. 

  • Topic Explorer — what it includes

    Our topics are designed to inspire curiosity and inquiry. They serve as a ‘starter’ for your students to develop a point of view or follow a line of inquiry on a particular topic.

    Topics contain a wide range of resources suitable for primary through to secondary level students. Resources include images, articles, websites, videos, and books from trustworthy, reputable national and international sources (e.g. the Alexander Turnbull Library, Te Papa, Te Ara, National Geographic, BBC, and the Smithsonian).

    Each topic covers a range of different learning areas within the New Zealand Curriculum. Many of our topics have a strong focus on New Zealand and Māori and Pacific content.

    Some topics also have comprehensive sets of resources on the DigitalNZ website. These sets include:

    • a bibliography with topic-related books that teachers can borrow from our lending service
    • text about the topic taken from the Te Ara or NZHistory websites
    • quick facts about the topic
    • a glossary of terms
    • resources for teachers and students that explore taking action at school and in local communities.
  • How we choose the topics

    Topics are carefully selected by our skilled librarians to meet teachers' needs, and reflect:

    • high demand — topics that teachers often use in the classroom (we monitor what you're asking us for in our lending service)
    • relevance — we watch what's going on in the world and make sure we refresh our topics ready for when you need them (e.g. for the Olympics, elections, or Anzac Day)
    • the New Zealand Curriculum — we choose topics relevant to learning areas and their associated subjects (e.g. social sciences and history or media studies)
    • a wide range of audiences — topics are more general than specific so they're relevant to students at different educational levels and for wide purposes. For example, we would include ‘space’ as a topic as opposed to ‘Mars’.
  • How we select resources for our topics

    Our topics have the following features:

    • Quality content: We select non-commercial content from reputable organisations. We focus on quality not quantity. Resources must be easy to read or view, accurate, well-organised, and balanced.
    • Unique resources from leading New Zealand cultural institutions: Many of the resources come from the National and Alexander Turnbull Libraries, Archives New Zealand, and other national cultural organisations. These New Zealand, Māori, and Pasifika resources give an essential, national or cultural context to a topic. Many are unique primary sources.
    • Multiple views, meaningful curations: We aim to curate topics that are meaningful. Resources may give multiple viewpoints on a topic or inspire a range of inquiry options.
  • Resource formats and what they include

    Resources in Topic Explorer sets come in a range of formats.

    Media type This means...
    Article A page (or pages) on a website that contains relevant information about the topic.
    Book Digital book or a title available from your school or public library, or from the National Library school lending collections.
    Guides Guides for how to use resources for teaching and learning.
    Image Photograph or gallery sets of images on Pinterest or Flickr (Archives NZ). It could also be an animation, painting, map, infographic, poster, or anything else that is visual.
    Primary source An original, first-hand account by someone who experienced an event. It can be a letter, diary extract, photograph, video or audio recording, painting, or another type of record. Primary sources — how to use them
    Stories A curated set of digital items from National Library content partners through DigitalNZ.
    Video Non-commercial, reputable resources mainly from YouTube and NZ On Screen.
    Website A website about the topic.
  • Using Topic Explorer — search and filter functions

    The Topic Explorer has a range of search and filter functions by:

    • topic — enter a topic (e.g. Ancient Egypt)
    • learning area — covering: all topics, arts, English, health, history, Māori, maths, science, social sciences, technology
    • type of topic set — all, He Tohu, featured (high-interest, newsworthy, or current topics), exemplars.

    If you can't find a topic you need, try our other digital resources: Teaching and learning resources.

  • Responsible use — copyright and attribution

    When you use any of the digital resources included in Topic Explorer, be aware of their copyright requirements and usage restrictions. These are usually made clear on each website.

    If you use a resource, it's important that you acknowledge or attribute it in your work. Check if your school has guidelines for responsible use of other people's work.

    If you're unsure about how to use these digital resources responsibly, ask your librarian or refer to:

Topic Explorer — what it includes

Our topics are designed to inspire curiosity and inquiry. They serve as a ‘starter’ for your students to develop a point of view or follow a line of inquiry on a particular topic.

Topics contain a wide range of resources suitable for primary through to secondary level students. Resources include images, articles, websites, videos, and books from trustworthy, reputable national and international sources (e.g. the Alexander Turnbull Library, Te Papa, Te Ara, National Geographic, BBC, and the Smithsonian).

Each topic covers a range of different learning areas within the New Zealand Curriculum. Many of our topics have a strong focus on New Zealand and Māori and Pacific content.

Some topics also have comprehensive sets of resources on the DigitalNZ website. These sets include:

  • a bibliography with topic-related books that teachers can borrow from our lending service
  • text about the topic taken from the Te Ara or NZHistory websites
  • quick facts about the topic
  • a glossary of terms
  • resources for teachers and students that explore taking action at school and in local communities.

How we choose the topics

Topics are carefully selected by our skilled librarians to meet teachers' needs, and reflect:

  • high demand — topics that teachers often use in the classroom (we monitor what you're asking us for in our lending service)
  • relevance — we watch what's going on in the world and make sure we refresh our topics ready for when you need them (e.g. for the Olympics, elections, or Anzac Day)
  • the New Zealand Curriculum — we choose topics relevant to learning areas and their associated subjects (e.g. social sciences and history or media studies)
  • a wide range of audiences — topics are more general than specific so they're relevant to students at different educational levels and for wide purposes. For example, we would include ‘space’ as a topic as opposed to ‘Mars’.

How we select resources for our topics

Our topics have the following features:

  • Quality content: We select non-commercial content from reputable organisations. We focus on quality not quantity. Resources must be easy to read or view, accurate, well-organised, and balanced.
  • Unique resources from leading New Zealand cultural institutions: Many of the resources come from the National and Alexander Turnbull Libraries, Archives New Zealand, and other national cultural organisations. These New Zealand, Māori, and Pasifika resources give an essential, national or cultural context to a topic. Many are unique primary sources.
  • Multiple views, meaningful curations: We aim to curate topics that are meaningful. Resources may give multiple viewpoints on a topic or inspire a range of inquiry options.

Resource formats and what they include

Resources in Topic Explorer sets come in a range of formats.

Media type This means...
Article A page (or pages) on a website that contains relevant information about the topic.
Book Digital book or a title available from your school or public library, or from the National Library school lending collections.
Guides Guides for how to use resources for teaching and learning.
Image Photograph or gallery sets of images on Pinterest or Flickr (Archives NZ). It could also be an animation, painting, map, infographic, poster, or anything else that is visual.
Primary source An original, first-hand account by someone who experienced an event. It can be a letter, diary extract, photograph, video or audio recording, painting, or another type of record. Primary sources — how to use them
Stories A curated set of digital items from National Library content partners through DigitalNZ.
Video Non-commercial, reputable resources mainly from YouTube and NZ On Screen.
Website A website about the topic.

Using Topic Explorer — search and filter functions

The Topic Explorer has a range of search and filter functions by:

  • topic — enter a topic (e.g. Ancient Egypt)
  • learning area — covering: all topics, arts, English, health, history, Māori, maths, science, social sciences, technology
  • type of topic set — all, He Tohu, featured (high-interest, newsworthy, or current topics), exemplars.

If you can't find a topic you need, try our other digital resources: Teaching and learning resources.


Responsible use — copyright and attribution

When you use any of the digital resources included in Topic Explorer, be aware of their copyright requirements and usage restrictions. These are usually made clear on each website.

If you use a resource, it's important that you acknowledge or attribute it in your work. Check if your school has guidelines for responsible use of other people's work.

If you're unsure about how to use these digital resources responsibly, ask your librarian or refer to: