Ko te whānau o Matariki: Matariki Education Resource 2015 – Part 2

During the coldest time each year the Matariki star cluster comes rising up for the first time in the eastern sky. This occurrence marks the beginning of an important time of year – the Māori New Year.

In this series of blogs, Te Papa Education hopes to introduce you to each of the seven members of this star whānau, from the perspective of Ngāti Toa Rangatira, so that it may support you and your whānau in marking Matariki this year. Ideas for activities for young children based around each star will be included too.

Matariki, Photographer: Te Papa, © Te Papa

Matariki, Photographer: Te Papa, © Te Papa

In Ko te whanau o Matariki – Part 1, we met Matariki’s two eldest daughters, Tupu-ā-nuku and Tupu-ā-rangi (check it out if you haven’t already).

Let us continue with Part 2…


Mirror Lake, New Zealand by p-a-t-r-i-c-k, https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrickkiteley/2634401177

Mirror Lake, New Zealand by p-a-t-r-i-c-k, https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrickkiteley/2634401177

Waipunarangi accompanies her grandmother to the waters – the oceans, lakes and rivers – where she prepares the children of Tangaroa to feed the people. 

Papatūānuku also teaches her about how the water that spills down from Ranginui collects together to provide drinking water for the people, animals and plants.

Te Marae door showing Ranginui, Photographer: Michael Hall, © Te Papa

Te Marae door showing Ranginui, Photographer: Michael Hall, © Te Papa

She also watches how the water is evaporated by the heat of Tama-nui-te-rā (the sun) into the clouds that cloak Ranginui, so that may rain once again.

Waipunarangi knows that if you give to others, all that kindness will come right back to you, and it is this lesson that she shares with us.

Activity ideas:

  • Compose and practice saying a centre/school pepeha (cultural introduction). Said as part of a mihimihi (introduction/speech), a pepeha connects you to your whanau, as well as to the whenua (land). Significant places/landmarks in the area you live, or with which you affiliate, are named. The closest waters, whether awa (river), roto (lake), or moana (ocean) are often included. Create your pepeha together with a Te reo Māori speaker if you can. This will ensure you get a pepeha that works best for you and your context (pepeha should not be just a ‘cut-and-paste’ affair). That being said, this is a basic structure from which you could start:

        Ko ______ te maunga (My mountain is _______)

        Ko ______ te awa (My river is _______)

        Ko ______ te kura (My centre/school is _______)

        Ko ______ te akomanga (My class group is _______)

        Ko ______ te/ngā kaiako (My teacher/s is/are _______)        

        Ko ______ ahau (I am _______)

Record your pepeha pictorially. You could draw, paint, make a collage using cut-outs and photographs, or even use digital software like KidsPix.

  • Set up some winter water experiments! Can you find a place outside where it is cold enough for a container of water to freeze? Can you get water to freeze during the day as well as overnight? If you put another substance in your water, like salt, does it change what happens? Can you find a way to pick up a whole sheet of ice without it breaking into pieces!? (This was one of my favourite winter pastimes growing up on a farm). The blog sites Lemon Lime AdventuresScience Kids, and IFL Science has some other cool ideas too.
  • Explore the possibilities of watercolour paints! These resources on techniques and projects for young children are worth a look.  
  • There are many types of kākahu (cloaks). For example, korowai have tassels, while kahu huruhuru are feathered. All kākahu have different purposes and are worn for different reasons. Find out more about these taonga (treasures) this Matariki. Te Papa’s Kākahu | Maori Cloaks webpage has heaps of great information and pictures! 
  • If we look above at night, we see another of Ranginui’s kākahu twinkling in the sky. Design and make your own star inspired cloak! Kohai Grace shares her efforts in this episode of Tales from Te Papa
  • Grab your loved ones, put on your gumboots and a raincoat, and together take part in a favourite childhood past-time – splashing in the puddles!
  • The tiled flooring at Te Papa’s Marae, Rongomaraeroa, represents the cloak of Papatūānuku. See it’s beautiful geometric pattern:
The kākahu of Papatūānuku, Photographer: Michael Hall, © Te Papa

The kākahu of Papatūānuku, Photographer: Michael Hall, © Te Papa

  • Some cloaks will have a tāniko (ornamental border) made up of geometric shapes. Find out more about these patterns, and others in used in Māori art, like tukutuku and kowhaiwhai. Use ngā tapatoru (triangles), ngā taimana (diamonds) and ngā tapawhā (squares) – key shapes in all Māori weaving arts – to make your own patterns. Share the meaning behind your mahi (work) with others.
  • Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we are never far away from the coast. In fact, approximately 90% of us live within 50kms of it! In Māori culture, the sea is of the utmost importance; “often considered as the source and foundation of all life”. 
The seas and coastlines of Aotearoa

The seas and coastlines of Aotearoa

Why not get familiar with your coastline and its common plant and animal inhabitants? The Northern and Southern New Zealand Seashore Guides created by the University of Otago’s Marine Study Centre are incredibly helpful – and best of all come in English and Te reo Māori versions!

Litter and debris are major environmental issues affecting our coastlines. Can you play a part in the solution by starting your own clean-up operation and learning to act and think sustainably

  • Taniwha often act as kaitiaki (guardians) to our waters, warning visitors not to misuse and mistreat them. Te Papa’s Taniwha was made during SeaWeek in 2014. Find out more about the taniwha living in your area (we have Ngake and Whātaitai here in Wellington harbour). Kōrero (talk) with your tamariki about the taniwha you could make to protect your environment. Southend Kindergarten’s taniwha lives on their front fence in Carterton, keeping a watchful eye over the tamariki and the centre. The tamariki know not to go past the taniwha without their kaiako or their parents.
Southend Kindergarten's Kaitiaki, Photographer: Donna Hewison, © Southend Kindergarten

Southend Kindergarten’s Kaitiaki, Photographer: Donna Hewison, © Southend Kindergarten

Waitī and Waitā

Very furry bumblebee by Dave Young, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dcysurfer/2280358816

Very furry bumblebee by Dave Young, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dcysurfer/2280358816

Waitī and Waitā are Matariki’s twins. Papatūānuku knew that they would be able to care for the smallest and fastest of creatures – the land invertebrates – because they too know about being a team.

Even though they are small, they are many. When our land invertebrates work together, they can they can do amazing things! Ngā pī (bees), for example, pollinate all the flowers so that the plants grow, and we have air to breathe! Ngā pōpokoriki (ants) build huge, complicated tunnel cities underneath the ground, and carry many times their body weight!

When we see these two stars in the sky, we are encouraged to join in and support each other too.

Activity ideas:

  • There are many different types of land invertebrates living in our environments. We group them, in the first instance, by looking at their external body features. I find number of legs is a great starting point! Practice sorting a range of everyday items into groups to prompt thinking around classification. Is there more than one way to sort your objects?
  • I have eight hairy legs and two body parts…Create a visual minibeast guess-who or who-am-I game. See if you can identity minibeasts on the basis of their features.
  • Learn the ‘Head, Thorax, Abdomen‘ waiata (song) to help you remember the body parts of an insect. This might also help you to distinguish them more easily from other invertebrates you see.
  • Did you know that not all invertebrates belong to the family ‘insects’ or ‘arachnids (spiders)’?! Snails, for example, are molluscs. Slaters, or woodlice, are crustaceans! Check out the snails’ biggest relation – the colossal squid in the Mountains to Sea exhibition – and the slaters’ biggest relation – the spider crab (on the wall in Nature Space) when visiting Te Papa next.
  • Become invertebrate protectors! Come up with your own ‘code of conduct’ to inform your interactions with these small creatures. Help your friends and whānau to consider their own attitudes towards invertebrates too. Save a spider from being squished unnecessarily today!
  • Join in ‘doing some science’ in your own backyard/outdoor environment, focused around the invertebrates who make these places home. Te Papa is working on an education resource this year, entitled ‘It’s a Bugs Life’, with three Wellington region ECE centres that could support you! Check out our introduction to the project here, and an update from one of the participating centres around their focus: ngā pungawerewere (spiders).
  • There are many native invertebrate species here in New Zealand; so special that they are found no where else in the world!  Find out more about these fascinating, but more often forgotten taonga (treasures). Create large scale 3D representations of your favourites using box construction, playdough, clay or craft materials.
  • Make a wētā hotel, butterfly garden, worm farm or bee garden to support the invertebrates living in your garden, local park or bushland (or to encourage more to come!).
  • We have noticed that you are interested in spiders… Our Te Papa Spiders of New Zealand webpage gets some of our highest visitation! This resource has some great information from our Te Papa spider expert, Phil Sirvid, and pictures taken by Te Papa photographer, Norm Heke.
  • Get involved in our DeCLASSIFIED exhibition citizen science project – Spiders with Te Papa on NatureWatch NZ.


Lucas with Teta Nabila by Sherif Salama, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mazboot/277485096

Lucas with Teta Nabila by Sherif Salama, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mazboot/277485096

Last, but not least, we have Ururangi – the youngest child. She enjoys racing all of her sisters to get to her kuia first! She claims the best spot on her grandmother’s lap and wraps herself in her arms, settling in for her favourite stories. Her tenacity and excitement (along with the awhi (hug) and her aroha (love) of course!), helps Papa to get into the right mood after the cold and darkness of takurua (winter), to prepare with her older mokopuna (grandchildren).

Ururangi reminds us that a good attitude is always key to success!

Activity ideas:

  • Having an awhi with Ururangi gives Papatūānuku the warm fuzzies! Hoatu te tangata tiaki koe e pā ana ki he fuzzie mahana! (Give someone you care about a warm fuzzy too!) 
Warm Fuzzies

Warm Fuzzies

  •  Go out and visit another community group in your area – perhaps a retirement home like these tamariki did. Take your favourite pukapuka (books) along to share.
  • Write and illustrate your own Matariki storybooks. These might be a retelling of a legend you have heard before, or a brand new story that has come entirely from your own imagination! Look at books in your classroom. See if you can recognise some key book features, and include these in the making of yours. You might like to put all your stories together and make an anthology (collection of stories). You might like to work together on one Big Book (a lattice binding is a good way of keeping this together). This mahi (work) will surely be a great addition to your book corner or school library!
  • Host a grandparents’ day at your centre or school!
  • Our elders have so much wisdom to share. They have already experienced the situations we are facing, and they have had personal experience of major events from our history. Indeed, they just have had so many more years of practice doing the things we like to or need to do! Ask elders from your community for advice, for their stories, or for tips and assistance this Matariki.
  • Between 2015-2019 we recognise the centenary of the First World War. This reminds us that New Zealand was a very different place in the past. Find out more about the childhood of your ancestors, grandparents, or parents. Visiting the Home-Grown cases in Te Papa’s Slice of Heaven: New Zealand’s 20th century exhibition using this general family trail, or this trail based around toys could help.   
  • Do love to race like Ururangi? Why not have a tabloid sports day where you can use more of your key motor skills? My favourite games are the bean bag toss and over and under!


Ko hine te iwaiwa, ko hine korako, ko rona whakamau tai, 1993, New Zealand. Kahukiwa, Robyn. Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Ko hine te iwaiwa, ko hine korako, ko rona whakamau tai, 1993, New Zealand. Kahukiwa, Robyn. Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

But what about Matariki you may ask? Well, she is doing what all good mothers (and other caregivers) do – watching over  and helping out her tamariki. With her support, encouragement, and supervision, they will be able to do their very best.

Activity ideas:

  • To help you to remember the names of Matariki’s six tamariki, you may like to learn this beautiful waiata: ‘Nga Tamariki o Matariki’ by Erana Hemmingsen:
Waitī,  Waitā,  Waipunarangi
Tupu-ā-nuku,Tupu-ā-rangi, Ururangi e
Koinei  ngā tamariki o Matariki 
(These are the children of Matariki)
Ngā whetū e pīataata i te rangi e  (x2) 
(The bright stars that shine in the sky)
  •  “Happy hands are helping hands / and helping hands are best!” Set up a helpful hands system at home or at your centre/school. Make your own handprints to make it really personalised. This helping hands waiata is a bit catchy too.
  • The tuakana-teina relationship was integral in traditional Māori society. This is where an older (or more expert) tuakana (often brother, sister, or cousin) would help out and guide a younger (or less expert) teina (often a younger sibling or cousin – generally of the same gender). The roles between people could be reversed at anytime, to reflect the activity and learning being undertaken. Build an ongoing tuakana-teina relationship with someone new at your centre or school this Matariki.
  • Have a shared kai for your caregivers! Make sure your parents, teachers, and community group leaders know how much their time and effort means to you.  
  • Learn more about our Community Helpers. Perhaps arrange for members of the NZ Fire Service, Police, or Ambulance service to come and visit you, or go on an excursion to visit them. Set up socio-dramatic play areas, and make your own props to explore these important support services further. 
  • The kaupapa (theme) of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) in 2015 is: Whāngaihia te reo Māori ki ngā Mātua – helping parents to pass te reo Māori on to their tamariki. Take on this challenge! I have found the Waiata Mai resource invaluable in extending my everyday reo with children from kupu (words) to ngā kupu ruarua (phrases)! Check out these blogs too: Teacher Professional Development session in 2014Tū whitia te hopo – Tip 1 and Tū whitia te hopo – Tip 2.
  • Experience the rising of the Matariki star cluster this New Year – attend a pre-dawn Matariki viewing event in your location! If you are unable to go stargazing outside, this great online planetarium interactive might be helpful. Set your location, and the time lock first – else you may find yourself a little ‘lost in space’. Orientate yourself so your looking at the eastern sky. At about 7.45am on the 18th of June, you will see Matariki come into line with the NE compass point. 

The third (and final) part of this resource: Ko te whānau o Matariki – Part 3, covers some of the other important star personalities linked with the Māori New Year: Puanga/Puaka; Pūtātara; and Hine-takurua.

Thank you to our Kaumātua, Te Waari Carkeek, and our Kuia, Whaea Rihia Kenny, from Ngāti Toa for all your help.

Ko te pai ki a koe i tenei Matariki katoa! 

Looking for more Early Childhood resources? All of our blog posts can be found here.



22 Responses

  1. Michele Coxhead

    I cant seem to download/listen to the waiata matariki. Would you be able to send a link ?
    Nāku noa
    nā Michele

  2. Hayley

    Hi there
    Just wondering if you have the guitar chords for Nga Tamariki o Matariki please

    • Rebecca Browne

      Hi Hayley,

      I don’t have them off hand but will try work them out for you this week.

      Hope that helps,

    • Rebecca Browne

      Hi Hayley,

      I’m no guitar expert but I think this pattern will work (please excuse lack of macrons – I’m on my home computer)

      (C) Waiti, Waita, Wai-puna-rangi (G) Tupu-a-nuku, Tupu-a-rangi, Ururangi e
      (G) Konei nga tamariki o Matariki (C) Nga whetu e piataata e te rangi e
      (G) Nga whetu e piataata e te rangi e

  3. Rebecca Browne

    Have updated link to Otago University’s Seashore guides! It works now 🙂

  4. Katherine

    What a wonderful resource, thank you so much for sharing! If possible, could you also please email me the Matariki waiata? I’d love to share this with my children 🙂

  5. Karen

    Thank you for this wonderful information. I would also like to teach our tamariki the Matariki waiata, would you mind sending it to me to share with the children so that we can teach them. Many thanks. Karen

  6. Patricia

    Thanks Rebecca, I have been looking for a resource like this for about 3 years now and have purchased a lot of books but this explains it well and having the ideas to implement with the children as well is a great help. Thanks again.

  7. Tere

    Ataahua rawa he rauemi mo tatou katoa kia mohio nga tino korerorero e pa ana kia a Mataariki.

  8. Kallie Ngakuru-Syder

    This is a fantastic resource for my school. It is wonderful to see information that teachers can use and activities associated to it. Thank you for sharing this. Happy Matariki.

  9. Leonie Ngeru

    Could you please email me the Matariki waiata from this email? I have just started learning Te Reo and I am going to my daughters Matariki celebration next week.


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