Matariki: a time for collaboration

Matariki: a time for collaboration

Educator Martin Langdon shares our Learning Team’s 2019 Matariki kaupapa which involved collaborating with other GLAM institutions in the Wellington region so they could reach more tamariki – after all, Matariki is a time for sharing, renewal, and innovation.

Nāku te rourou, nau te rourou, ka ora ai te manuhiri.

With what I have, and what you have, the visitors will be better off.

Chalk drawings
Chalk drawings connected with the constellation Māhutonga (Southern cross) by kids at Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre, 2019. Te Papa

Matariki for schools

Every year we deliver education programmes around Matariki. We’re really fortunate to have a wealth of taonga (treasures) and pūrākau (stories) in our exhibitions spaces to set the context of Matariki within a Māori framework.

Our Matariki programmes show ākonga (students) the importance of Matariki within every day cultural practises, and emphasise the learnings continued in traditions of Matariki today.

The programme is typically really popular with ECE groups and primary schools from the Wellington area.

Rethinking our resources

Our blow-up StarDome is always a hit over the Matariki period – we use it to show kids how to navigate the stars, learn about the nature of star movements, and find the Matariki star cluster.

But over the last two years we’ve had to make the call not to include it in our museum programmes because of how much space it needs, and the time it takes to set up and pack down – we just didn’t have the capacity.

All our resource was going into the StarDome, and some of the other important Matariki kaupapa such as whānau, whenua, kai, and korero were being missed. Plus, we could only cater for so many kids, and tamariki were missing out.

A big blow-up dome on a stage
The StarDome at Expressions Whirinaki, 2019. Photo by Martin Langdon. Te Papa

We needed to come up with a plan to be more effective with our resources.

Could we share and learn alongside others during Matariki? How could we engage with tamariki beyond our walls to foster better relationships in the community? And could we advocate for dynamic learning experiences?

Well this was our concept we came up with…

How could we collaborate?

We decided we wanted to partner with art galleries throughout the wider Wellington Region. We could bring the StarDome, but also some of our handling collection that would showcase the ingenuity, skills, and knowledge our tupuna – developed over generations of wananga at times like Matariki.

We also had technology and ideas we’d been developing and delivering through Hīnātore, our digital learning lab, that we could share – especially with the impending Digital Technologies curriculum / Hangarau Matihiko starting 2020.

We didn’t want to alienate the galleries by offering a programme in their space that they could deliver themselves.

We wanted to bring resources they didn’t have (like the StarDome) out of Te Papa, so more communities could have access.

Man inside the StarDome
Te Papa educator Scott in the StarDome, 2019. Photo by Martin Langdon. Te Papa

Benefiting the people

Thankfully, the amazing kaiako from The Dowse Art Museum, Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre, and Pātaka Art + Museum were really keen to collaborate on this project.

During July we worked together to create and deliver programmes to over 700 ākonga over five days. If we had tried to do this at Te Papa we would have struggled to reach 300 kids and the barrier of access and travel to the city centre would limit the range of communities.

A big part of the project was to enable different museum and gallery kaiako to share time, laughs, kōrero, kai, and insights from our different experiences of teaching within the GLAM sector.

What we learnt has enabled us to develop our own programmes and teaching back to our respective museums and galleries.

A collection of objects on a green table
Matariki handling collection, 2019. Photo by Martin Langdon. Te Papa

The programme components

If you’re a teacher yourself, you might find these programme components we used helpful.

Learn about the traditions of Matariki and how to locate the star cluster in the night sky (30min)

We discussed the traditions of Matariki, what it means in a Māori context, and what and how we can link it to practises today.

We used handling taonga that demonstrated the skill, ingenuity, and creativeness of Māori tupuna.

The sequence of taonga I used, acted as a method of locating Matariki in the night sky by using other constellations and stars to map a journey towards it, for example first find Māhutonga, then Hine Takurua, etc.

Celestial point Handling object
Māhutonga (Southern cross) punga | anchor stone
Hine Takurua (Sirius) pōhā | seaweed storage bag
Tautoru (Orion belt) kererū
Puanga/Puaka (Rigel) pūtātara | shell trumpet
Te Mata-kāheru (Hydaes) tuwiri | drill
Matariki (Pleadies) 3D printed porotiti / pūrerehua (contemporary Māori musical instruments)

Star Dome experience showing the kids how to locate Matariki (20min)

Ākonga learnt how to orientate themselves in the night sky and see how stars move and operate (we speed up time and days in the dome to easily observe these). We then used the steps taught in the first section to locate Matariki before zooming right in to see how the cluster looks from the Hubble telescope (thousands of stars).

Collective art-making response (10min)

We collectively filled in a large circle with drawings and words associated with the stars, cluster, and constellations assigned on the day.

The drawing process was capture over the day to turn into an animation/timelapse.

Thank you

Ngā mihi nui to all the schools how came along to the programme:

Upper Hutt Primary School, Wainuiomata Primary School, Ngāti Toa school, Discover School, Russell School, Natone Park School

Nāku noa, nā


  1. Genius! Loving the scaffold learning opportunities engaging our 21 century learners and the key competencies of which to inspire interest in what can often be a cookie cutter theme.

  2. Love that you are reaching out to the schools and taking the museum to them – that’s a real equalizing behavior for children who may not have the opportunity to come into the museum. Such valuable engagement that can bring a diverse community together.

  3. Ka wananei! What wonderful opportunities for your region’s ākoka to see, hear and do wānaka and whanaukataka in the spirit of the season. Thank you for sharing, Martin. Mauri ora!

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