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Matariki

Whakataukī for Matariki – Ka puta Matariki ka rere Whānui. Ko te tohu tēnā o te tau e! Matariki re-appears, Whānui starts its flight. Being the sign of the [new] year!

Matariki is the Māori name for a group of stars known as the Pleiades star cluster. The Māori New Year is marked by the rise of this star cluster and the sighting of the next new moon. In 2019, the Matariki cluster will set on 27 May and return from 25-28 June. The Matariki period is 25 June-3 July. 

The physical appearance of Matariki in the sky was traditionally used by a tohunga (a priest or expert) as a forecast of the year ahead. Clear and bright stars signalled warm and productive seasons, and hazy or shimmering clusters meant a cold winter was coming and ground for crops was prepared accordingly.

Each iwi has their own stories and perspectives about Matariki. Today Matariki is generally seen as an important time to celebrate the earth and show respect for the land. It is also a time to acknowledge those who have passed away and plan for the year ahead. Matariki is a good opportunity for Māori communities to share their stories and culture with other New Zealanders, and many events and activities are planned throughout the country. 

Matariki and The New Zealand Curriculum

By celebrating Matariki with your students and the wider community you can bring the principles of the NZC to life, especially the Treaty of Waitangicommunity engagement, and cultural diversity. Matariki provides an opportunity for students to explore the values of diversity, community and participation, and respect for self and others. Matariki is also a useful context to promote the development of key competencies and to examine the social science concepts of cultural identity, place and environment, and continuity and change.

What can you do to celebrate?

  • Share the history and stories of Matariki with your staff and students. 
  • Build stronger connections with local iwi and hapū, and harness their knowledge of Māori language, culture, and identity.  
  • Give your students a chance to research and create their own Matariki stories to share online.
  • Host a hāngi or feast for your local community. Celebrity chef Peter Gordon has shared some cooking tips for traditional Matariki cuisine, such as Rewena bread and mayonnaise with fresh kawakawa leaves.
  • Plant trees in conservation areas, or start planning your school garden.
  • Integrate Matariki with mathematics and statistics through these NZ Maths units and activities.
  • Research what festivities are being held in your area and get involved.

We asked New Zealand teachers how they celebrate Matariki with students and community. Here's what they said:

  • We had our local astronomy club come to school with their telescopes and had an evening with our school community looking at planets and stars – Rebecca Best.
  • We are going to have a Matariki breakfast using the inspiration from Andre Ngapo and his Ready to Read story – Sez Tohill.
  • Our students host an evening for our community providing food and entertainment like kapa haka and the Matariki story in drama – Sharon Marsh.
  • We do a dawn planting followed by a community breakfast and spend the day engaged in activities about Matariki – Wendy Sheridan-Smith.
  • We have a school hangi which the children help prepare. This year we will have an art and drama focus as well – Amy Millar.

Reading resources available in your school: 

  • Lighting the Sky with Raspberry Pi – Connected 2018, Level 2 
    School journals.
  • Celebrating Puanga at Ramanui – School Journal Level 2 November 2017
  • Matariki – Ready to Read series, guided at Gold
  • Matariki Breakfast – Ready to Read series, shared text
  • Celebrating Matariki – School Journal Level 2, Number 2, 2005
  • Matariki – School Journal Level 2, Number 2, 2003
  • Lanterns for Matariki – School Journal Level 1, Number 3, 2005 
  • Matariki Returns – Connected 3 2003

You Tube Clips

Matariki Animation
This clip is a short Matariki animation prepared for Matariki events.

Matariki Myth: Tamarereti
This clip tells the Matariki myth of Tamarereti.

Matariki star weaving
This clip explains how to weave Matariki stars out of paper strips.

Supporting websites and resources

Matariki for schools – New Zealand History
This resource includes a range of approaches and activities to help students learn about Matariki. 

Te Iwa o Matariki
This website by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa explains the appearance of nine stars during Matariki. 

The story of Matariki – Te Ara
This resource offers the full story of Matariki with images and a short film clip.

Matariki education resources – Te Papa
These teaching resources aim to raise your students’ awareness of Matariki. 

Matariki – National Library
The National Library has curated a range of teaching and learning resources to help you celebrate Matariki with your students. 

Matariki – Kiwi families
This resource provides information about Matariki and ideas on how this special event can be celebrated by families.

You might like ... 

Rosalie Reiri.

What Matariki means to me
In this blog Rosalie Reiri, education facilitator, talks about the personal significance of Matariki and provides some key messages for teachers.

Updated on: 03 Jun 2019


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