Classroom Activities on Maori Culture

Written by darci pauser
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Classroom Activities on Maori Culture
The Maori people settled New Zealand before or during the 13th century. (map of new Zealand image by patrimonio designs from

The Maori people migrated from east Polynesia to New Zealand some time prior to the 13th century. Anthropologists have concluded they are the first people to permanently settle the island. After Europeans came to the island, life changed drastically for the Maori people. Today, lessons and activities educate students around the world about the Maori society and culture, past and present.

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Koru Art

The koru symbol holds great importance in Maori art and culture. Derived from the shape of an unfurled fern plant, the spiral shape represents the continuity and circularity of time and space. Discuss the role of the koru symbol with students. Ask them to practice drawing their own spiral shapes similar to the Maoris. After practice, ask the students to draw spirals with chalk on construction paper. Have the students colour the spirals and background in with oil pastels. Then, have the students paint black tempura paint over the construction paper to create black outlines around the spirals. Let dry and hang where all of the students may see each others art. Ask them to notice similarities and differences in each other`s spirals. Ask the students to share what a spiral means to them. Older students may write down their observations and answers.

Creation Myth

The Maori creation myth describes a beginning of nothingness. Out of nothing, a god and goddess, Ranginui and Papatuanuku, appeared. They were the sky and earth. They hugged each other so tightly that the sky and earth combined into one. One of their children forced them apart to make room for the sunlight. Another child of the god and goddess made a human with red ochre. The human then made a wife, and all people are her descendants. Ask students what they think about this creation story, and tell which are their favourite parts. Describe the creation story obtained from the Bible and ask them to compare and contrast the stories. Older students may write down their observations and answers. Use the worksheet provided by the Sainsbury Center for the Visual Arts to aid in the activity.

Stick Game

Obtain traditional Maori music for the students to listen to. Explain that the Maori use pairs of sticks to make music and play music games. Give each student a pair of sticks. Obtain sticks from the ground, made with PVC pipes, or purchase music sticks from a children`s musical supply. Have the students sit in a circle. Prompt the students to practice a rhythm with the following steps: tap sticks on ground, tap sticks together, pass right stick to the right-side neighbour, tap sticks on ground, tap sticks together, pass left stick to the left-side neighbour. Repeat until the students are accustomed to the moves. Turn on the music and let the game begin!

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