Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to
water, nurture and grow it.... so we ca
n live on the fruit of our learning
and plant more seeds.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Matariki - an overview of a unit of work

I did not know that Matariki existed, except in the sense that it is one word for stars, until 2006 when a colleague had his kids colouring in pictures of stars because it was Matariki.

This photo is from the Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand website where you can learn heaps more about Matariki.  Click here to go to Te Ara and learn more about Matariki.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2009, and a couple of mates decided it was a good idea to get out of bed far too early on a frosty morning to go and take photos of Matariki rising over the horizon on Buffalo Beach in Whitianga.

Last year I did a bit more research into Matariki and started to build some resources.  However, my unit of work prior to when I had planned to do Matariki, had been a lot, and my class was still working on that, so some students did the Matariki unit, but I didn't do it justice.

This year I decided to put in more effort, and we have done more justice to Matariki.  At first I got a few whinges (including from the Maori children in my class) about "Why are we doing this?"  But I reckon that was because the children had no experience of Matariki.  Let's face it, ten years ago 99% of us didn't know about Matariki, but it is so prominent now that New World, the supermarket, had a FlyBuys bonus day in its honour (thanks for those x4 points New World!)!!

Now my class can tell you that Matariki is the New Year in the Maori calendar for growing food.  Matariki is a group of seven stars, known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters in other cultures, which disappears from the New Zealand skies in May and returns after the new moon in June, consequently when Matariki happens each year changes.  The brightness of this group of stars determines the quality of the coming growing season:  bright = good, warm growing season; dim = cold, poor growing season (I'm guessing the Matariki of 2011 was dim here).

I like doing multi-tasked units, roughly based on Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and De Bono's Thinking Hats, with the odd Thinking Key thrown in from Tony Ryan.  Below is what I set the class this year:


My students have a hard copy glued into their Topic Book, and also have access to a copy in our class folder, which they usually copy into their own folder.

The first thing I asked the students to do before they did anythng else from this sheet was to do the mind map in the Visual-Spatial section.  This was going to show us what they knew at the beginning and at the end of the unit, as they would write what they knew already in pen, and as they learn stuff they would record that in colour pencil.

After that I asked them to jump to the Verbal Linguistic box and do some research into what Matariki is and how it is celebrated.  This was an important second step as it gave the students something to hang their wordfind, poems and celebration brainstorm (Interpersonal) on, as well as giving them a strong start for five facts about the constellation (Naturalist).

We did the survey in the Logical-Mathematical box together, but have yet to collate the results as we only got three responses... so may have to put that out to the community again before we can graph the results.

In regards to the research about the protocols around flax, we used the internet as well as a great book called Fun with Flax by Mick Pendergrast.  I bought my copy at Wright's Bookshop in Cambridge, one of the best bookshops to buy NZ books in, especially if you are a teacher, but you can also get this book at the Teachers' Resource Centre in Hamilton on Knighton Road by Waikato University.  It has heaps of great flax weaving challenges in it.

Unfortunately, the weather was not kind to us.  One of the protocols of collecting flax is not to collect it when it is frosty or raining.  It rained or was a frost most of the last two weeks of Term 2, so we have deferred our flax collection until early Term 3, so while the students have done the research into the protocol, the collection, weaving and recording of the process is yet to be done.

A book I can thoroughly recommend to inspire art work, writing and imagination around Matariki is Stories from our Night Sky by Melanie Drewery and Jenny Cooper.  These stories retell the various myths and stories handed down in Maori folklore within the contemporary context of families today celebrating and discovering Matariki.  The art work is beautiful and poems are also included.  I purchased my copy last year through the Scholastic Book Club, but I'm pretty sure you could get this book from Wright's in Cambridge, the Teachers' Resource Centre in Hamilton, Penny's at Chartwell Square... among many other booksellers.

A piece of artwork inspired by a story from the above book.  The students used pastels to complete their artworks.

I am going to go into more detail about the Cinquain poems about Matariki we did in another blog.  I will also go into more detail about the art and the stories we were inspired by in the above book in some other blogs too.  Hopefully I will also be able to tell you about the flax weaving too some time in Term 3.

Below are two pictures of our wall display to whet your appetite.



The black, white and red pictures were started by my CRT release teacher from a picture that inspired her when she googled Matariki images.  The children started with an A4 black piece of paper and were given red and white paper to cut out and glue onto the black paper.  We wanted the children to use Maori motifs such as koru in their design.  Some are better at this than others.  One child, due to a broken arm, did her picture with felts.

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