You may have heard of Matariki, you may not. Come and explore this unique annual celebration in New Zealand (Aotearoa) with us.  Matariki in early education represents a great opportunity.

What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Māori name for a seven star cluster also known as the seven sisters or Pleiades (the ancient Greek name).

In translation Matariki means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki).

For some Māori iwi (tribes), the first pre-dawn rise of Matariki in late May or early June, signals the beginning of the Māori New Year. 

“Ka puta Matariki ka rere Whānui.
Ko te tohu tēnā o te tau e!

Matariki reappears, Vega starts its flight.
The new year begins!”

— Te Papa Tongarewa

Not all iwi celebrate at exactly the same time, because for some the rising of Puanga (Rigel in Orion) signals the start of the New Year. In 21st century Aotearoa (New Zealand) Matariki is celebrated throughout the month of June as a time of reflection, renewal, family and celebration.

How is Matariki celebrated?

Issued to coincide with the dawn of the Māori New Year, the 2016 Matariki stamp issue examines the art form of kete; its origin, development and significance to te ao Māori (the Māori world).Issued to coincide with the dawn of the Māori New Year, the 2016 Matariki stamp issue examines the art form of kete; its origin, development and significance to te ao Māori (the Māori world).

All around New Zealand, communities hold celebrations for Matariki.

Auckland has #Matariki16 and in Wellington the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is holding the Matariki Festival 2016 from June 2-26 with a diverse range of events celebrating Maori culture with storytelling (korero), kai (food), dance (kapa haka) and song (waiata).

Each year NZ Post  issues a series of commemorative stamps to mark Matariki.

 

In early learning environments Matariki often means sharing stories, talking about whanau (family) and creating amazing art.

In the Tui room at  Village Kids in Havelock North, children used star shaped cutters to press, scratch and rub to create a colourful night sky with the stars of Matariki.

Look for Matariki in the night sky

Source: Richard Hall, Astronomy NZ
Source: Richard Hall, Astronomy NZ

 

You’ll have to be up early! From early June, before sunrise (between 5.30-6.30am), look towards the north-east horizon for the stars that look like a pot.

They make up Orion’s belt (Tautoro). Then trace a line northwards. Look for a faint sparkle of tiny dots, about the same width as Orion’s belt is long. This is the Matariki star cluster. See  A beginner’s guide to finding Matariki for a more detailed guide. Here’s an image from Astronomy NZ to help you.

You can celebrate Matariki too!

Here are just a few simple ideas to help you experience Matariki in your daycare or preschool:

Storytelling

Retell some Maori myths and legends

“According to myth, when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children, the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.”

Sources to look for stories include the Ministry of Education’s site –  Māori Myths, Legends and Contemporary Stories and The National Library of New Zealand

Kite Flying

“A special feature of Matariki celebrations is the flying of kites – according to ancient custom they flutter close to the stars”  Quotes from Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

But if you’re going to fly a kite maybe you can make them first!

 

Craft Activities

Find loads more crafty ideas here

 

Song/Waiata

Lyrics

Waiti Waita Waipunarangi
Tupuanuku Tupuarangi Ururangi e
Koinei ngā tamariki o Matariki
(These are the children of Matariki)
Ngā whetū e pīataata i te rangi e
(The bright stars that shine in the sky)
Ngā whetū e pīataata i te rangi e
(The bright stars that shine in the sky)

 

Books

NZ BOOK AWARDS: Picture Book of the Year 2016

NZ BOOK AWARDS: Picture Book of the Year 2016

The Little Kiwi’s Matariki written and illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson – won the picture book award at the 2016 NZ Book Awards. It blends English and te reo Māori to tell the story of the Little Kiwi waking forest creatures to come and see the amazing sight that is Matariki.

The Seven Kites of Matariki by Calico McClintock & Dominique Ford – comes highly recommended by teachers and has teacher notes with suggested activities.

Videos

There are a range of video retellings of Maori myths including Matariki myths on youtube.

Many of them have been made by primary school students.

Tamarereti Ka hanga te Ranginui o te pō: Tamarereti Creates the Night Sky.

Maori Creation Story in Sand Art by artist Marcus Winter

More Resources for Teachers

Educa Pinterest Board  – Matariki in Aotearoa (NZ)

See Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) for a pdf booklet on Matariki with star names and the Maori Lunar Calendar
More Matariki  facts and history

WickED – Find out more about Matariki

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