Page 4 – Matariki teaching activities

Measuring time

  1. Why do we bother to measure time in days, months and years?
  2. Why are there so many ways of measuring time? In a paragraph, of between four and six lines, explain why there are so many different calendars in the world.
  3. What are at least two things that these calendars seem to have in common?
  4. What are at least two major differences between the different calendars described?
  5. According to the Muslim and Jewish calendars, what year were you born in?
  6. Wouldn't it be simpler if there was just one, single calendar that applied to everyone? You could consider this as a class debate with teams of three debating the pros and cons of the concept. Normal debating rules apply. So that everyone can be involved, small groups could help prepare arguments that are then presented by selected speakers. Alternatively, each student could take a position on this statement and give their own view with supporting arguments.

Matariki: The Maori New Year

Refer to the material on Matariki available from Te Ara to help you complete these activities.

  1. In Māori what does Matariki mean?
  2. What are some of the explanations given for the origins of the cluster of stars associated with the Māori New Year?
  3. In traditional times what did Māori acknowledge with the arrival of Matariki?
  4. How did Matariki affect Māori farming?
  5. What role do kites (pakau) play in Māori celebrations of Matariki?

Celebrating Matariki

At the beginning of the 21st century Matariki celebrations were revived. Festivals organised to celebrate Matariki have grown in size: a Hawke’s Bay festival attracted 500 people in 2000. Three years later 15,000 people came. Te Rangi Huata, who helped organise these festivals in Hastings, believes that Matariki is becoming more popular because it celebrates Māori culture and in doing so brings together all New Zealanders. He compares it to the American holiday of Thanksgiving or Halloween ‘except it’s a celebration of the Māori culture here in (Aotearoa) New Zealand. It’s New Zealand's Thanksgiving.’

The increasing popularity of Matariki has led some to suggest that it should replace Queen's Birthday as a public holiday. What do you think?

Imagine you are an adviser for the Department of Labour. This government department is responsible for administering the Holidays Act 2003. You have been asked to write a paper for the minister of labour and the prime minister. They will use this paper to give Cabinet information to help it discuss the benefits and disadvantages of replacing the existing public holiday of Queen’s Birthday with a day to celebrate Matariki.

1. Your task is to:

a. Outline at least three advantages for New Zealand if the existing public holiday of Queen’s Birthday was replaced with a day to celebrate Matariki. You must explain why you believe this decision would be of benefit to New Zealand. For instance:

One advantage is that a public holiday to celebrate Matariki would be an acknowledgement of New Zealand’s first settlers.

b. Outline at least three disadvantages for New Zealand if the Queen’s Birthday holiday was replaced by Matariki. You must explain to the ministers why you believe this decision would be bad for New Zealand. For instance:

Other ethnic groups in New Zealand might demand that their New Year should also become a public holiday, such as Chinese New Year. Where will it stop?

c. In no more than 150 words, you must advise your ministers which argument to support and the reasons why you believe this action should be taken, i.e. to replace Queen’s Birthday with Matariki or not. They will be expecting you to give them answers to some possibly tricky questions raised by those who might disagree, so consider this in your final advice.

2. Alternatively:

You could use the issue as a topic for an editorial that might appear in your local newspaper.

It is the start of Matariki and your newspaper is presenting a feature looking back at the history of the Māori New Year and its place in our national calendar. Write an editorial, of no more than 200 words, expressing your views on whether or not the time has come to replace the Queen’s Birthday public holiday with Matariki. Consider issues like the general history of these two events and whether it is now time to develop something new to move New Zealand through the 21st century. Or is it more important to retain traditional links with our past?

Have a look at some examples of editorials to get a sense of the style of writing.

These can be read out to the rest of the class or published as a class booklet that all can read. If your school has a school-wide focus for Matariki, a selection of these arguments could be presented at a school or syndicate assembly.

3. Better yet, try a class debate. You could consider this as a class debate with teams of three debating the pros and cons of the idea. Normal debating rules apply. Small groups could help prepare arguments that are then presented by selected speakers to ensure all can be involved.

A school-wide celebration of Matariki

You and your classmates could organise a school-wide celebration of Matariki. As a class you could brainstorm ideas for activities the school could participate in. For instance, you could organise a kite festival, or design posters and art work that acknowledge and promote Matariki for display around the school. Another possibility could be drama performances that explore some of the stories and themes associated with Matariki.

Matariki and your community

Many communities run festivals and events to celebrate Matariki. Find out what’s happening in your community. Local newspapers, information centres and libraries are good places to start.

Storyboarding Matariki

There are a number of Māori legends associated with Matariki. Present one of these legends as an illustrated story. Your presentation should be no bigger than A3.

How to cite this page

'Matariki teaching activities', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 19-Jun-2018