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Learning about Matariki and Waitā through play.

Updated: May 26, 2023

This year I focused on two whetū (stars), Matariki and Waitā. I do this as a way to connect, explore and enrich my understanding of them. This process then cements my use and sharing of them in play throughout the year.

Last year I looked at all 9 stars in art. Getting to know them all and what they were tied to from the Te Ao Māori perspective.

The previous year I looked at one whetū in the cluster Hiwaiterangi/Hiwa – it is the youngest star in the cluster, the star you send your wishes to. Exploring wishes and aspirations with children and whanau created a stronger connection to each other.

This year I will be all about Matariki and Waitā.

Matariki is the mother of the Matariki cluster and encourages gathering of all people. Many early childhood settings enjoy gathering, making soup and celebrating. I found a fabulous book that supports the gathering and the inclusion of many to share in ‘a boil up’. In the story Mere McKaskill collects the items she needs for a 'boil up' and invites those who sell or give her the items to join her to eat the 'boil up'. Each person or family are from a different culture and when they arrive, they bring food to share and have a feast.

A ‘boil up’ is a Māori method of cooking, you boil root vegetables such as kumara and potatoes, puha (watercress) and pork bones. In Monique Fiso (Nga Rauru, Ngati Ruanui) beautiful book Hiakai (‘hungry’ in te reo Māori) she explores many foods including the ‘boil up’. But even better offers a detailed history of early Māori cooking and food gathering. She provides the foods into ngā tipu (plants), whenua (land) and kaimoana (seafood) and the tikanga for forging and collecting them.

I brought Mere McKaskill's boil up book to life with loose parts, inside to make a 'boil up' with the book close by. For many the kupu 'boil up' was new to them and through play and conversation we explored its meaning and the importance of Matariki. Instead of making soup together this year (in July) we will make and share a 'boil up' and explore the book Hiakai.

I have also set up the tuff tray as we lead into Matariki, with water, loose parts and guests. Some of the guests got a little wet! A tip for water play with a book is to use a zip lock bag 😉

Waitā is the star of the salt waters, seas, oceans and everything living in it. The ocean is always an interest with the children. I try and make links to the 9 stars of Matariki during the year and not just at Matariki and a way to support this is with reverse or backward planning.

Reverse planning helped me to see the missed opportunities from the past to share and connect to Waitā in the environment and through play. Supporting me to be more aware and intentional in the future.

Here are some of them:

I didn’t realise how many there were until I did the reverse or backward planning process. The process is to have a goal (connect play and ideas to Waitā) and then work backwards from there to develop your plan. By starting at the end and looking back, you can prepare for success, see missed opportunities or areas you need professional development in and then map out what you may need to do, say or think about in order to reach the goal. I have found that doing this process makes me more aware or conscious of my teaching.

Of course, I also made some story baskets!

I started with a new book out Flit the fantail; and the Matariki map where Flit is ingenious and uses a kawakawa leaf (you can get my FREE pattern in my group Exploring why I teach .ec) as a map to get back to his nest. The Promise of Puanga is another and it which looks at the star Puanga as the start of Matariki. Some Māori iwi believe that it was the rising of the star Puanga that heralds the new year and not Matariki. And for some in Aotearoa they can't see Matariki due to mountains and look to Puanga.

My knowledge of Matariki is from Dr Rangi Matamua and his book Matariki: the star of the year he explores questions like: What is Matariki? How did Maori traditionally celebrate Matariki? When and how should Matariki be celebrated? The book is based on research and interviews with Maori experts and sheds light on Matariki.

The nine stars of Matariki:

Matariki – is the mother of the cluster and encourages gathering of all people.

Pōhutukawa – connects Matariki to the dead and is the star that carries our dead across the year and is the star of remembering our passed ancestors. Our family and friends who have died.

Tupuānuku – is tied to food that grows in the ground.

Tupuārangi – is tied to food that comes from above your head such as birds and fruit.

Waitī – Watches over the fresh water environments and everything living in it. Creaks, rivers, lakes, springs which then flow into Waitā.

Waitā– Represents the salt waters. Seas, oceans and everything living in it.

Waipunarangi – Watches the skies, rains, snows, sleets which nourishes the earth and contributes to the water cycles.

Ururangi – is tied to the winds, North, South, East and West.

Hiwaiterangi/Hiwa – is the youngest star in the cluster, the star you send your wishes to.

Kia pai tou tatou Matariki.


P.s. there are affliate links and if you buy anything I may get a small commission.

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