Whale land

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Māori sometimes remembered significant events and stories about whales by naming islands and landforms after them. You can see examples of these places in the adjacent photographs.

The names referred to, among other things, significant strandings, navigational pathways, and important journeys.

For Maori, the land is believed to be the body of Papatuanuku (the earth mother), the womb that gave birth to people. Imbuing landmarks with the memory of whales shows the reverence with which these creatures could be regarded.

Find out more about whale land

At the exhibition

Emphasise to your students that this section is about Maori traditions, customs, and ways of relating to the land. Ask the students to explore the immediate area then discuss the following questions and topics.

Questions for 5 to 10 year olds

  • Pick one of the images. What can you see?

  • Can you see any shapes that look like whales?

  • Why do the shapes represent whales?

  • Do you know any other stories about whales and the land?

Questions for 10 years old and over

  • Compare how people record their traditions and customs today to in the past.

  • What do these images tell you?

  • Can you think of other ways to record traditional stories?

  • Which is your favourite story here and why?

  • Pick an image and retell the story in your own way.

Teachers’ notes

There are many stories throughout Aotearoa that relate to the ancient ancestors of whales. This section has highlighted just a few from different iwi (tribes).

Related classroom activities

Challenge for the students

Create a mural of your local area using icons to highlight local stories from long ago and from more recent times.

Before visiting the exhibition

Investigate different forms of murals and discuss with the class how they could present a mural eg size, media, positioning.

Investigate the use of an icon to represent something and how the student could use icons to represent the past and how icons could represent themselves.

Investigate some of your local stories.

Investigate some local stories by inviting someone to the class to retell some of their experiences or an ancient story from your area.

Discuss what could be used in or on the mural to represent the stories.

Discuss some of the students stories that they would like to tell.

Discuss what icons could be used to tell their stories.

During the visit to the exhibition

Visit the Whale land segment break up into groups and choose a story and retell the stories of whales in the land.

Investigate how this area tells us the story by looking at the images and the labels.

Discuss what stories you would like to tell and how you could represent these stories with icons or symbols.

After the visit to the exhibition

Create a large mural of your local area highlighting stories that you would like to tell, stories of the land and stories of the people.

Source the media that you would like to use and as a class build, paint and create.

Other suggested learning experiences

  • Story book a local story with images and icons by choosing scenes and build them up to tell that story.

  • Create a story, then record it either on paper or electronically then seal it into a time capsule.

  • Create a diorama of local stories in teams.

  • Create a board game around a local story.