Activity: How does Matariki fit in the maramataka?

Explore the maramataka and the ways te taiao can show us signs of the season.

The Maramataka, the Māori environmental calendar, determines when Matariki takes place. The Maramataka divides the year into seasons, months, and lunar phases. These don’t neatly line up with the Gregorian calendar of January - December.

Within the Maramataka, time is determined by a number of factors, including:

  • the position of the sun

  • the phase of the moon

  • the rising and setting of stars and

  • tohu from te taiao.

This means that unlike many other holidays, Matariki doesn’t fall on the same date every year. The holiday date for Matariki is the closest Friday to the Tangaroa lunar period during the lunar month of Pipiri. Tangaroa is not a single phase of the moon but rather the last quarter period of the lunar calendar, and is four days long.

Think conceptually

Watch the video below for a two-minute summary of the way Māori decided upon the time for Matariki:

You may also want to watch this longer video, where Professor Rangi Mātāmua explains in te reo Pākehā the way a lunar stellar system of time works.

Hāpu and iwi Māori use the practices of maramataka in many different ways. Depending on your school’s existing relationships, you may be able to learn more with whānau Māori and mana whenua in your area. Make sure you are using whakawhanaungatanga with whānau Māori and mana whenua.

“There’s no such thing as a calendar. Not to us, anyway. So “ngā taka o te marama” is the repeating cycles of the moon. Our old people just used “ngā tohu o te taiao”. It’s only recently that we started to talk about “the Māori calendar” … We have over 500 different types of maramataka from the different areas right across the country.” – Rereata Makiha

Communicate ideas

Ask ākonga to create their own way to communicate to their community about when Matariki falls in the Maramataka. This could be a social media reel, a youtube video, a webisode, a podcast or voice note, or maybe even an infographic.


Like here in Aotearoa, Japan also has a traditional calendar that is informed by the environment. Watch this captivating video of the traditional Japanese calendar in which 72 micro-seasons each connect to, and reflect, just five days in the natural world.

Brainstorm together the big shifts that happen in te taiao across a year of time - from Matariki last year to Matariki this year. It might help to zoom in on just one natural feature near your school environment, such as the local awa or a local regenerating piece of bush. Research the small, tiny changes that you would expect to see over a year. Ākonga could create a simple flipbook to show these changes.

Identify values and perspectives

Connect with someone who has an active relationship to the seasons in your area (eg. people who are involved in non commercial fishing, foraging or marā kai growing). Go out into te taiao with them, to notice and observe seasonal changes together. Listen to the wealth of knowledge they will have about the way te taiao has an ebb, flow and ebb each and every year.

Ask ākonga to take pencil and paper, a camera or a tablet outside and see if they can record any seasonal changes that are taking place in the natural environment right now. Te taiao is shifting and flexing, growing and retracting all the time in many small but special ways. To notice these, we have to go slower and observe.

“Be still. Listen. Like you, the Earth breathes.”

– You Are Stardust, Elin Kelsey

Discuss together:

  • What might be some of the changes we would see in society as a whole, if we were to take our cues from the maramataka and te taiao rather than our diaries?

  • What descriptive words could we use for this part of the year? How is the energy different in May, June and July compared to December, January and February?

  • If you were going to choose something to observe across the course of a year in te taiao, what would you choose and why?

There are many links that could be made here to rich curriculum journeys in The Living World strand of the Sciences.