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LESSON: Knowing our rivers


This activity helps students understand about the river in their local environment which they may recreate around or swim in. In addition, students learn about the significance of our rivers.

This research activity has students investigate their local river. The activity is planned as a group activity where different groups investigate different aspects of their local river and develop a collective understanding of the river.


Achievement Objectives

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa

Te Reo Māori

Taumata 1 (He Pakari)

  • To speak about a subject. Taumata 2

Taumata 2

  • Speak to expand on thoughts.
  • Prepare a diagram where students can outline their thoughts.

Taumata 3

  • To be able to speak to gain understanding and form a conclusion or query.
  • Use research strategies.

Hauora, Taumata 3

Haumarutanga (4)

  • Identify and use safe practices.
Tikanga ā iwi
Te Wāhi me te Taiao

3.2 - Explain reasons and ways that shows our relationship to a special place or an environment.

Te Aho Matua

Ngā Iwi

The student is secure in the knowledge of ancestral links and the hopes and aspirations of whānau, hapū and iwi.
The student exhibits personal pride in their whānau, iwi and hapū.

Te Ao

The student actively investigates and explores the Māori world and the wider world.

Ahuatanga Ako

The student is actively engaged in learning.

Te Ira Tangata

The student is enthusiastic about learning in a nurturing environment based on traditional Māori values beliefs and concepts.

Te Reo

The student is immersed in te reo me ngā tikanga Māori.

Wai Puna


  • Gods of the river.

  • Relationships of whānau, hapū, iwi to the river.

  • Relationships between whānau, hapū, iwi


  • Stories that have been handed down of river names.

  • Being able to navigate the river, to collect food and resources.


  • To understand the tikanga of the river so that we do it correctly. (no matter what their activity) and to return home safely.



Learning Intentions

Students learn about:

  • Aspects of research, investigate and ask questions about a river from home.

  • The special features of a river.

Success Criteria

Students are able to:

  • Research about a special topic


Atlases and maps from the school library.

Atlases and maps - from school library

Blank map of Aotearoa

Blank map of local environment

Places and place names website link

English | Māori



He tīmatangaLesson introduction To introduce the topics of rivers, the tamariki can read the story of Te Tai o Poutini who was the kaitiaki of the mauri of pounamu or a kaitiaki of their own area.

Inquiry question - How is our river?


Wānanga 1


He tīmatanga

This is a research topic. Please see the assessment activities that the children can use to show their understanding of their learning from their research. The teacher will divide students into groups. The main objective of this unit is to carefully investigate and research about old aspects of the river, and new aspect of the river.

Here are some topics they can research

  • Where is the name of our river from?
  • Does the river only have one name? or do different areas have different names?
  • To research names of streams, swamps and lakes that are connected to the river
  • Names of the catchment area - Find where these names came from
  • Name of the source of the river
  • Names of things that live in the river
  • Names of lands that are divided by the river
  • Names of whanau, hapū and iwi living along the sides of the river.
  • What types of food are found in the river?
  • What tikanga should we follow when collecting food? i.e. Karakia, going to right places, collecting at right time, koha, warnings
  • Are the foods that our tūpuna ate from the river, still available to eat today?
    • Q. If they are not alive is it possible to bring them back?
  • Gain the understanding of the lifecycle of the different types of food in the river
  • When are the right times to collect the different types of food?
  • What are the different methods for collecting these foods?
  • How did our ancestors preserve these foods?
  • What types of resources were collected by whānau, hapū, iwi from the river?
  • How were they collected?
  • What were the tikanga of collecting these resources? i.e karakia, correct time and place, koha, warnings
  • What were these resources used for? (weaving, making fishing lines etc)
  • Where are the best places to collect these resources from along the river?
  • Do they have a spiritual or physical kaitiaki?
  • How did our tūpuna use the river for transport?
  • What types of waka was used?
  • How were those waka carved or made?
  • Which type of wood is the best to use to carve a waka?
  • What are the tikanga for carving a waka?
  • Are fishing waka different to travelling waka?
  • How do we read the river to navigate safely?
  • The different names of currents, the eddies, and signs for navigations
  • When are the best times to travel the river?
  • Who are the people and groups that are traveling the river now?
  • Who are the traditional guardians?
  • What are some of the stories handed down about some of these kaitiaki?
  • Who looks after the river now? i.e. iwi, rūnanga, DOC.



  • Prepare a play
  • Hui ā iwi to present their fndings
  • Prepare a speech or report to put forward to the marae annual meeting
  • Send a report to the iwi authority, or the rōpū who looks after the river now
  • Prepare a trip along the river (learn about the places and stories of the river)
  • Mural on the school walls or a building of the community
  • Compose a song, lament, chant, action song, haka or poem
  • A picture of their findings
  • Create an on-going relationship with other groups (scientific, land care or water care)
  • Prepare a movie.




These resources can be organised across the four strands of learning:

Waiora – personal health and development

Piki mai, kake mai. Homai te waiora ki ahau.

Come to me, join with me. Bring me the waters of life.

Students will explore and learn about food and nutrition that sustain the physical body, and explore the notion of sustenance that contributes to the wellbeing of mind and spirit. Students will also describe, consider and analyse aspects of personal growth and development, safety and safe practices.

Koiri - Movement concepts and motor skills

Ko te piko o te māhuri, tērā te tupu o te rākau. As the sapling is bent, so the tree will grow.

Students will develop and apply movement concepts and motor skills and have opportunities to participate in and enjoy physical activities.

Taiao - Health and the environment

Hāhā te whenua, hāhā te tangata. Desolate land, desolate people.

Students will discuss and exchange ideas about the close and enduring relationship between people and the natural environment, exploring ways to lessen harmful environmental impacts.

Tangata - People and relationships

He taura taonga e motu, he taura tangata e kore e motu.

A string of beads is easily broken, but human bonds can never be severed.

Students will describe and analyse human relationships in a variety of contexts, both personal and those of others. There are four encompassing aspects of Hauora, interwoven within all the strands.

Te wairua

Involves Māori perspectives on the fundamental nature of humanity including customs, practices and protocols, Te Reo Māori, values and attitudes.

The purpose of including these aspects is to provide guidance in teaching and learning hauora in safe and positive ways, and to affrm and support unique Māori views of the world.






Wai Puna Model

Wai Puna is central to the development of the water safety Unit Plan available for kaiako in Kura Kauapapa Māori and mainstream kura, primarily for Years 1 - 8. 



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