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LESSON: Testing materials for flotation


Being able to stay afloat, especially after a while in the water, gets harder and tiring for people.

Accidental immersion, where people didn’t intend to be in the water, but ended up in the water is a major cause of preventable drowning fatalities. This activity helps tamariki learn about traditional floatation materials and about modern day items including regular household items.





Achievement Objectives

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa

Te Reo Māori (2)

Language Functions

Oral - Can converse and order conversations to achieve a desired outcome.

Written - Can fnd meaning in a piece of writing and can understand the writers intention. Language strategies

Written - Can use strategies to fnd meaning in stories and presentations that are new to them.

Social Studies (2)

Can describe links between people and environments.


Technological Features can discuss the relationships between people and their environment

Explain the rules around the uses of certain objects.

Test and evaluate

Objects that have been studied.

Health (2) Health & Safety

Can present rules and safety practices to do with staying safe in a variety of contexts.


Te Aho Matua

Te Ira Tangata
  • The student is enthusiastic about learning in a nurturing environment based on traditional Māori values beliefs and concepts.
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.
Āhuatanga Ako
  • The student is actively engaged in learning.

Wai Puna


  • Traditional stories of iwi areas.


  • To understand the floatation devices.

  • To learn survival swimming strokes.


  • Karakia.



Learning Intentions

Students learn:

  • Traditional stories where floatation devices and survival methods were used

  • Survival methods in the water

  • To predict, test and evaluate the use of everyday objects and materials as floatation aids.

Success Criteria

Students are able to:

  • Name traditional materials used as floatation devices or used to make waka

  • Practice survival methods in the water

  • Work within a group to predict, test and evaluate the suitability of regular items as floatation aids.

  • Write a statement saying which items they would grab if they were at the river, lake or beach to help someone float.






Atlases and maps from the school library.

Atlases and maps - from school library

Blank map of Aotearoa

Blank map of local environment

Places and placenames website link

Illustration of Te Whanganui Ā Tara



Inquiry question - What strategies could our tūpuna have used to help them survive in the water?

Wānanga 1


1. Prior knowledge.

Brainstorm with students

  • What do you know about floatation?
  • Do you need to worry about being able to float when you go fshing, diving or swimming?
  • When would you need to float?
  • What objects float?
  • What objects sink?
  • Why is it important for us to know how to float?
  • What are some swimming styles we can use to help us stay survive in the water.

2. Teacher retells the story of Rauhoto and Te Urunga Or Hinepoupou who swam the Cook Strait. Rauhoto and Te Urunga:



  • On a map look at the distance Rauhoto or Hinepoupou swam. Whole Class discussion
  • How do you think she could do this?
  • How would you prepare for a swim like this?
  • What methods would she use to float?
  • What strokes could she have used and why?
  • What floatation devices could she use?
  • What could Tuwharetoa have given her to help her float?

3. Survival swimming activities

Discussion of different survival strokes such as:

  • Dog paddle
  • Side stroke
  • Survival backstroke
  • Survival breaststroke
  • Sculling horizontally

Use the web link below to watch videos and practical activities that could be completed with the children.


Wānanga 2


Swim session

1 Class discussion on the different survival strokes discussed in the previous session

2 Swimming Lesson at local pools

  • Kia Maanu Kia Ora Water Skills for Life Lessons
  • Lesson Floating on Water – Personal Buoyancy
  • Moving through the Water – Propulsion
  • Survival Strokes and sculling horizontally activities


Wānanga 3


Pātai: What did our tūpuna use to help them float and what could we use?

Teacher retells the story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai.

  • Class discussion on what Hinemoa used to help her float?
  • What strokes could she have used to help her survive the long swim?
  • Why did she take off her clothes to swim?
  • Tamariki brainstorm and the teacher records all the different floatation aids that they know can support a person in the water (so they don’t sink). Both traditional and modern day materials can be included in the brainstorm.

Ask, what materials are these floatation aids made from?

Examples may include plastic, light weight wood such as cork or balsa, air (in inflatable devices), different fabrics, rubber, closed-cell plastic foams (PVC) and kapok.


Teacher places students into groups of four (or models with whole class). Each group has a bucket of water and is provided with samples of different materials and items to test for their ability to float for one minute or more (a piece of wood, pumice, hue, or wood samples with different densities, plastic, tin foil/aluminium, small plastic bottle, seaweed, denim fabric, other fabric samples such as polyester, wool, polar fleece and neoprene wet suit material). Tamariki record their predictions, carry out the testing then record their results. Tamariki then make suggestions as to why some materials are better in the making of floatation aids than others.


Wānanga 4


1. Pool session

Tamariki are put into peers. Each group are given a number of items such as plastic bottles, denim clothing, wetsuits, polyester, wood etc. In peers the tamariki are to try and use these items to help them float. Tamariki record which items help them to float.

2. Kia maanu Kia Ora (Akoranga WSL)

  • Lesson Floating on Water – Personal Buoyancy
  • Moving through the Water – Propulsion
  • Survival Strokes and sculling horizontally activities



  • Survival swimming lessons

  • Class discussions

  • Tamariki predictions and results of which materials are better for floatation aids




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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