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  • This Connected article recounts an important story from the oral tradition of Tainui. It tells of how the iwi’s ancestor Whakaotirangi first brought kūmara and other plants to Aotearoa and describes the techniques she used to plant, grow and store them. The success of Whakaotirangi’s gardens made it possible for Tainui to settle in one place rather than having to keep moving to seek food. Whakaotirangi’s kete of kūmara changed how people lived across Aotearoa.

    Rights: Crown 2020

    Connected article: Whakaotirangi and her Kete of Kūmara

    An article in the 2020 level 2 Connected journal ‘Digging deeper’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

    Illustrations by Taupuruariki Whakataka Brightwell.

    Science concepts

    The key ideas covered are:

    • scientists are people who carefully and systematically observe what happens to learn about how the world works
    • recognise that all living things have certain requirements so that they can survive
    • we need to know what particular plants need if we want to grow them for our needs.
    Rights: Dr Megan Balks

    Te Parapara Garden

    Kūmara plants, growing in Te Taupa at Te Parapara Garden.

    Te Parapara is designed to incorporate two realms representative of both wild, uncultivated foods and cultivated or farmed foods. Te Ara Whakatauki (Path of Proverbs) lies between the Piazza (section of garden) and the waharoa (gateway). This realm represents the unculivated foods under the care of Haumiatiketike. Te Taupa sits beyond the waharoa and is under the care of Rongomātane renowned as atua of cultivated foods such as the kūmara.

    The garden takes its name from the pre-European Māori settlement that occupied the site.

    Check your school library for the article from the 2020 level 2 Connected journal ‘Digging deeper’, download it as a Google slide presentation from Tāhūrangi or order it from the Ministry of Education.

    Rights: Crown 2020

    2020 Connected level 2: Digging deeper

    The cover of the 2020 level 2 Connected journal ‘Digging deeper’ published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand. This issue includes the articles ‘Squawkzilla’, ‘City of bugs’, ‘Whakaotirangi and her kete of kūmara’ and ‘Making scents’.

    Teacher support material

    The teacher support material (TSM) can be downloaded from Tāhūrangi (Word and PDF files available).

    It has two learning activities that support science and social science aspects of the New Zealand Curriculum:

    • Following Whakaotirangi
    • Our food basket, present and future.

    Related content

    Māori were New Zealand’s first soil scientists and modified soils to promote crop growth.

    Discover how some unique food products from taewa (Māori potatoes) are being developed.

    The article Te ao Māori concepts within Kiwi KaiNgā ariā o Te Ao Māori kei roto i te kēmu Kiwi Kai explores concepts such as mana atua, mauri and te mana o te taiao and actions we can take to support Papatūānuku.

    The Connected article Te tapa ingoa explores how early Māori went about naming and grouping the plants and animals they found around them.

    For more Connected garden resources, see:

    Discover more about the importance of whakataukī.

    Use Plant reproduction – literacy and numeracy learning links to record and deepen student understanding of key science ideas.

    For more resources linking science and gardens and plants, see our gardens collection or Pinterest board Garden science.

    Check out our entire range of Connected articles here. We’ve curated them by topic and concepts.

    Useful links

    Read about the 2023 Mount Roskill Grammar School Curious Minds project that explored kūmara cultivation through a te ao Māori lens, drawing on tikanga, waiata and kōrero.

    Visit the Tāhuri Whenua – National Māori Vegetable Growers Collective Facebook page to read about their team, crops, projects and to stay up-to-date with latest activities.

    At the end of 2022 Takarangi Research won Marsden Funding for a new research project to rediscover hidden narratives from Māori oral historical perspectives where kūmara are central threads.

    The Connected journals can be ordered from the Down the Back of the Chair website. Access to these resources is restricted to Ministry-approved education providers. To find out if you are eligible for a login or if you have forgotten your login details, contact their customer services team on 0800 660 662 or email


    The Connected series is published annually by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

      Published 5 May 2021, Updated 10 January 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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