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  • Observation is a key component of mātauranga Māori and science. This activity enables ākonga to use the science capability ‘Gather and interpret data’ as they observe and sketch a local kōwhai tree.

    Rights: Chloe Stantiall

    Observing and sketching kōwhai trees

    Tamariki at Silverdale Normal School focused on observing the different parts of a kōwhai tree – bark, seed pods, flowers and leaves.

    Students were instructed to sketch what they could actually see rather than what they thought they could see. This activity challenged students’ perceptions of what they thought a tree, flower or leaf looks like. It broadened their understanding of the diversity within the simple concept of a tree.

    Many of my students finished this task very quickly, saying they were ‘done’ after only quickly looking at the kōwhai. It was at this point that I taught/modelled the difference between sketching what you think you see and what you can actually see. I can recommend having more paper at this point in the lesson, encouraging kids to try and try again.

    Chloe Stantiall, Silverdale Normal School

    In this activity, students are introduced to the difference between looking and observing. They will then observe and sketch different parts of a kōwhai tree.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • identify various parts of a kōwhai tree – for example, bark, trunk, seed pods and flowers
    • observe the kōwhai tree and make labelled drawings of it.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Nature of science

    Students use scientific conventions when they sketch and annotate diagrams that reflect their observations of a kōwhai tree. This supports student learning in the ‘Communicating in science’ strand of the Nature of Science.

    Related content

    Read about the role of observation in science.

    Watch the video Exploring and observing.

    Related activities

    Observation: learning to see helps students to appreciate the difference between looking and observing.

    Titiro – observing my environment encourages students to use all five senses during their observations.

    Useful links

    Kōwhai – part of Experiencing native trees in your green space – includes images and short descriptions about the parts of the kōwhai tree.


    This article was written by Chloe Stantiall as part of the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative project Envisioning student possible selves in science: Addressing ‘plant blindness’ through place-based education. The project explores students’ sense of place and science-related possible selves through local curriculum units that focus on plants. Chloe was assisted by researchers Maurice M. W. Cheng and Bronwen Cowie from The University of Waikato.

      Published 29 May 2024 Referencing Hub articles
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