Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • Winter brings opportunities to view the night sky and the opportunity to incorporate authentic cross-curricular science learning.

    Aotearoa first celebrated Matariki as an official public holiday in 2022. It is the first public holiday to recognise te ao Māori. Although the date of Matariki changes from year to year, it will always be in June or July. The arrival of Matariki is seen as a sign that it is time for people to gather, honour the dead, celebrate the present and look to the future.

    Rights: Fraser Gunn

    Matariki (Pleiades) star cluster

    Wayfinders have used the stars as a compass for millennia.

    Matariki (also known as the Pleiades) is one of the most widely known star clusters around the world! The Science Learning Hub – Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao has a number of resources that introduce both the science and mātauranga of this special group of whetū/star cluster.

    Linking whetū to the health of te taiao

    Matariki presents an authentic context to explore te taiao (the environment) through scientific and mātauranga Māori lenses.

    In 2022 Aotearoa New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ used the whetū as a framework to explore the state of our environment in their Environment Aotearoa 2022 report. Each whetū in Te Kāhui o Matariki is associated with an aspect of wellbeing and the environment. Each whetū is supported by an article that explores the environmental domain that it represents, connections to our wellbeing, environmental indicators of its present state and mātauranga Māori.

    Rights: © Crown Copyright

    Matariki – a sign of wellbeing

    Matariki represents the domain of people and wellbeing in Environment Aotearoa 2022.

    Source: Ministry for the Environment, Stats NZ and data providers and licensed by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

    The Te Kāhui o Matariki and the environment webinar unpacks the ideas connected to this report and the associated resources. The supporting collection Matariki and Environment Aotearoa 2022 provides additional context and pedagogical insights.

    Rights: Crown copyright 2018

    Maramataka – the Māori calendar

    The lunar calendar is used for observing changes to te taiao.

    Illustration by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White, from Listening to the Land, 2018 Level 3 Connected journal Cracking the Code published by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

    Matariki and maramataka

    Matariki marks the first month in the maramataka – the Māori lunar calendar. Maramataka acknowledges the interconnectedness of humans and nature, emphasising the impact of natural phenomena on the environment. It reflects the holistic approach of Māori science, encompassing cultural, spiritual and scientific dimensions, fostering a deep appreciation and respect for te taiao, its rhythms and need for harmonious coexistence.

    Whetū and ngā mata o te marama (phases of the Moon) inform many traditional practices, including wayfinding. Māori possess a wealth of astronomical knowledge known as tātai arorangi. However, tātai arorangi is just one form of early precision measurement.

    Observing the night skies

    The star cluster gets easier to see after Matariki as it rises earlier and earlier in the morning, then later and later at night. Find the cluster by looking north-east after the festival of Matariki – start with Orion’s Belt and then follow the three stars across the sky to the left until you find the distinctive grouping of Matariki. This can be a great class stargazing exercise.

    Take up the challenge

    Naming the whetū in Te Kāhui o Matariki – this activity enables students to identify and label the nine whetū in Matariki and learn about their associations with wellbeing and the environment. It includes the labelling interactive Te iwa o Matariki.

    Rights: Forest & Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club

    Te Kāhui o Matariki

    Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars that signal the beginning of a new year.

    As the stories of Matariki differ between different iwi and hapu groups, so do the spelling of the stars' names. Note that some spellings use hyphens and others do not.

    Constellations in the night sky – this activity explores star clusters and constellations and cultural legends about them.

    Exploring the images and whakataukī connecting to Te Kāhui o Matariki – use this cross-curricular activity to explore written and visual components of the Environment Aotearoa 2022 report’s Matariki representations. Great inspiration for poetry and art!

    Matariki and picture books

    Our recorded webinar Picturebooks for Matariki with Associate Professor Nicola Daly supports teachers to help deepen both their students and their own understanding of Matariki.

    The helpful collection Matariki picture books and science contains the resources discussed during this webinar.

    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato

    Picture books about Matariki

    Picture books offer a great way to engage students in science based discussion. They offer a variety of perspectives for students to consider.

    Related content

    Explore our range of resources on navigating without instruments in this introductory article.

    Want to find more resources on astronomy – we have lots under our astronomy topic and you can use the filters to narrow the results.

    Useful links

    Visit the Matariki website.

    Learn about Matariki with astronomer Dr Rangi Matamua on the LEARNZ website – chose either English or te reo Māori.

    For helpful information and teaching resources, see the Matariki section on the Te Wānanga o Aotearoa website.

    Utilise the free software Stellarium to find the best date and time for your students to go Matariki hunting.

    The Living by the stars website provides links to presentations and resources connected to Professor Rangi Mātāmua’s knowledge of Matariki.

    Learn more about Matariki and how it became an official public holiday on the New Zealand Parliament Pāremata Aotearoa website.

      Published 24 June 2024 Referencing Hub articles
          Go to full glossary
          Download all