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Seaweek – Kaupapa Moana 2020

February 27th, 2020 By Rene Burton

Let your students' imaginations run wild and support them to become the future kaitiaki of Aotearoa as we celebrate Seaweek in New Zealand from Saturday 29 February to Sunday 8 March 2020.

Two primary school students on a beach participating in a science project using ocean research equipment on the sand at sunset with water and other figures in the background
Marine sanctuaries are living laboratories — the perfect places for kids to get a hands-on understanding of the marine world. Image: Ocean Guardian by Claire Fackler/NOAA. Flickr. Public domain.


Tapu ātea.
Tapu a Rangi.
Tapu a Nuku.
He hau maiangi, he hau pūkerekere ka kawe a Rongo, a Tū!
He tai hukahuka, he tai karekare ka kawe a kura huna ki tua!
Ko te mauri tapu!
Ko te mauri ariki!
Ko te mauri kia oho!
Ko te mauri kia rewa!
Ko te mauri ki aweawe!
Tōia te mauri ki roto ki tēnei waka huia!
Ka tau, tau, tau te mauri!
Haumi e! Hui e! Tāiki e!

I start by sharing this karakia to invite you to participate, and to connect wairua and physical, to the intentions of this mahi.

This karakia acknowledges the space in which we are having this discussion, along with the heavens, and the earth. It talks of two types of winds that carry messages, the light breath, and the swirling gusts. It speaks of the swirling foam from rough seas, and the still waters, both holding and carrying sacred knowledge. It then calls to awaken mauri, to lift it high, to give it power, and for us to hold it within, letting it settle, before we go forward united, ready to progress the purpose of coming together.

Connecting with our seas

Seaweek – Kaupapa Moana is New Zealand’s national week celebrating the sea. This year Seaweek takes place from Saturday 29 February to Sunday 8 March 2020. The theme of Seaweek this year is, ‘Connecting with our seas — Ko au te moana, ko te moana ko au — I am the sea, the sea is me.’

‘We live by the sea, which hems and stitches the scalloped edges of the land,’ writes Patricia Grace in her novel ‘Potiki’. 75% of New Zealanders live within 10 km these scalloped edges of the whenua. Whilst most of us spend our time with our feet planted on solid ground, we are still deeply connected and dependent on the ocean. Dr. Sylvia A. Earle estimates that one specific type of plankton, Prochlorococcus, provides the oxygen for one in every five breaths we take.

Personal connection

My connection with the ocean goes much deeper than just the air that we breathe. I have a deep spiritual attachment to both the lands and waters of Aotearoa; I feel it in my bones. This connection is part of my being; where land, water, nature, and person are connected, inherently. One cannot exist without influencing the other.

I have been involved in conservation throughout my life, most recently as a Senior Marine Mammal Medic with Project Jonah. I have worked with tohorā and other taonga that reside within the oceans. This work and the work I also have done with manu Māori, has highlighted to me the wealth and importance of indigenous knowledge held by mana whenua. I believe that this is something we should bring to the fore when teaching our tamariki about Seaweek and any other topics.

Fish genealogy chart
Traditional Māori knowledge includes whakapapa (genealogies) of fish and other underwater species. Based on Fish genealogy: Tangaroa — the sea, Te Ara.

Mātauranga Māori

Over the centuries, Māori have built up an extensive knowledge of the ecosystems of Aotearoa. These are shared through traditional and modern practices of conservation, education, and kaitiakitanga.

It is vital that we incorporate the knowledge and leadership of Māori when we educate our tamariki on how we can be kaitiakitanga. Watch the following interview with Hori Parata, to hear a Māori viewpoint, told by Māori.

Interview with Hori Parata (YouTube video, 29:50)

You can also watch this video (Re: website, 5:07) of Hori’s son, Te Kaurinui, describing his experiences harvesting tohorā and the connections between Kauri and tohorā.

Here are some other resources that look at the māturanga Māori viewpoint relating to conservation and Seaweek.

Science is about discovery — dive in

You don’t need to be an expert, a scientific paper can start with, 'Once upon a time…' Science is for everyone, kids included (TED video, 15:10) suggests knowledge created by kids should carry the mana of ‘real scientists.’ It also acknowledges that it is ok to step into the unknown with your students, conducting true science that is meaningful for your community.

If you are not ready to jump directly into publishing your first scientific paper, why not start with some citizen science. Try Marine Metre Squared, a citizen science project creating baseline data on the state of seashores around New Zealand. Science Learning Hub has a list of other citizen science projects.

Curiosity cards and fertile questions

Seaweek provides a fantastic opportunity to develop key competencies of the curriculum and engage with learners both inside and outside the classroom. Use our curiosity cards and fertile questions on whales, kauri dieback, and whakapapa to inspire inquiry and generate rich discussions, helping the students to develop knowledge, ideas, and opinions as they undertake their inquiry.

Watch these videos for more information and ideas about using fertile questions:

Topic Explorer

This resource helps you find quality, curated resources on a range of topics to support and inspire inquiry. Topic sets relevant for studies of, and around, Seaweek include:

Many Answers

Many Answers entries guide students to resources about popular topics, including


Get your students to create a DigitalNZ story about Seaweek or an environmental issue that you are going to engage with. Here is an example looking at whales, demonstrating how you can use primary sources and additional information to curate information to inspire and inform your learners.

If the weather takes a turn for the worse, engage your students in learning through the online collections. Search DigitalNZ to explore the concept of changing baselines over generations. Look for comparative images or archival information to investigate multi-generational impacts. Here are two images showing a similar outlook of Waiwera estuary, the first from the late 1800s and the second from the 1960s. What does this outlook look like now, and how has the environment changed?

Black and white image of the estuary at Waiwera Beach circa 1890
Image of the estuary at Waiwera Beach, circa 1890s, Rodney District. Ref: 1/2-096238-G Alexander Turnbull Library.
Colour slide of the estuary at Waiwera beach in 1965
35mm colour slide showing a view of the Waiwera River estuary, 1965.  Ref: 958-116 Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.

Celebrate Seaweek with books from the Schools Lending Collection

You can also order sea-related books for reading engagement and topic inquiry from Services to Schools. Information on requesting books is found in the lending service section of our website.

We asked our team of librarians to recommend their favourite Seaweek reads. The titles below are some of the many great books available from our lending collection.

Ngā mea kei rō Moana e whakapā mai ana! nā Linda Jane Keegan i tuhi; nā Minky Stapleton ngā pikitia i tā; nā Ngaere Roberts ngā kōrero i whakamāori
This light-hearted rhyming junior-fiction story follows the experience of a little girl’s day at the beach with her two mums, as she unexpectedly encounters a range of sea life. Also available in English ('Things in the Sea Are Touching Me!).

Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale by Ruth Paul
A junior picture book to introduce children to the rare Hector’s Dolphin, with beautiful illustrations and a little fact blurb in the back.

Little Hector and the Big Idea by Ruth Paul
A junior picture book to introduce children to beach cleanups. Little hector wants to protect his friends from ocean pollution, and make his bay safe again.

Maps of the World's Oceans: An Illustrated Children's Atlas to the Seas and All the Creatures and Plants that Live There by Enrico Lavagno and Angelo Mojetta, illustrated by Sacco Vallarino
A stunning illustrated atlas to the seas and all the creatures and plants that live there. It also includes facts about the emergence of the continents, ocean vocabulary and biodiversity.

Saving the Oceans From Plastic by Rachel Hamby
Junior non-fiction series that examines biomes that are in danger and the various ways that people are attempting to restore them. In this case the ocean biome, plastic pollution, reducing plastic usage, production, and what lies ahead.

Shark Quest: Protecting the Ocean's Top Predators by Karen Romano Young
This book looks at the role of sharks in the food chain, how researchers study sharks and how students can become more involved in learning and helping to protect them.

Rising Seas: Flooding, Climate Change and Our New World by Keltie Thomas, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich and Kath Boake W
This book gives youth an eye-popping view of what the Earth might look like under the rising and falling water levels of climate change.

Ocean Engineering and Designing for the Deep Sea by Rebecca Sjonger
Working in oceans presents unique challenges. Readers will learn how ocean engineers design equipment and processes to help scientists that study ocean systems, such as oceanographers, do research in deep waters, long distances away from land, and in harsh weather conditions.

Other teaching resources for Seaweek

  • Seaweek – Kaupapa Moana on TKI provides some ideas for classroom programmes or school-wide activities. Seaweek supports students to develop understandings around the theme of sustainability, which is integral to the vision, principles, and key competencies of 'The New Zealand Curriculum'.
  • Protecting our marine world by the Department of Conservation contains teaching and learning material to support an integrated, inquiry learning process.
  • Seaweek resources on the Science Learning Hub contains a selection of unit plans and other teacher support materials.
  • Seaweek 2020 resources — a list of very useful resource links for teachers on the official Seaweek website.
  • Young Ocean Explorers — has a whole lot of videos and resources to inspire kids to love our ocean, through entertaining education.
  • Project Jonah free educational kit — Project Jonah New Zealand's World of Whales resource kit has an in-depth teachers’ resource manual, lesson plans, and a range of fascinating activities.
  • Experiencing Marine Reserves — a national programme of experiential learning about marine conservation.
  • BLAKE NZ-VR — a virtual reality experience which connects young Kiwis with the marine environment.

Developing future kaitiaki

Conservation is about compassion and caring (e aroha e manaakitanga). When you show compassion to the land, the rivers, and the sea, you also care for the sacred sites of ancestors. We are all kaitiaki of the environment, so stand up and do your bit.

Seaweek presents opportunities to engage with young people on conservation issues, and to assist them to prepare to be future caretakers of our planet.

There are plenty of events planned throughout the country, so what are you waiting for? Dive in!

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