Using resources to support significant events — celebrating Suffrage 125

In term 2 2018, our school library network meetings around the country looked at how you can use resources to inspire and inform learning, with a particular focus on commemorating significant events. Our facilitators used women's suffrage to showcase the topic. This is especially significant for New Zealanders as we celebrate 125 years since New Zealand women gained voting rights on 19 September 1893.

There are many significant events that New Zealanders commemorate each year. They may be religious, cultural, or historical events that have helped shape our society. They can be an opportunity to celebrate, or reflect on difficult times, or to show gratitude for those whose lives made a difference.

Person cutting out a picture of Kate Sheppard

Our approach

We started our network meetings thinking about some of the possible starting points for inquiry into women's suffrage. These might be:

  • the history of women's suffrage — looking at the causes and impact of the movement
  • focusing on an individual
  • finding out about protest
  • learning about resilience
  • talking about gender relations
  • investigating local links to the suffrage movement — what's happening in your school or community that helps students make a personal connection?

Types of resources

There are many types of resources you can use to inspire and inform an inquiry, and you might gather information to share — or have students search your library or online — using a range of these:

  • books
  • images
  • audio/visual resources
  • ephemera
  • objects and artefacts
  • digital and online media
  • local people and places.

Resources for Suffrage 125

At the network meeting, we looked at some great resources to help you and your students find out more about Suffrage 125:

You can find information and teaching resources about the Suffrage Petition and gender equality on these websites:

We've created a resource map for NZ Women's Suffrage (PDF, 1.2MB), which is perfect for years 7 to 10. It includes resource suggestions and example inquiry questions for a range of learning areas.

You can also see other exemplars and guides to support inquiry learning and find out how to use them on the Services to Schools website.


These are a fantastic way to make information, ideas and concepts more easily understood and accessible to all students. This is particularly important for students who are learning about a topic for the first time.

  • How can you involve students in the process, for example, choosing and/or making resources to incorporate into the display?
  • How can your display connect students to current matters that relate to the event?
  • Apart from books, what else can you add to your display to generate interest? Think about adding different sorts of resources to your display to spark students' curiosity.

Many significant events have a symbol that helps identify the event and tells us a bit about it. The white camellia is a striking symbol of women's suffrage. Camellia trees are in bloom right now, but if you don't have access to any, you could create your own paper flowers, or have students make them, to include in a Suffrage 125 display. There are lots of versions with instructions and patterns available online, such as this one from Lia Griffith.

Taita College students using Suffrage 125 resources
Taita College librarian Lydean Herman took this idea (shared by Services to Schools' Facilitator Katrina Young-Drew) and had students help create red and white camellia flowers for a display in the library.

You can download Suffrage 125 images (and other resources) from the Ministry for Women's Suffrage 125 website.


There are many ways you can involve staff and students in commemorating Suffrage 125. Think about who you can work with to make activities happen. Perhaps there are teachers, local politicians, family or friends in your community with a connection to the petition who can help.

Here are some of the ideas that came up in our network discussions:

  • Ensure, where possible, that activities fit with curriculum and/or department plans in your school.
  • Make it personal and relatable for students.
  • Try arts and crafts, for example, making camellias.
  • Set up a debate or organise a vote about a relevant topic.
  • Search the signatories on NZ History and have students read and/or write biographies.
  • Make posters after viewing material published at the time of the vote.

The Ministry for Women's website has a searchable list of Suffrage 125 events and celebrations around New Zealand — use it to find out what's happening nationwide, or near you.

Celebrate Suffrage 125

Now is the perfect time to celebrate Suffrage 125 in your school library.

If you try any of the ideas shared here or at our term 2 network meeting we'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment on this blog post.

By Miriam Tuohy

Miriam is the Senior Specialist (School Library Development) for Services to Schools.

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