Kuaka the Explorer

The story of who we are comes from the people and places that are important in our life. The Kuaka the Explorer activity encourages children and young people to visit the places that are important to them and their family.

Teaching concepts

  • Topics: Identity, culture, place and environment, migration and mobility.
  • Concepts: Whakapapa, whanaungatanga, tūrangawaewae.

Meet Kuaka

The Kuaka the Explorer activity is about exploring and capturing our places in this world.

To help make the exploration more engaging and meaningful, we have developed a mascot, 'Kuaka the Explorer' — a cheeky character who loves going on adventures and having photos taken!

The kuaka, or bar-tailed godwit, has a strong sense of place. This resilient bird undertakes one of the longest known migrations with an annual 11,000 km non-stop migration from the Arctic to New Zealand. Kuaka fly in a flock, taking turns between leading the pack and supporting the leader.

Colour photograph of a kuaka in flight over the ocean with its wings spread.

Image credit: Bar-tailed godwit by Aaron Maizlish. Flickr. Some rights reserved: CC BY-NC 2.0.

Suggested activity

  1. Make your own Kuaka the Explorer. Make one yourself — it could be fun to decorate and personalise — use our template (pdf, 159KB). Family and friends might like to join you — kuaka travel in flocks!
  2. Discuss what places you want to explore — some ideas to get you started are listed below.
  3. Record the places you have explored with your kuaka. You could do this by taking a series of photos, drawing pictures, write a story. These could be used to make a photo montage or scrapbook.
  4. Share your Kuaka the Explorer adventures with others — share with classmates or host a show-and-tell evening with your family/whānau.

Ideas for exploring

  • Explore your 'favourite' place, or places that relate to 'the story of you', such as the bush, beach, river, mountains — or perhaps a special garden or tree house.
  • Explore places where you gather with others and/or celebrate special occasions, such as a marae, church, school, community hall, or sports ground.
  • Explore places with a family connection, such as where your family members were born and the houses they grew up in, the schools they went to, and places they worked.
  • Explore places of local significance, such as monuments, museums, cemeteries, parks and reserves (you might like to look on the internet for suggestions).

You'll have lots of ideas too, which is great. Kuaka the Explorer is about exploring who you are (your identity) and where you come from (your whakapapa), and recording it so that you can share your story with others.

  • Kuaka the Explorer activity exemplar — pdf and accessible version

    Exemplar created by Suzanne Allen (pdf, 1.8MB)

    Ko wai au?

    Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of Rākautātahi marae.

    Ko Ruahine te maunga

    Kuaka the Explorer held in front of misty view across farmland in Ruahine foothills.

    I was born at the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges. My father was a shearer and bought a farm with his brother. When I see the mountains, I feel a sense of calm and belonging. I am home.

    Ko Makaretu te awa

    Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of a river surrounded by bush.

    I spent many hours playing in the river with my brothers and sisters. We used to ride our horses loaded with food and our camping gear. We’d cook on the open fire, go eeling and have a load of fun. We caught lots of eels.

    Ko Rākautātahi te marae

    Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of Rākautātahi marae.

    The marae is where we all come together. Our family is spread around the world now. People from home take good care of it while we are away. I can remember my grandmother, making beautiful silk flowers. On the wall in the wharekai is a mural to remember our whānau who went to war. It makes you feel proud being in there.

    I was born at Raymond Maternity Annexe

    Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of a paddock overlooking farm land.

    This was the site of Raymond Maternity Annexe. My father’s generation were born at the farm. Grandad helped Nana. By the time I was being born we were all born in a special part of the hospital just for that. All of my family and a lot of my cousins were born here. My daughter Holly too. Now people have babies in hospitals, in baths, in homes. There is more choice.

    I attended Takapau Primary School

    Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of Takapau Primary School. The words 'Manners maketh man' are displayed on a fence.

    I attended Takapau Primary school with my four brothers and four sisters, and my cousins. There were so many of us. Playing paddertennis and softball were favourite things to do at intervals. We had marble crazes too. We used to have a concrete New Zealand in the middle of a paddling pool or sandpit. I thought that that was awesome when I was little. My father and his brothers and sisters went there too. Everyone in our community went to the same school. We all knew each other.

    We celebrated important occasions at St Vincents church

    Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of a church with bush in the background.

    This is a café now, but it was St Vincents church in Takapau. People in our family got married here, and celebrated other important occasions. Fred and I were baptised here.

    We spend time at Te Paerahi, Porangahau Beach

    Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of Porangahau Beach. It shows a path through the dune grass to the beach.

    We love spending time at Te Paerahi, Porangahau Beach. I love being out there when the wind is howling along the coast, and when it’s fine and sunny.

    Jack loves fishing and diving. It's a lovely way to start the day with pan-fried flounder when he gets them. Charlie is a crackerjack at making paua fritters. Jessie and Luciano, our dogs, love the wide open spaces and chasing seagulls. They never catch any!

    This land connects me to my childhood

    View from the fence of a white house with section.

    My brothers and sisters sold mushrooms as kids to help pay for this section. Then we spent long hours cutting back lupins every summer.

    It is the last piece of land that connects me to my childhood. I hope to leave it for my children to use with their children.

    My home now

    Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of a house at night.

    This is my home now. I love being home — having family meals, gardening, reading, just enjoying the moment.

Kuaka the Explorer activity exemplar — pdf and accessible version

Exemplar created by Suzanne Allen (pdf, 1.8MB)

Ko wai au?

Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of Rākautātahi marae.

Ko Ruahine te maunga

Kuaka the Explorer held in front of misty view across farmland in Ruahine foothills.

I was born at the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges. My father was a shearer and bought a farm with his brother. When I see the mountains, I feel a sense of calm and belonging. I am home.

Ko Makaretu te awa

Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of a river surrounded by bush.

I spent many hours playing in the river with my brothers and sisters. We used to ride our horses loaded with food and our camping gear. We’d cook on the open fire, go eeling and have a load of fun. We caught lots of eels.

Ko Rākautātahi te marae

Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of Rākautātahi marae.

The marae is where we all come together. Our family is spread around the world now. People from home take good care of it while we are away. I can remember my grandmother, making beautiful silk flowers. On the wall in the wharekai is a mural to remember our whānau who went to war. It makes you feel proud being in there.

I was born at Raymond Maternity Annexe

Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of a paddock overlooking farm land.

This was the site of Raymond Maternity Annexe. My father’s generation were born at the farm. Grandad helped Nana. By the time I was being born we were all born in a special part of the hospital just for that. All of my family and a lot of my cousins were born here. My daughter Holly too. Now people have babies in hospitals, in baths, in homes. There is more choice.

I attended Takapau Primary School

Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of Takapau Primary School. The words 'Manners maketh man' are displayed on a fence.

I attended Takapau Primary school with my four brothers and four sisters, and my cousins. There were so many of us. Playing paddertennis and softball were favourite things to do at intervals. We had marble crazes too. We used to have a concrete New Zealand in the middle of a paddling pool or sandpit. I thought that that was awesome when I was little. My father and his brothers and sisters went there too. Everyone in our community went to the same school. We all knew each other.

We celebrated important occasions at St Vincents church

Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of a church with bush in the background.

This is a café now, but it was St Vincents church in Takapau. People in our family got married here, and celebrated other important occasions. Fred and I were baptised here.

We spend time at Te Paerahi, Porangahau Beach

Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of Porangahau Beach. It shows a path through the dune grass to the beach.

We love spending time at Te Paerahi, Porangahau Beach. I love being out there when the wind is howling along the coast, and when it’s fine and sunny.

Jack loves fishing and diving. It's a lovely way to start the day with pan-fried flounder when he gets them. Charlie is a crackerjack at making paua fritters. Jessie and Luciano, our dogs, love the wide open spaces and chasing seagulls. They never catch any!

This land connects me to my childhood

View from the fence of a white house with section.

My brothers and sisters sold mushrooms as kids to help pay for this section. Then we spent long hours cutting back lupins every summer.

It is the last piece of land that connects me to my childhood. I hope to leave it for my children to use with their children.

My home now

Colour photograph of a kuaka (bar-tailed godwit) cut out held in front of a house at night.

This is my home now. I love being home — having family meals, gardening, reading, just enjoying the moment.