More than just myth: A Waka Odyssey

Issue: Volume 97, Number 4

Posted: 12 March 2018
Reference #: 1H9hp3

Migration journeys are a big part of the New Zealand | Aotearoa story. An education programme developed by SchoolFest, the education arm of the New Zealand Festival, is helping Kiwi students connect with the story of one of Aotearoa’s earliest migrants – the legendary Pacific explorer Kupe.

A Waka Odyssey saw a large fleet of waka hourua (traditional twin-hulled sailing waka) sail from Auckland to Wellington to open the 2018 New Zealand Festival, a celebration of the arts running between
23 February and 18 March. The arrival of the fleet was greeted by a 1,000-strong haka to kick off a three-part celebration of New Zealand’s place in the human story of the Pacific.

Twenty-two school groups journeyed to Wellington’s waterfront to take part in A Waka Adventure, in which students were able to spend an hour on board one of the waka, meet the voyagers and learn hands-on skills such as tying knots and putting up the sails.

They were then able to choose an adventure experience including virtual reality sailing; printing a 3D waka; learning about the discovery of the Wellington region; and exploring the galaxy that Kupe and his voyagers used to navigate at the Carter Observatory’s Space Place.

A group of voyagers also visited 12 schools in the greater Wellington region, hosting activities focused on celestial navigation.   

The organisers have created a free teacher resource kit to complement the education programme – a resource that New Zealand Festival’s education and community producer Coralie Tapper says has been well received.

“Our research showed that schools and kids weren’t necessarily that familiar with the story of Kupe. They knew about the Polynesian landing and discovery of New Zealand, but James Cook was much more a part of the curriculum than the Polynesian settlers and voyagers.

“We worked with School Kit to develop a piece of curriculum which is cross-curricular, with activities that teachers can use in their classroom. We hope that schools will be encouraged to start their year learning about our ancestors and the discovery of New Zealand.”

Project Navigator and Waka Expert Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, who has been involved in waka kaupapa since he was a young boy, says, “For too long Māori stories have been relegated to the stuff of myth and legend and this shows people that it’s actually for real.”

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO sponsored the education programme that links to A Waka Odyssey.

“We chose to support this programme because it connects students to traditional indigenous knowledge in a really tangible way,” says Robyn Baker, Chair of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. “We’re delighted that so many young people have been exposed to this unique experience.”

A Waka Odyssey teacher resource kit can be downloaded from the New Zealand Festival(external link) website.

What students are saying:

“It was surprising about the navigation – that was really cool – learning about the stars and all that kind of stuff.”

“The most interesting thing I learnt was tying the knots on the waka.”

“It was interesting finding out where they had to sleep, and how they washed their clothes.”

“The most fun thing was learning how to put up the sail because we got to tie it up and work as a team.”

“I was really interested to learn how long they stayed out in the water for and how they only had three hours’ sleep a night.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 12 March 2018

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