PlaNet Pasifika 

PlaNet Pasifika

Curriculum links

Learning areas

  • Social Studies
  • Technology
  • The Arts

Which strands will it fit with?

  • Social Studies: Culture and Heritage, Place and Environment
  • Technology: Technology and Society
  • The Arts: Dance ― Understanding Dance in Context, Music ― Understanding Music in Context, Visual Art ― Understanding Visual Art in Context 

Key competencies 

Thinking: relating to others: using language, symbols, and texts: participating and contributing.

Levels of achievement

Levels 1―4

Year group

Years 1―8

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Which topics of study can it support?

  • Pacific society, past and present
  • Pūrākau (storytelling)
  • Innovation and invention 

How long might this take?

Allow 15-20 minutes.

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Where do I find it?

  • Level 4, Tangata o le Moana- look for the coconut trees! If you get lost, just ask a Te Papa Host. 

Why should I take my class to visit this?

  • One of four Discovery Centres at Te Papa, PlaNet Pasifika is an interactive area featuring objects and stories from the Pacific. The Discovery Centres are specially designed for children aged 7―12. 
  • It's a fun place to learn about the traditional and contemporary Pacific.

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What is there to do there?

  • Have a go at designing your own Samoan tatau (tattoo).
  • Check out books and computer resources about the Pacific.
  • Listen to the beautiful sounds of Pasifika music or create some yourself on the Pasifika drums and ukuleles.
  • Learn about Pacific costumes, and then dress up in some.
  • See how the Samoan fale (house) was made.
  • Create your own Cook Islands tīvaevae pattern on the wall.
  • Play some Pasifika games, or colour in some Pasifika pictures.
  • Have a look at the vaka (canoe) and learn about ocean voyaging in the Pacific.
  • Check out the Treasure Chest and see how Pasifika people make use of the ocean.
  • Have a go at making a Pasifika inspired craft.
  • Check out the kids’ art contributed by different schools around New Zealand.

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What should I know about this?

  • PlaNet Pasifika focuses on seven island groups from the Pacific: Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Niue, and Tokelau. 

Possible topics for discussion

  • What cultural differences can you see between the different Pasifika cultures?

Think about things such as language, food, dress and customs.

  • How does the construction of the fale (Samoan house) in PlaNet Pasifika compare with the construction of a whare (Māori house)?

Have a look at the wharenui (meeting house) Te Hau ki Turanga on Level 4, or the wharepuni (sleeping house) Mākōtukutuku in the Mana Whenua exhibition (also on Level 4). Compare the building materials, the height, the decorative elements and other details. Check out the images of the fale being built in the album available at the staff desk.

How is the Samoan fale different to your house? Why do you think that is?

  • What can the coconut tree be used for and why is it called the tree of life?

The coconut is an important resource for Pasifika peoples. Parts of it are used as food, shelter, drinking water, and firewood as well as for making garments, baskets, mats, rope and tools. Coconut trees are also prevalent in stories from the Pacific and indeed all aspects of Pacific cultures ― that's why they are often referred to as the tree of life.

The coconut itself is made up of a shell, husk, skin, and the copra (the flesh inside the coconut). The tree itself has no branches; the leaves come straight from the trunk.

  • Fishing is a very important activity throughout the Pacific: what techniques do people use?

The drawers in the Pacific Treasure Chest case contain a variety of fishing hooks. Keep an eye out for the shark fishing lure too. How are these tools similar? How are they different? What are they made of?

  • What is tapa cloth and how is it made in different parts of the Pacific?

Tapa cloth is made in Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga. In Samoa it is called siapo, in Tonga it is known as ngatu, and in Fiji it is called masi.

Although each culture has its own distinctive visual style, tapa manufacture is fairly similar throughout Polynesia. The inner bark of the paper mulberry tree is stripped, soaked, and beaten with a wooden mallet on a flat-topped wooden anvil (tutua). This produces sheets of unprocessed cloth measuring around 300mm by 3―4000mm. These pieces are then joined and decorated in ways specific to each area.

  • Why are vaka (canoes) so important to Pasifika peoples? Has their importance changed over time?

As the Pacific Islands are surrounded by vast areas of ocean, vaka were historically very imprtant for transport and for fishing expeditions. With the development of transport and fishing technology, vaka are not as prominent today as they have been in the past, but they continue to play an important role in Pasifika peoples’ lives.

  • Has anyone in your group been to a Pacific Island? How is it different or the same to New Zealand?

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Further information

Related exhibits

  • Tangata o le Moana, Level 4, has many other Pasifika treasures.
  • Te Hau ki Turanga wharenui and Mākōtukutuku wharepuni in Mana Whenua, Level 4
  • Te Aurere Iti, in Mana Whenua ― this model of a double-hulled canoe is similar to those used by Polynesian voyagers to get to New Zealand.
  • Visit Te Papa's other Discovery Centres on Level 2 and Level 4.

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