Primary Science Week 2021

The 2021 Primary Science Week is all about recognising the amazing mahi Kairangahau Māori (researchers) are doing in the field of mātauranga pūtaiao and science. Take this opportunity to learn about a Māori scientist working either in your rohe or in an area of science your class is passionate about. Carry out your own practical work to explore the nature of science and support students to learn about and practise scientific techniques like observation.

An important part of learning about mātauranga pūtaiao involves reaching out to your local community.  Approach your local marae/iwi/mana whenua and ask who the local kaumatua are who may be willing to support. Discuss your plans with a local kaumatua and how you might be able to support them. Te Aho Tū Roa and Enviroschools may be able to provide guidance and links with appropriate people.


Whatungarongaro te tangata toituu te whenua

When man is gone it is the land which remains


Mahi  of Kairangahau Māori (researchers)

Select a content strand that links to your school curriculum and student interests.  Explore a scientist working in this area. (Please note, scientists work across a variety of areas, not just within a given strand, a great example of the Nature of Science).

Material World

Scientist: Rangi Te Kanawa (Ngāti Maniapoto)

Brief overview of mahi: Rangi Te Kanawa, a textile conservator at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, faced the problem of rapid deterioration in the harakeke kākahu. Of particular concern was the rapid deterioration of the fibres that had been dyed black using a traditional method where the fibre is immersed in paru (mud).

Links and possible activities: 

National Services, Te Paerangi (Working together with Te Papa / Hono ki Te Papa), ‘Caring for Māori Textiles, Tiakitanga o te Kahu Āku’, He Rauemi Resource Guide ISSUE No. 18

 NZ Herald, 6 June 2012 ‘After five years, chemists find way to save cloaks’

Connected 2014 level 4 – What’s the Evidence?
Black is back by Rangi Te Kanawa

Scientist: Diane Ruwhiu

Brief overview of mahi: Diane (Ngāpuhi) helps ensure that mātauranga (Māori knowledge) is valued alongside science in national problem-solving initiatives such as Rethinking Plastics Aotearoa.

Links and possible activities


Scientist: Amanda Black

Brief overview of mahi: Studies oil and water chemistry and applied geology.

Most valuable results: 

  1. Adding copper to soils reduces the emission of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that traps the sun’s energy and is part of climate change. 
  2. The water mould causing kauri dieback grows well in pasture and pine forest soils

Links and possible activities:


Living World

Scientist: Yvonne Taura 

(Ngāiterangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Uenuku, Ngāti Tūwharetoa)

Brief overview of mahi: Yvonne works for Mānaaki Whenua for Manaaki Taiao rōpū (Māori research team). SHe is involved in collaborating with iwi on mātauranga Māori and Western science, particularly around repo, freshwater ecosystems. 

Links and possible activities:


Physical World

Scientist: Dr Ocean Mercier

(Ngāti Porou)

Brief overview of mahiOcean Mercier is a New Zealand academic specialising in Physics and Māori Science.

She is involved in the field of Māori Science, the application of scientific principles and mātauranga Māori to real-world problems. As well as teaching it

Links and possible activities:


Planet Earth & Beyond

Scientist: Professor Rangi Matamua (Tūhoe)

Brief overview of mahi: Regarded as one of the world’s foremost Indigenous astronomers and scholars leading the revitalisation, protection and dissemination of Māori astronomy and mātauranga Māori, Professor Rangi Matamua’s research focuses on Māori astronomy, traditional practice and its relationship to culture, ceremony, religion and environment. 

Links and possible activities:

Students explore the changes in seasons (what’s happening in autumn) and the tohu/signs in their area (particular plants changing) – evidence could be a diary of observations from the class, observational drawings


NZASE Resources

Check out these Scientist profiles for more Māori scientists and how they got into their areas of study 

Surgeon and researcher Jamie-Lee Rahiri (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara, Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi)

Geologist Daniel Hikuroa (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato-Tainui)

Nutrition researcher Lisa Te Morenga (Ngapuhi, Ngāti Whātua o Orakei, Te Uri o Hau, Te Rarawa)

Astrophysicist Pauline Harris (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Rakaipaaka and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa)

Health researcher and GP Matire Harwood (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Te Mahurehure, Ngāti Rangi)

Biochemist Amanda Black (Tūhoe, Whakatōhea, te Whānau-ā-Apanui)

Environmental scientist James Ataria (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Raukawa)