Greetings from Middle Earth: New Zealand / Aotearoa Unit Study

This will be an ongoing resource for all things New Zealand. Note: this page about New Zealand includes affiliate links – at no cost to you, I may earn a commission from links clicked.

Kia Ora! The island nation of Aotearoa, or New Zealand as it is referred to in English, is home of Middle Earth, the Maori people, and more sheep than humans. Waystation to Antarctica. New Zealand is a small but mighty island nation where people get nose-to-nose to say welcome.

New Zealand on map of the world

Today we’ll go over resources for a Unit Study on New Zealand / Aotearoa.

  • Picture Books about New Zealand
  • Novels for Young Readers (Books about New Zealand
  • Movies about New Zealand
  • Documentaries
  • Resources for New Zealand
  • New Zealand Animal Study
  • New Zealand Music

Here are some great options for books about New Zealand featuring picture books:

Aetearoa: The New Zealand Story, by Gavin Bishop

A Kiwi Year: Twelve Months in the Lives of New Zealand’s Kids, by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Manu, The Kiwi of Kindness by Rosie Chenault and Beth Siddorn

I really think you will enjoy all three of those books about New Zealand for young children.

 

New Zealand in Middle Grade Novels

No One Went to Town, by Phyllis Johnston – a story of survival farming on the North Island of New Zealand in the early 1900s. A read aloud for the young children. Parts include livestock, making soap, making bread, cutting logs for the house. (I found the book for $2.99 on Kindle, while other NZ books can be listed as expensive)

New Zealand in Young Adult Novels

The End of the Alphabet, by Fleur Beale – a story about a girl tired of living as a pushover. YA novel for high school.

Catalogue of the Universe, by Margaret Mahy – boy and girl meet. Girl has family problems, boy is a science whiz, and they work together to grow up. A teen romance with science astronomy talk. Recommended for a high school reader. No explicit scenes in it.

New Zealand in Movies

Whale Rider is a coming-of-age story for a Maori girl trying to impress her grandfather.

Falling Inn Love is a Netflix romance movie. It has the bad plot writing you would expect from a ‘Hallmark Movie’, but it shows New Zealand daily life, customs, and features a cast of New Zealand characters. Not winning an Oscar, but a good cheesy feel-good movie that gives a dose of Kiwi charm.

Boy is a movie. It has language and scenes in it that should be pre-screened (an ordinary family, including the not-glamorous parts of their life). This movie is rated 18-and-up.

New Zealand in Documentaries

New Zealand geography Geography Now is the best, and this is no exception.

And a video on the volcanic activity of New Zealand, as it is part of the Ring of Fire. (You can see it to the southeast of Australia.)

 

New Zealand Cultural Quirks – New Zealand drives on the left side of the road, it has a warm winter climate, and why New Zealand houses are expensive to own and rent (the Geography Now video discusses why).

New Zealand Wildlife – it’s a bit soft to hear, but it has small wildlife seen up close


New Zealand Wars: Stories of Waitara, a documentary from Radio New Zealand. This is good for the military or history buff of the family. Discussion of the treaty, tactics used.

 

Maori culture – Maori haka, and Maori tattoos (Tā moko is the tribe-specific art that tells a story, and kirituhi is the general style)

 

Rugby Team Haka performed by the New Zealand All Blacks – The All Blacks rugby team performing the national haka is a visceral thing. I fell into a spiral of watching hakas on Youtube, and eventually found funeral hakas. The Haka is done to honor the life of someone who has passed. Yeah, that was some heavy, cathartic crying.   Haka Video 1, Video 2, Video 3

 

The New Zealand Haka is intimidating to its opponents. It is designed to scare, so as to deter others from attack. But the goal of the Haka is then to de-escalate, to avoid war.

 

New Zealand in Resources

Maori Language

https://www.maorilanguage.net/maori-words-phrases/50-maori-words-every-new-zealander-know/

https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/maori-language-week/100-maori-words

Zealandia is The Eighth Continent (plate tectonics)

Article: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210205-the-last-secrets-of-the-worlds-lost-continent

Documentary on Curiosity Stream: https://curiositystream.com/search/Eighth%20Continent

New Zealand Earthquakes

Christchurch Earthquake of 2011: Photos, Stories, Historical Perspective https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/february-2011-christchurch-earthquake

Christchurch Earthquake of 2011: Scientific Perspective https://teara.govt.nz/en/historic-earthquakes/page-13

Natural Disasters https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/new-zealand-disasters/timeline

Volcanoes

Aotearoa / New Zealand is home to 83 active volcanoes. This video shows the eruption on Whakaari, or White Island, in 2019.

Unfortunately, there were tours operating on Whakaari / White Island when the volcano erupted, even though the mountain was giving off extremely high levels of gas, suggesting it was at risk of eruption. This article discusses volcano worker safety: https://www.npr.org/2020/11/30/940093738/new-zealand-charges-13-parties-over-deaths-at-white-island-volcano

World’s Steepest Street: Baldwin Street in Dunedin has a slope of 38 degrees. Take that, San Francisco and Pittsburgh… Great way to add in some math (with toy cars) to see just how steep 38 degrees is.

Where in New Zealand is Hobbiton?

It is in Matamata, on the North Island. To get there, head from Rotorua or Auckland by car. Hobbiton is the movie set for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. So if in New Zealand, or Middle Earth on Earth, don’t forget to stop by for elevenses or second breakfast.

 

New Zealand Music

Lorde interview

The singer of “Royals” is a native of Takapuna, New Zealand, in the Auckland region of the country. This video had a lot of good ‘behind the scenes’ music theory discussion in it.

Flight of the Concords is also from New Zealand. They’re a comedic duo of singers.

New Zealand Animals

New Zealand is known for its extensive collection of sea birds. Many of its birds, interestingly enough, cannot fly. New Zealand is home to many types of penguin. https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/

And its sea mammals https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/marine-mammals/

Invertebrates, like the ancient peripatus (velvet worm) or the wētā, who have put in their time on Earth since the dinosaurs roamed. The peripatus is like a worm with 14 to 16 legs!

https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/invertebrates/

Interestingly, New Zealand only had one species of native land mammal before it was settled. That was a bat (or “the bird of mammals.”) So New Zealand really does love itself some birds.

Bioluminescent Glowworm Caves in Waitomo – How cool is that!

Why are the people of New Zealand called kiwis?

Kiwi is a very cute bird native to New Zealand. Right now efforts are being made to conserve the national bird,

Dogs are the number one predators of kiwi birds.

Manukura was a famous kiwi bird who was notable for her white feathers. Books were written about this bird, born in 2011 at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre. Manukura the Kiwi passed in December 2020.

Genetic bottlenecks are discussed in this podcast episode of a New Zealand’s “Our Changing World.” The little-spotted kiwi, one of five kiwi bird species, originated from a set of just 5 parent birds. The population has since grown to 1,300 birds. It is a 14-minute podcast from people studying the history and survival of New Zealand’s kiwi bird population.

 

When did New Zealand gain its independence?

New Zealand began as the Australian colony of New South Wales. However, New Zealand became a colony separated from Australia in 1841. It began governing itself in 1857. It was granted full independence from Britain in 1931 and New Zealand became a full-fledged nation in 1947.

What is New Zealand’s language?

New Zealand has three official languages, English, Te Reo Maori, and New Zealand Sign Language. New Zealand Sign Language was made an official national language in 2006, and has over 20,000 speakers. New Zealand Sign Language is closely related to British Sign Language, sharing about 60% of its vocabulary connections to BSL.

New Zealand Universities

From its two islands, New Zealand has eight universities: The University of Auckland, the Auckland University of Technology, the University of Waikato, Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, and University of Otago.

The University of Auckland is the largest university, with over 30,000 students.

Who is New Zealand’s President?

New Zealand has a prime minister system, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand is Jacinda Ardern. She became the youngest female world leader when she won her election in 2017.

Arden has had a lot of big events in her time as PM – the Christchurch attack of a mosque, the eruption on White Island’s volcano, and the Covid crisis where New Zealand was able to make their nation Covid-free through testing, contract tracing, and a pause on tourism.

She also welcomed the birth of her baby girl while acting Prime Minister. That made a trip to the United Nations “Take your Daughter to Work Day”, as seen in a clip below.

 

I think the baby wants New Zealand on the map. Any seconds for that motion? Also, at bedtime I am sure that baby for bedtime reads the books about New Zealand shown above in this post.

 

Map Geography

Get New Zealand on the Map – this video is a joke on the fact that New Zealand gets forgotten on many world maps. Maybe it’s better that way, they can keep the Hobbiton, 83 volcanoes, glowing caves of biolumenesce, and all the penguins to themselves!

 

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