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Personal identity and self-worth: Making a class korowai

Making a class korowai | Mirror, mirror, on the wall | Similarities and differences

Suggested learning outcomes

Students will:

  • contribute to guidelines for creating a working environment in which sensitive issues can be safely expressed and discussed (2D3);
  • describe the dimensions of hauora and express ideas about aspects of well-being that are important to them (3A1 and 4).

Underlying concepts

Hauora: Exploring the four dimensions that make up the concept of well-being, particularly taha wairua.

Health promotion: Working cooperatively to establish a safe working environment.

Attitudes and values: Reflecting on their beliefs.

Possible Learning Activities

The Dimensions of Hauora

To explore and consolidate the students' prior learning about the four dimensions of hauora, introduce them to the whakatauki from the curriculum:


He oranga ngākau, He pikinga waiora.
Positive feelings in your heart will raise your sense of self-worth.


Ministry of Education, Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum, page 4.

Discuss, with your students, what might contribute to taha tinana (physical well-being), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional well-being), taha whānau (social well-being), and taha wairua (spiritual well-being). (See page 31 of Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (1999). Ask the students "How does this whakatauki fit with your ideas about well-being?" "What does this whakatauki mean to you?"

Setting group guidelines

The students can begin by brainstorming all the ways in which the classroom could be made a more positive learning environment for everyone. Rather than focusing on rules, emphasise safety and positive attitudes so that everyone feels valued and can share their ideas openly. When the students have finished contributing to the brainstorm, help them to group their ideas into similar themes from which the guidelines, such as respect for others, confidentiality, and the right to pass, will be developed. This could be done in small groups. Negotiate the wording with the whole class so that the guidelines are understood and agreed to by everyone and write the guidelines onto a sheet for display (2D3).

Translate the guideline statements into other languages that are appropriate for the students in the class. The students can write one guideline on each of about ten of the long strips of card. These strips form the weft threads of the korowai (those that are woven across).

Weaving the korowai

Distribute the remaining strips of card to groups of two or three students. Each group decorates their strip with words, symbols, and pictures (drawn or cut from magazines) to illustrate their ideas about hauora. These strips form the warp threads (the vertical threads) of the korowai. Organise a small group of students to weave the strips together into a square and secure all the ends with strong glue, tape, or staples. Add extra cardboard to the back of the top edge to strengthen the korowai for hanging. Write the whakatauki from the curriculum onto an extra strip of card and attach it to the top edge of the korowai.

Invite a weaver from the local iwi to demonstrate taniko weaving and explain the significance of korowai and kākahu. This could take place either at school or on the marae.

The feathers

Give each student a feather shape. Revisit the students' ideas about spirituality raised in the discussion about the whakatauki and explain to the students that they are going to decorate their feather in a way that reflects who they are and some aspects of their spirituality, such as the people, places, belongings, beliefs, or experiences that are important to them. They can use any form of decoration they wish but dissuade them from using any personal or valuable photos and objects because the korowai is intended to be displayed on the class wall for some time. Their decoration might include such things as symbols, pictures of people, names, or natural objects. Each student incorporates their own name on their feather. Attach all the feathers to the woven part of the korowai and leave the completed project on display in the classroom.

Assessment opportunity

Students contribute to supportive class guidelines (2D3).

Teachers' notes

This activity provides your students with opportunities to:

  • negotiate class guidelines,
  • explore their understandings of hauora, especially spirituality as it relates to self-identity,
  • work co-operatively to construct a class korowai or cloak.

This form of garment has been chosen because of the significance cloaks have within cultures the world over and the symbolic relevance of the cloak for many traditional rituals.

A korowai is a particular type of kākahu (cloak). It is usually decorated with feathers and/or tassels and has a border along the bottom, although this can vary according to tribal custom.

Resources required include:

  • about twenty strips of lightweight card in a variety of colours, cut 10 centimetres wide and 1 metre long,
  • a simple feather shape cut out of firm card, approximately 30 centimetres long and 7–10 centimetres wide, for each student,
  • scissors, glue, pens or crayons, magazines, and other craft materials, natural objects, and a photograph of each student for decorating the feathers.

The construction method suggested for the korowai is very simple. This korowai is about 1 metre square, but it can be made larger or smaller.