Investigating Taniwha together through story, drawing and clay.

Over the term the children, Jenn and Maggie have been investigating Taniwha. We began (purposefully) without any visual influences.
Taniwha are legendary Maori guardians. Being a legend there are not photos, only artistic impressions. We wanted the children to come up with their own creative ideas on what Taniwha look like, without being influenced by artistic ideas.

In the first week of investigation, Jenn blanked out the picture from a children’s book ‘Taniwha’ by Robyn Kahukiwa and read it to the children. Incorporating our current focus on collaboration, Jenn asked the children to work together to create their pictures, thinking that they could bounce ideas off each other to create their pictures. They came up with some amazing pieces of drawing from their past experiences. Children seemed to add features of their favorite characters into their Taniwha creations. For example, some children portrayed their Taniwha as a princess while some thought it was like a multi-head monster; Some children added features such as arms, legs and tummy similar to humans, while others drew wings and tails on their Taniwha. Some children created their Taniwha with family.

On Thursday, Jenn read and acted out the Taniwha story (Wellington) and children were given coloured felt pens. We suggested, in pairs, they make and add stories to their drawings. The children came up with amazing ideas. Some were ideas they revisited from last week and others were new ideas the children brought in. Through the stories the children created, more details could be seen in the drawings. Ideas included lots of eyes, crowns, and wings. This time, children seemed to really enjoy this drawing experience. George and Jesse’s story comprised a series of drawings.

This week, we worked together to act out the story ‘the Taniwha of Wellington Harbour’. Afterwards we started a discussion sharing the children’s own ideas about their Taniwha. To incorporate the collaboration focus into the Taniwha creation, Maggie suggested the children draw a Taniwha together as a big group.
Maddy drew a Taniwha head with a crown on; Eira drew ten eyes with a nose on Taniwha’s face; Almog thought the Taniwha had a body like a T-rex; Jethrin added two arms on the Taniwha; Suri said the Taniwha had three legs and she added a bottom to the Taniwha; Luc believed that the Taniwha had two wings and a lot of legs.
Then the teachers joined in with the creation. Jenn drew a lake. Eira was inspired by Jenn’s idea and continued drawing a rainbow lake with coloured felt pens. Wilson (Student) added a long tongue and Vicky (Student) added some scales. Maggie put a tail on top of Suri’s Taniwha bottom.

We introduced a new Taniwha story called Awarua the flying Taniwha. This time, Maggie set up a big and long piece of paper for children to draw their own Taniwha with black vivid pens. Children knelt down together around the paper and worked attentively on their own Taniwha on the mural. They spent a long time with lots of detail on their pictures. Some of the children connected their two Taniwha. It even inspired Jethrin’s mum to join us and create her own Taniwha. Teachers also joined in and created Taniwha too.

On Thursday, Jenn read Awarua the flying Taniwha again. We began a discussion about the investigation of Taniwha so far. We decided to continue to explore more about Taniwha with different media through art. Jenn planned to use black vivid pen with the children and add paint the following week. She provided each child with a black vivid pen and a piece of paper to draw their own Taniwha. Some of the children decided to draw their picture in pairs.

After a few weeks exploring Taniwha through drawing individually and in groups, the children have developed Taniwha images with more detail. We moved on to investigate with the children Taniwha habitats and how could we construct it with natural resources? In order to inspire children’s thoughts about Taniwha habitats, we decided to take the children for an excursion to the park near kindy. We would collect some natural materials to build a Taniwha habitat and display it at kindy. We hoped that this would inspire other children, including the morning children’s curiosity and interest in Taniwha.

In order to explore more about Taniwha habitat, children in the Monday group used black vivid pens to express their ideas about their Taniwha habitat on paper. Children came up with a lot of ideas in their drawings. In their pictures, we saw a lot of detail from the inside and the outside environments, what Taniwha eat, how he/she lives. Children’s imagination and creativity seemed to be more and more sophisticated.
As we had planned, after drawing their individual Taniwha habitat, children were introduced to a new medium, clay. In the past couple of weeks, clay and natural resources such as leaves, sticks and rocks have been put on the table in the morning session for children to explore and manipulate. With a simple explanation about the medium, children sat at the table and started to explore it and use the clay and the natural resources provided to make their Taniwha habitats. Most of the children stood the sticks and leaves on a big piece of clay to represent their idea of trees.

Time for our second mural. The children gathered around a big piece of paper and created their Taniwha habitat in a big group. The children really extended their ideas and incorporated the ideas from their friends into their pictures.

It was amazing to watch the growth and development over the last term of the children’s perception of Taniwha.
If you look at the pictures from the beginning to the end you really see the children’s fine motor skills and thinking developing. Their working theories about Taniwha have extended over the term. The children started off talking about, for example, eyes, mouths and princesses and by the end they really developed their ideas in collaboration with their friends.


Collaboration –
Speaking and listening skills
Sharing ideas as well as space and resources
Respecting and considering other people’s ideas and thoughts
Inspiring and learning from each other

Communication –
Extending children’s vocabulary
Developing children’s speaking and listening skills
Increasing children’s understanding and competence in symbolic, abstract, imaginative and creative thinking
Exploring verbal and non-verbal communication through storytelling and arts
Gaining understanding that symbols can be read and used to express and represent ideas and thoughts
Developing skills and confidence with art and craft processes such as drawing, painting and clay
Developing pre-literacy through taking interest in books and stories, storytelling and listening myths and legends

Fine motor skills –
Strengthen children’s fingers through drawing, painting and clay
Practicing pencil grip and getting ready for school
Practicing writing children’s names
Developing hand-eye coordination

Creativity –
Extending each other’s ideas through discussion
Using visual presentation to support expression and communication
Exploring and being familiar and confident with different medium

Problem solving and Risk taking
Developing children’s working theories