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Koru Paintings

The Maori culture of New Zealand creates beautiful pieces of artwork featuring Koru designs. Master this motif in a colorful painting.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. During a unit of study focused on Australia and New Zealand, invite students to investigate the art of the Maori people. A Koru is a curved shape representing a baby fern frond. The Maori culture of New Zealand uses this motif in their artwork. Organize a variety of text and electronic resources for students to use during this research. Students may work individually or in teams of two for this activity.
    2. The Koru symbolizes new birth and growth. As a class, look at pictures of fern plants ready to unfurl. Group members discuss what shapes the plants make as they open. Ask students to compare the ferns to actual samples of Maori art. Students use a Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils to practice making Koru sketches on a piece of construction paper.
    3. To design a Koru painting, students use a colored pencil to sketch one large Koru on a piece of construction paper. Suggest they draw two smaller Koru on either side of the larger one.
    4. Using a paintbrush, students paint each Koru a different color. Use another color to fill in the background. Try a hard-edge style of painting by using a flat watercolor brush loaded with paint to create even strokes and to build up an even bead (thick edge) around the color. To keep colors from blending, allow an area to dry before applying wet paint to adjacent areas.
    5. While the final artwork is drying, ask students to write a summary paragraph reflecting their learning about the Maori culture and the Koru paintings. Post students writing with artwork in the classroom.
  • Standards

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of grade level text's complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

    LA: Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; summarize or paraphrase information in notes and finished work, and provide a list of sources.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resource: A Child's Introduction to the World: Geography, Cultures, and People - From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall of China by Heather Alexander

    Students research the history of New Zealand's Maori and their Koru designs. Students replicate a Koru motif in a drawing.

    The Mauri culture has a history of a variety of traditional arts such as carvings, weaving, kapa haka (group performance) and whaikorero (oratory). Research one of these art forms and prepare an electronic presentation for classmates on the topic.

    Working in small groups, students sketch a world map and outline the borders of all countries. Identify the location of New Zealand. Research the country's national emblem. Sketch the national emblem.


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  • Creativity.
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  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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