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New Zealand Unit Study

The Old Schoolhouse magazine has asked me to write a new column for their publication called the International Schoolhouse.  In the article, I get the chance to share with you about the landscape, the history and the culture of the highlighted country, in this case New Zealand.  However, there is so much to tell that simply overflows a 1500 word article that I have decided to compile the remainder of the information as a unit study for you. 

If you do not subscribe to the Old Schoolhouse, you can read a sample issue here -  Or better yet, subscribe here - The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - and get the January issue this month with the New Zealand article, plus many, many more wonderful articles of encouragement.  It is their best issue yet.  Oh, and did I mention that you get 19 free gifts with your subscription.

Okay, so now that you have read the article, it's time to dive in for some hands-on learning to cement your student's growing knowledge of this small but fascinating island country.

Unit Study:

1.  READING SELECTIONS - Let's start with some extra reading.  Listed below are some great books about New Zealand, or set in New Zealand, that will provide many hours of enjoyable reading.  The links below will take you to for more information, but you can find these at your local library.  Read for pleasure alone, or have your kids write a book report on one of these selections.


 New Zealand Shake-Up (Ruby Slippers School Series , No 6)

 Australia and New Zealand (True Books-Geography: Countries)

 The Maori of New Zealand (First Peoples)

 New Zealand ABC (Country ABCs)

2. HISTORY & TIMELINES - Learn more about New Zealand by compiling historical facts and events from New Zealand's exciting history and adding them to your timeline.  If you do not have a timeline on the go, you can construct one by following these directions - How to Make a Timeline Easily.  Here is a link to a wonderful resource for timeline entries about New Zealand -

3. MAPWORK - A unit study would not be complete without taking a good look at the lay of the land.  Click here for both a labeled and unlabeled map of New Zealand.  Have your students mark some of the major cities, the southern mountain range and the seas, at the least.  For older students, have them use your teacher's map and fill in the rest!

4. RECIPES - This is my favorite part - the food from the land!  If you do the above activities on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then take some time on either Thursday or Friday to whip up some authentic New Zealand cuisine in the kitchen.

New Zealand cuisine is characterized by its freshness and diversity and has been described as Pacific Rim, drawing inspiration from Europe, Asia, Polynesia and its indigenous people, the Maori.  Freshness is owed to its surrounding ocean and fertile lands. Its distinctiveness is more in the way New Zealanders eat - generally preferring to be as relaxed and unaffected as possible.

A Maori specialty is the hangi (pronounced hung-ee), a pit in which meats or fish are cooked with vegetables. A deep hole is dug in the ground, lined with red-hot stones and covered with vegetation. The food is then placed on top. The whole oven is sprinkled with water and sealed with more vegetation. The hole is then filled with earth and left to steam for several hours. Traditionally, men dig and prepare the hole, and women prepare the food to go in it. All members of an extended family (whanau) help out for such a feast. The occasion is relaxed, friendly and fun, with people often eating the meal under a marquee.

It may be difficult to pull off the above, but here are three more recipes of local New Zealand food that can be attempted in your own kitchen.  Enjoy!

ANZAC BISCUITS are a snack food most commonly made primarily from rolled oats, coconut, and golden syrup.

Many myths have grown around the Anzac biscuit. It has been reported that they were made by Australian and New Zealand women for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers of World War I and were reputedly first called "Soldiers' Biscuits" and then "Anzac Biscuits" after the Gallipoli landing. The recipe was reportedly created to ensure the biscuits would keep well during naval transportation to loved ones who were fighting abroad.

1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1 level teaspoon baking soda
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 tablespoons boiling water

Mix dry ingredients, melt butter & syrup together in small saucepan. Dissolve soda in boiling water, add to dry ingredients. Cook until golden brown at 350 degrees.

PAVLOVA - New Zealand's national dessert

Pavlova is a light and fluffy meringue dessert named after the ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova. Both Wellington, New Zealand and Perth, Australia claim to be the home of the dish. The earliest record of the recipe is a cook book published in New Zealand in 1933, two years before claims made in Perth.

Pavlova is traditionally decorated with fresh fruit and whipped cream, and is especially popular in Australia and New Zealand. Factory-made pavlovas can be purchased at supermarkets in those countries and decorated as desired but rarely achieve home-baked quality.

Leftover pavlova can be stored in the fridge overnight, but will absorb moisture from the air and lose its crispness. Undecorated pavlova can safely be left overnight in the oven in which it was baked, to be decorated in the morning.

  • 3 Egg whites
  • 250g (9 oz.) superfine sugar
  • pinch of Salt
  • 5 ml or 1 tsp Vinegar
  • 5 ml or 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  1. Beat the egg whites and salt to a very stiff consistency before folding in sugar, vanilla and vinegar. Beat until the mixture holds its shape and stands in sharp peaks.
  2. Slow-bake the mixture at 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit) to dry all the moisture and create the meringue, approximately 45 minutes. This leaves the outside of the pavlova a crisp crunchy shell, while the interior remains soft and moist.
  3. A top tip (but not traditional) is to turn the pavlova upside down before decorating with cream and fruit because the bottom is less crispy than the top after cooking and unless you serve it immediately after decorating the "top" absorbs moisture from the cream. Another tip is to leave the pavlova in the oven after turning off the heat - this helps to prevent the middle of the pavlova from collapsing (although if it does collapse, generous application of cream can hide any mistakes!)


Fairy bread is white bread lightly spread with margarine or butter, and then sprinkled with either sugar or more commonly Hundreds and Thousands (also known as sprinkles or nonpareils, a Masterfoods product consisting of small balls of coloured sugar intended to decorate cakes).

Fairy bread is served almost exclusively at children's parties in Australia and New Zealand. Slices of the bread are typically cut into triangles and stacked tastefully on the host's paper plate.

It was originally made using finely chopped rose petals for colour and scent instead of the sugary lollies that are used today.

5. CRAFTS - Finally, it's craft time!

This craft was chosen as a quick and simple one that represents New Zealand, its people and environment.  The felt kiwi can be used as brooches or even fridge magnets.

Felt Kiwi

(Used with permission from Anne's Guiding Pages - more NZ crafts can be found here -

Materials: craft pics

  • brown fur fabric (body - fig 1)
  • dark brown felt (wings - fig 2)
  • yellow vinyl (beak, feet - fig 3 & 4)
  • one pair wobbly eyes per kiwi
  • stuffing
  • needle and thread
  • glue

Print off your kiwi pattern pieces here


  1. Cut 2 body pieces out of fur fabric, 2 wings from brown felt, 1 feet piece and one beak from yellow vinyl.
  2. Body and wings - with right sides together and wings tucked to the inside sew from base around top to base - leaving a space for turning the right way out. (fig 1)
  3. Turn right side out and stuff the body, gathering in the base slightly to make it round before sewing it up.
  4. Feet - position rounded base of body onto round area of feet piece and glue carefully.
  5. Beak - glue only the top of the beak into fur, not the whole length of beak.
  6. Eyes - add wobbly eyes just above top of beak. (White plastic with black pupils can be used as a good alternative to bought eyes).

The kiwi is a nocturnal flightless bird native to New Zealand. The kiwifruit (all one word) is a fuzzy fruit, also called the chinese gooseberry. To call the fruit a kiwi is offensive to a growing number of New Zealanders as the kiwi is their national bird and a strong symbol of this country. New Zealanders are also affectionately known as Kiwis.

Have fun!

Warm Regards,

Terri Johnson
Knowledge Quest, Inc. - try our maps free! - we are looking for authors for our new book - see what we're up to. - our business helping your business to succeed!


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Terri Johnson is the creator of Knowledge Quest maps and timelines.  Her mission for the company is to help make the teaching and learning of history and geography enjoyable for both teacher and students.  She has created and published over 20 map and timeline products.  Her Blackline Maps of World History have been widely recommended in the education community and published in The Story of the World history series by Susan Wise Bauer.  Terri and Knowledge Quest recently won the “Excellence in Education” award granted by The Old Schoolhouse magazine for best geography company of 2003 and 2004.  Terri resides in San Antonio, TX  with her husband Todd and their five children whom she teaches at home.


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