Activity for ‘Pania of the Reef’

Pania of the Reef

by Peter Gossage

This is a retelling of the well known legend, set in New Zealand. Half sea-creature and half human, Pania swims to land each evening, and falls in love with a young chief from the village there. Although they become man and wife, Pania misses her own people of the sea, and so returns to the sea each evening. When she gives birth to a baby boy, Moremore, the young chief tries to make Pania stay with him always. However she does not, and returns to the sea, broken-hearted. The legend tells us that Pania became a rock, while her son became a taniwha in the form of a shark.

Ilustrated by Gossage using traditional Maori forms, showing koru, moko and teko teko designs, this book was nominated because it shows Maori culture.

Activity: MAORI ARTWORK (The Arts)

Curriculum Level 1, 2 & 3 (see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text


1. Look through the illustrations in the book. Discuss Gossage’s use of traditional Maori shapes and symbols to create his artwork. In particular, look at:

  • his use of moko on the face of the young chief, and on the face of the moon
  • the teko teko designs on the outside of the marae and around the windows, and the koru shapes within them
  • how he uses traditional koru shapes to show ocean waves

2. Allow children some time to practice these shapes and symbols using pencil, crayon and pastels.

3. When they feel confident at drawing koru shapes, they can begin planning their own piece of artwork.

  • At Level 1, this may be an ocean scene which incorporates some koru designs.
  • At Levels 2 and 3, they may create their own teko teko design, or a moko design for the face

4. Use crayon, pastel or paint to add colour to the art work. Gossage used thin black lines to outline around each block of colour  – these could be added later using a fine-tipped felt pen.


  • Paper
  • Pencils, crayons, pastels, paint
  • Black markers
Taking it further
  • Using print-making techniques to create similar art work (Visual Art)
  • Use lino or polystyrene to make templates, or try PVA glue prints (Visual Art)
  • Use KidPix to recreate the illustrations in the story and retell ‘Pania of the Reef’ as a slideshow (Visual Art)
Curriculum Links Visual Art

  • Share ideas about how and why their own and others’ works are made and their purpose, value and context (Level 1 & 2)
  • explore a variety of materials and tools and discover elements and selected principles (Level 1 & 2)
  • investigate visual ideas in response to a variety of motivations, observation, and imagination (Level 1)
  • investigate and develop visual ideas in response to a variety of motivations, observation and imagination (Level 2)
  • investigate the purpose of objects and images from past and present cultures and identify the contexts in which they were or are made, viewed and valued (Level 3)
  • explore some art-making conventions, applying knowledge of elements and selected principles through the use of materials and processes (Level 3)
  • develop and revisit visual ideas, in response to a variety of motivations, observation, and imagination, supported by the study of artists’ work (Level 3)
Applications for Level 4 and above  At Level 3 and above, students should be encouraged to explore the cultural significance of Maori design, from the past and up to today. They may spend time researching the use of Maori design in art and comparing Gossage’s work to that of other New Zealand artists. What are the relationships between the production of art works and their contexts and influences? How are symbols used in Maori art to tell a story?