Activity for ‘The Woven Flax Kete’

The Woven Flax Kete

by Angie Belcher

This is a story about treasures, set in New Zealand. When Rawiri tells his nanny about his class trip to the Whirinaki forest, she gives him an old, worn flax kete to collect his treasures in. Although Rawiri does not want to have to lug the old kete with him, he takes it to please his Nanny and looks for some “treasures” from the forest to put in, as he walks through the forest. However, Rawiri can not find anything to put in, and the kete comes back empty. But why is it so heavy? Rawiri learns that “treasures” can come in many forms – and that the real treasures he has collected along the way are the qualities of Leadership, Guidance, Care, Encouragement and Co-operation. The beautiful watercolour illustrations feature many New Zealand icons – totara, kereru feathers, giant weta and of course the woven flax kete. This book was nominated because it is a beautifully woven story about friendship. It was shortlisted for a LIANZA Pounamu Award (2004).

Activity: TREASURES (Health & Physical Education)

Curriculum Level

2 & 3 (see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • relating to others
  • participating and contributing


 This story challenges the traditional idea of “what is a treasure?”

1. Before reading, ask the students, “what is a treasure?”Write their ideas on the board.

  • Have students find the dictionary definition of a treasure:

treasure: 1 a quantity of precious metals, gems or other valuable objects, 2 a very valuable object, 3 a much loved or highly valued person

2. Tell the children that this is a story all about treasures. At the end of the story you will ask them again “what is a treasure?” and see if they have anything to add to the ideas on the board.

3. Read the story.

4. After reading, ask the students again, “what is a treasure?”

Add new ideas to the board.

Prompt them with questions like:

  • What were the treasures in the story?
  • Were we able to see all of the treasures?
  • Why was Rawiri’s kete still empty at the end of the forest walk, yet it still felt heavy?
  • Where were all the treasures that he had collected?

5. Look at the “treasures” listed on the board again. Help children to see that some of the treasures can be seen, while others can not. Use a colour coding system to organise the treasures into those which can be seen, and those which can not.

6. Use these ideas to make 2 lists:

Seen treasures

ruby-red berries

emerald-green kereru feather

giant weka skeleton

diamond-shaped fungi

… add in students’ own initial ideas as well

Unseen treasures








  • These 2 activities could be done as pair or group tasks.

7. Allow some time for children to reflect on and discuss the lists.

Ask: so does something have to be seen to be a treasure?

No, a treasure can be something inside ourselves too – a “quality” that makes us special, a better person

If we look back at the dictionary definition of a “treasure”, do these unseen treasures still fit the definition?

They fit best with the second definition, where a treasure is described as a “valuable object”. If we take away the word “object”, these unseen treasures can still be described as something valuable.

8. Tell the students that in the Maori language, there is a word called “taonga”.

  • Has anyone heard of this word?
  • What does it mean?
  • Can you think of any examples of what a “taonga” might be?

Establish that a “taonga” is like a treasure, although it can be something intangible – something that can’t be seen.

Wikipedia describes “taonga” as: A taonga in Māori culture is a treasured thing, whether tangible or intangible. Tangible examples are all sorts of heirlooms and artefacts, land, fisheries, natural resources such as geothermal springs [1] and access to natural resources, such as riparian water rights and access to the riparian zone of rivers or streams. Intangible examples may include language, spiritual beliefs and radio frequencies.

Could qualities like co-operation, trust, care, leadership, guidance, patience and encouragement be thought of as taonga? Discuss.

Taking it further

 This lesson could be the beginning of a great unit of work looking at values. Children could follow on by exploring what is really meant by each of these unseen treasures. In small groups, children could be given a word to go away and investigate – using dictionaries to find definitions, finding examples in the story “The Woven Flax Kete”, as well as coming up with their own examples of what each value looks like.Students could then spend a day / week as a class really working at putting each value into practice.


  • large sheets of paper for lists
  • felts for colour coding
  • dictionaries

Curriculum Links

 Health & Physical EducationPersonal Health and Physical DevelopmentPersonal Identity

  • identify personal qualities that contribute to a sense of self-worth (Level 2)
  • describe how their own feelings, beliefs, and actions, and those of other people, contribute to their personal sense of self-worth (Level 3)

Relationships with Other People


  • identify and demonstrate ways of maintaining and enhancing relationships between individuals and within groups (Level 2)
  • identify and compare ways of establishing relationships and managing changing relationships (Level 3)

Identity, sensitivity and respect

  • describe how individuals and groups share characteristics and are also unique (Level 2)
  • identify ways in which people discriminate and ways to act responsibly to support themselves and other people (Level 3)

Interpersonal skills

  • express their ideas, needs, wants and feelings appropriately and listen sensitively to other people and affirm them (Level 2)
  • identify the pressures that can influence interactions with other people and demonstrate basic assertiveness strategies to manage these (Level 3)

Healthy Communities and Environments

Rights, responsibilities and laws: people and the environment

  • contribute to, and use simple guidelines and practices that promote physically and socially healthy classrooms, schools and local envionments (Level 2)
  • plan and implement a programme to enhance an identified social or shysical aspect of their classroom or school environment (Level 3)

Links to other PPBC books

Weaving by Rejieli & To – a story about the more practical uses of woven items, but also with a focus on the ‘treasure’ that is storytelling. This reinforces the idea that treasures can also have metaphorical meaning.

Other Ideas

  • Use the Maori language version of the story ‘Te Kete Harakeke’ to learn Te Reo and new Maori vocabulary (Learning Languages)
  • Weave a flax or paper kete (Visual Art)
  • In the story, the children are told by their teacher that they must leave everything in the forest just as it is, and not take anything out. Focus on this aspect of preserving and protecting the environment – it is a treasure in itself too! (Social Science)
  • Forest study – exploring this native habitat’s flora and fauna. Make links to the things described in the story (Science)