Activity for ‘Watercress Tuna and the children of Champion Street’

Watercress Tuna and the children of Champion Street

 by Patricia Grace

A tuna (eel) with a magic throat travels to Champion Street and presents gifts to the children who live there. The gifts all represent the children’s own cultural heritages – a kie for Kelehia and a hau for Kava (Tokelauan); a piupiu for Hirini and a poi for Roimata (New Zealand Maori); a pate for Tuaine and a pareu for Nga (Cook Island Maori); an ula for Losa and an ailao afi for Fa’afetai (Samoan). The theme of this story is Pasifica, with  four key Pacific cultures being represented within the story. Grace also alludes to gender roles within each culture, by assigning gender specific “gifts” from the tuna. In the illustrations, Champion Street is a typical inner-city New Zealand street, with compact state housing and power lines.

This book was recommended because it “captures the history, and the people …” of an authentic community, and because it represents the culture and dance of a variety of Pacific cultures. It was also nominated because it’s a book that has been well-loved by her own children and because it tells the reader some “really specific things about different cultures”.


NZ Curriculum Level

1 ,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


 In this story we read about some traditional music and dance styles from different cultures – Samoan, English, Maori, Cook Island Maori and Tokelauan – many of the cultures here in New Zealand.

1. As you read through the story, talk with the children about the different things on each page – have they ever seen / played on one of these? Which culture might this be from?

2. After children have made their predictions, tell them which culture each item is from:

– Kelehia’s kie is from Tokelauan

– Karen’s buckled shoe is English

– Hirini’s piupiu is New Zealand Maori

– Tuaine’s pate is Cook Island Maori

– Roimata’s poi is New Zealand Maori

– Kava’s hau is Tokelauan

– Nga’s pareu is Cook Island Maori

– Losa’s ula is Samoan

– Jason’s paper streamer is English

– Fa’afetai’s ailao afi is Samoan

  • At Level 1, students can listen to music from each culture and respond through movement and dance. In groups they can make up their own dances in the style of each culture and perform back to the class. If possible, have the items mentioned in the story for children to use as they explore different dances. See “Online Resources” for example of music and dance from each culture. If at all possible, have an “expert” come in and demonstrate the dance.
  • At Levels 2 and 3, students can explore the significance of these traditional dances for each culture. Using the links provided, examine the elements of each culture’s music and dance and use this to create their own music and/or movement in that cultural style. Share with the class and make connections to styles which may cross over between cultures.

Online Resources

Tokelauan music and dance:

NZ Maori music and dance:

  • Poi. Retrieved from

  • Dances of life (Maori excerpt) – shows piupiu. Retrieved from

Cook Island Maori music and dance:

Samoan music and dance:

  • Samoa fiafia – shows ula. Retrieved from

English music and dance:


  • internet access
  • Pacific Island music and dance items
  • visiting experts (optional)

Taking it further

  • Find some traditional music and send children away in groups to put together their own dance, incorporating some of the moves they have seen on the video clips. Practice and perform to the class.
  • Children could make their own costumes to wear while performing. For example, use long strips of paper to make the grass skirts and girls could put flowers in their hair.

Curriculum Links

The ArtsDance

  • demonstrate an awareness of dance in their lives and in their communities (Level 1)
  • improvise and explore movement ideas in response to a variety of stimuli (Level 1)
  • share dance movement through informal presentation and share their thoughts and feelings in response to their own and others’ dances (Level 1)
  • identify and describe dance in their lives and in their communities (Level 2)
  • use the elements of dance in purposeful ways to respond to a variety of stimuli (Level 2)
  • share dance movement through informal presentation and identify the use of the elements of dance (Level 2)
  • explore and describe dances from a variety of cultures (Level 3)
  • select and combine dance elements’ response to a variety of stimuli (Level 3)
  • use the elements of dance to describe dance movements and respond to dances from a variety of cultures (Level 3)

Music (Sound Art)

  •    explore and share ideas about music from a range of sound environments and recognize that music serves a variety of purposes and functions in their lives and in their communities (Level 1 and 2)
  • share music making with others; respond to live and recorded music (Level 1 and 2)
  • identify and describe the characteristics of music associated with a range of sound environments, in relation to historical, social and cultural contexts (Level 3)
  • prepare and present brief performances of music, using performance skills and techniques; respond to and reflect on live and recorded music (Level 3)

Applications for Level 4 and above

 At higher levels, the emphasis could be on defining the elements of the music and dance of different cultures, and using these elements as the basis for their own music and dance compositions, with increasing complexity.

Links to other books in the PPBC

Tane Steals the Show by Lino NelisiSelafina by Catherine Hannken

The Wooden Drum by Vivaliatama Elesoni Talagi

– these books all have a focus on Pacific Island music and dance.


Other Ideas

  • carry out a statistical investigation, looking into different cultures within the class / school / wider community. This could have a focus on Pacific Island cultures, or could encompass all cultures. It could lead on to an investigation into the multicultural society that makes up New Zealand (Mathematics & Statistics/ Social Sciences)