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Ideas for children, parents and teachers to explore and discover New Zealand’s sea life


for children


When our publisher suggested a big book of animals based around those in the ‘explore and discover’ series, we (Gillian and Ned) were delighted. With all those extra pages, we now had the opportunity to write about and draw animals that weren’t already pictured in the ‘explore and discover’ series. We included mountain birds such as takahe and kea, for example, as well as many more insects and fish. The big book has over 100 new animals, as well as more information about many of the animals that are in the ‘explore and discover’ books.

We hope you enjoy reading and learning about New Zealand’s wildlife 

for parents and teachers

We created Animals of Aotearoa: explore and discover New Zealand’s wildlife for giant Wetachildren and their families to enjoy, to learn a bit about our wildlife and to inspire further enquiry. Because our audience is young children we have not been fastidious about using scientific terms, although we have grouped animals roughly into groups that scientists use to describe species. In some cases we mention scientific names for groups such as ‘arthropod’ (page 76) but in others, especially  where only a few animals from the group are described we don’t go into this level of detail. Children who are interested in learning more can find more detailed information in some of the sources listed below.

Reading the book – some ideas for reading and talking about the book with children

There is no ‘right’ way of reading a book like this. Allow children the choice of dipping in and out, reading it from cover to cover, or using it as a reference book to look up animals they are interested in.

Take some time to show children the book’s features. Have a go at using the Contents page or Index (page 111-112) to find particular animals. The Contents will help them find the ‘insects’ section, while the Index will help them look up individual animals by name. Another tool to use is the Glossary (page 110) this will help explain some words that they might find in the text. There is also additional general information in the Introduction as well as some ideas of where to find out more on page 110.

gillian candler – author

I love learning about New Zealand’s wildlife. Writing this book was a great opportunity to find out more about different species of kiwi, lizards, frogs and so on. When I’m not writing, I spend time volunteering on conservation projects – counting birds, looking for lizards, trapping pests. I also enjoy seeing animals in the wild, when I’m outdoors tramping, rafting or snorkelling.



ned barraud – illustrator

Ned is a talented illustrator with a passion for sea creatures. His work has been published frequently in the School Journal, and he illustrated The Earthquake and the Butterfly (2012). He works at Weta Digital as a texture artist and lives in Wellington, spending lots of time exploring the seashore with his three young children.

If you want to see some of my other pictures you can visit my site:

More Information about New Zealand wildlife

The following websites are good sources of additional information in language that may be suitable for children.

Department of Conservation, information on native animals, endangered animals, pest animals, marine mammal sightings

, information and identification of native and introduced birds

Landcare Research, information and identification of insects, spiders and bugs Marine Life, information about creatures that live in the sea

New Zealand Herpetological Society, reptiles

Other useful websites include:

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, this site includes information about animals that live in freshwater, estuaries and the sea. The focus of this site is on commercial and recreational fishing

mako sharkFish and Game, for information on species of freshwater fish, game birds and mammals that are often hunted

There are also many species specific websites, for example:

national charity that provides information about kiwi

Children can try entering the name of the animal, ‘nz’ and ‘charity’ into a search engine to find organisations like this which are dedicated to helping a particular species.


Suggestions for activities

Use the book to follow up a visit to a sanctuary, museum, zoo or wildlife reserve to look up the animals that children saw and discuss them further.

Look for the other ‘explore and discover’ books in libraries or bookshops, to find out more about the habitats that animals live in. Draw their own habitat pictures showing an animal they are interested in, such as kea in its mountain habitat.

Do a craft activity related to an animal of interest, such as making animal puppets, pop-up cards, or masks (there are lots to find on my Pinterest page.

kiwiInvent a new animal species, including deciding on its habitat, naming it in different languages and deciding what group it belongs to.

Use the information about animal sizes in the book to compare animals, for example, drawing chalk outlines on concrete of different whale species.

Join a club or project that helps children learn more about New Zealand wildlife, for example, Kiwi Guardians , Kiwi Conservation Club and Young Birders NZ 

Create their own book/magazine/video about a species, or contribute to a magazine that already exists, for example, Young Birders, Wild Things, Toitoi.

Get involved in national or community projects, for example, local pest-free groups or the Great Kererū Count.

Curriculum Links
Te Whariki

Strand 5: Exploration

Goal 4: Children experience an environment where they develop working theories for making sense of the natural, social, physical, and material worlds.

The New Zealand Curriculum: Science

Nature of Sciencebottlenose

Investigating in Science, Communicating in Science, Participating and contributing

L1-2 Living World

Students will:

Recognise that living things have certain requirements so they can stay alive

Recognise that living things are suited to their particular habitat

Recognise that there are lots of different living things in the world and that they can be grouped in different ways.

L3 Living World

Students will:

Explain how living things are suited to their particular habitat and how they respond to environmental changes, both natural and human induced

Begin to group plants, animals and other living things into science-based classifications

Useful classroom resources and programmes

Department of Conservation Education resources

Science Learn: Topics include – Birds, Butterflies and Moths, Fish, Invertebrates, Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians. Concepts include – Classication

Building Science Concepts resources from the Ministry of Education include – Book 3 Birds: structure, function, and adaptation; Book 39  Is this an animal?  Introducing the animal kingdom; Book 45 Slug and Snails: Investigating small animals; Book 55 Mammals: investigating a group of animals;

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