The National Aquarium runs an extensive range of education programmes for early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary students. Via the tabs below you can find out more about our programmes, associated activities and worksheets, along with additional educational information relevant to the New Zealand Curriculum
In this unit students walk around the lower estuary in Napier (the side closest to the sea) while learning about the ecology of estuaries, how they were formed, and the plants and animals that live there.
There are two options: one starting at Humber Street; the other at Embankment Road. These walks take around 1.5 hours and there will be activities and research challenges to help your students understand the diversity of life that sits on Napier's doorstep. Animals studied include mud crabs, worms, birdlife, shellfish and marine fish.
After this unit students will be able to:
- Recognise that living things are suited to their particular habitat.
- Explain how living things are suited to their particular habitat and how they respond to environmental changes both natural and human induced.
- Extend their experiences and personal explanations of the natural world through exploration, play, asking questions and discussing simple models.
This programme is free of charge for state, integrated or registered private primary and secondary schools.
Have you ever seen a living fossil? How much do you really know about New Zealand's national icon, the Kiwi? Take a journey to the Australian outback and touch a Blue Tongue Skink! In this unit students explore animal life histories, food chains, adaptations and the survival techniques of animals from New Zealand and around the world.
Children make discoveries through hands on activities and innovative teacher led lessons.
Children have the opportunity to meet and touch a selection of animals and view kiwis and reptiles.
Early childhood tours are available in Terms 2 and 3. Early childhood centres are welcome to self guide around the aquarium throughout the year.
Pania of the Reef
Animal Information Sheet
In this programme, students use evidence from landforms, rocks and fossils to describe geological history. They'll discover how fossils are formed and how they're actually remnants of an ancient and very much different life on Earth. Students will investigate and describe processes, which change the Earth's surface over time at local and global levels.
- Fossils and Dinosaurs
- Useful Websites
- How did the Dinosaur Become Extinct
- Dinosaur Worksheet 1
- Dinosaur Worksheet 2
- Diving into Dinosaurs Worksheet
What made the Kiwi endangered and the Moa extinct? What makes them birds when they can't even fly? Close observation of Moa bones and a taxidermied Kiwi engages students with the aquarium's New Zealand birds of the past and present, their adaptations and the influences that have caused their endangered to extinct statuses.
Planet Earth and Beyond: AO: 5.4. This programme explores the positive and negative impact humans have on aquatic environments. Marine reserves, extinction, Māori beliefs, the interdependence of living things, food chains and pollution are covered and examined during this unit.
- Environmental Issues Worksheet for Year 9 - 10
- Environmental Issues Worksheet - Shark Focus
- Environmental Issues Post Activities Workbook
- Environmental Issues Pre Activities Booklet Part 1
- Environmental Issues Pre Activities Booklet Part 2
- Environmental Issues Pre Activities Booklet, Activity Sheets
- How Ocean Pollution Affects Humans Infographic sourced with permission from the DIVE.in team
How have evolutionary forces affected New Zealand's fauna? Students observe many examples of evolutionary outcomes to further understand how the processes of evolution have shaped New Zealand’s unique fauna. They examine how different forms of natural selection and speciation act on the National Aquarium's animals.
Examine a fish inside and out and see what it had for lunch the day it was caught! Students study how fish respire (breathe), reproduce, and sense their surrounding environment. Conduct an investigation to discover the effect water temperature has on respiration rates. Observe the organisms that call a fish their home, and learn how we manage these fish parasites at the National Aquarium.
Hands up who's ever wondered what makes a fish a fish. Through hands-on learning and observation, students will examine the basic external anatomy of fish and investigate how they breathe and move. They'll also find out about their internal organs and the role each organ plays in survival.
- My Fish Drawings
- Anatomy of a Bony Fish Worksheet
- Anatomy of a Bony Fish Answers
- Clown Fish
- Catfish Jigsaw Puzzle
- Catfish Jigsaw Solution
- Fish Comparison
- Functions of Parts of a Fish
- External Anatomy Features
- On the Move
- Swimming and Feeding Pattern
How does that diver stay at the bottom of the aquarium's tank? Why does a crocodile swallow stones? How do fish float? In this unit, through observation, discussion and demonstration, students share ideas about the floating and sinking phenomena of aquatic species.
Who eats who out there in the ocean? Food webs are central to understanding how aquatic ecosystems work. Students examine marine food webs to develop an appreciation of the interactions between life forms beneath the surface. Using microscopes, your students will view the ocean's tiny organisms and discover how they are connected to the food webs of the world’s waters.
- Food Webs and Adaptations Worksheet
- Food Webs and the Micro-Marine World Overview
- Y9 Food Webs with Adaptations Worksheet
In this unit students learn all about the native freshwater species living in New Zealand's streams, rivers and lakes. Students will learn about these species' lifecycles and habitats along with the impact introduced species have had on them.
Gas Exchange Experiment
Using Yellow-Eyed Mullet in tanks, with three different temperatures of saltwater, students monitor the breathing patterns of fish in these conditions. A close look at fish gills, a worksheet to support the experiment and a tour of the aquarium help to build students' learning.
This compliments AS: 2.6 Describe diversity in structure and function of animals; as exchange topic and could also lead into students thinking about doing a practical experiment for NCEA AS90457 2.1.
Focus on the internal and external features of fish in comparison with other aquatic animals.
Students can also observe a locust dissection then discuss its internal respiration features. Locust availability is seasonally dependent.
Close Observation Ideas
Find out what a fish had for breakfast! From a dissected fish, students carefully pull out stomach contents into a small petri dish, rinse with salt water, then see if they can identify fins, heads, shells and generally what the fish has recently eaten.
No Sweat! is a practical and engaging programme structured around Homeostasis AS 3.4. It delivers students an understanding of how an aquatic animal maintains a stable internal environment. Unique tactile experiences and laboratory experiments teach all aspects of thermoregulation strategies using the blue tongue skink, sharks, alligators and penguins. Further knowledge of thermoregulation will be reinforced with a tour of the National Aquarium where students will meet a range of animals demonstrating traits such as exothermy, endothermy and homeostasis.
Categories: Primary, Nature of Science, Investigating in Science and Communicating in science, Planet Earth and Beyond, Interacting Systems, Earth Systems, Social Studies, Physical World
Location: LAB exhibition space at the aquarium
At the LAB your students can uncover more about earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions.They’ll learn about scientists’ latest discoveries and become scientists themselves creating their very own tsunami and volcanic eruption. Bring your students for a natural hazards education experience at LAB.
Hands-on and engaging activities will set a solid framework for their learning. Students will use bottles filled with liquids to simulate tsunami; they will mix various ingredients to create their own volcano; and build examples of strong and weak houses to see which is strongest in an earthquake.
A challenge will be presented to the students to develop their own action plan at home.
- East Coast LAB educational videos
Waste Aware is an environmental education programme delivered by the Napier City Council's Waste Minimisation team. A full term or half-day programme educates primary and intermediate children about waste minimisation and sustainability.
The programme's vision is to 'educate school children and the wider community on how to minimise solid waste entering the local landfill'.
By listening to the local Māori legend 'Pania of the Reef' students learn about their reef, its aquatic bio-diversity and the Māori concepts of taonga, rāhui tapu and kaitiakitanga. Students examine how the reef has changed over time, with respect to its use throughout the ages.
Students investigate the effect of and clean up of an oil spill. They learn how pollution affects marine ecosystems in order to increase their awareness of environmental issues, which are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for many people. Other marine issues covered are the introduction of unwanted marine organisms, and the worldwide protection of endangered marine species.
In this unit students get to brush up close with these captivating little birds. They'll discover how penguins survive in the incredibly harsh environments they inhabit and learn about what really makes them who they are and live the way they do. Also covered in this unit are conservation issues and what we as humans can do to help protect penguins.
Life for animals on the rocky shore is never easy! Daily these animals are battered by the tides, changes in temperature and salinity, and terrestrial predators.
Through live animals and interactive activities students will discover how crabs, sea snails, starfish, sea anemones and fish adapt to protect themselves in the ever-changing rocky shore tide-pool habitat.
- Pre Visit Workbook
- Pre Visit Activities Sheets
- Post Visit Activities
- Rocky Shore Worksheet A
- Rocky Shore Worksheet B
- Rocky Shore Worksheet C
- Rocky Shore Worksheet for Lower Primary
National Aquarium educators can meet your class at Hardinge Road in Napier for a Rocky Shore Study. While there our staff can help you with identification, adaptations, food chains, tidal zones and conservation of the rocky shore residents.
This programme is free of charge for state, integrated or registered private primary and secondary schools.
If you wish you can also visit the National Aquarium for follow up activities either on the same day, or at a later date (normal school rates apply).
The best times to go are up to two hours before low tide and up to one hour after low tide. Check out our rocky shore calendar.
- Teacher's Lesson Plan
- Helpful Hints
- Common Rocky Shore Animals
- Rocky Shore by Zone
- Rocky Shore Identification by Phylum
- Te Takutai Moana - At the Rocky Shore
- Nga Kararehe a te Takutai Moana - Rocky Shore Tide Map
- Nga Rauropi a te Takutai Moana - The Rocky Shore Picture ID Chart
- Nga Whanau a te Takutai Moana - Rocky Shore by Phylum
Do sharks really deserve their bad reputation? Students will get up close with the aquarium's many shark species as they discover the truth about one of nature's most feared predators. They'll explore the similarities and differences between sharks and other fish species, and find out how and why a shark's anatomy places it at the top of the aquatic food chain.
- Sharky Envelope
- Letter from Sharky
- What I Know About Sharks
- My Shark Drawings
- Amazing Shark Facts
- Shark Fact File
- Anatomy of a Shark
- Anatomy of a Shark Answers
- Bony Fish & Cartilaginous Fish Comparison
- Functions of Parts of a Shark
- Sharks with Funny Names
- Shark Species Word Find
- Shark Teeth
- Older Students Workbook
Discover how marine biologists and scientists classified the animals at the National Aquarium. Learn how both vertebrates and invertebrates are organised into different phyla and classes by their common characteristics. Students will get to develop their own classification systems based on careful observation and creative thinking.
How can so many species of fish live in the same habitat? Adaptation and diversity. Explore the different habitats in the National Aquarium and discover how a diverse range of aquatic animals adapts to survive in their environment.
Students will observe examples of fish defences including camouflage, schooling, fish communication and toxins.
In this unit students discover the biological and physical factors that affect an aquatic organism’s survival. Your students will observe how a range of aquatic animals adapt to survive. Students identify examples of structural, behavioural and physiological adaptations in the National Aquarium's animals to further develop their understanding and knowledge.
Ever wondered what it takes to operate the National Aquarium's Oceanarium? And how do you think the aquarium keeps all its animals alive and healthy? Students will get a behind the scenes look at the technology that keeps the National Aquarium running. They'll also get to test the salinity, pH and temperature of the water in the aquarium's tanks.
Learn how early Māori used their scientific knowledge and respect for their environment to create tikanga (customs and protocols) to protect one of their most valuable assets, kaimoana (seafood). This unit explores the spiritual rules, ocean conservation and kaimoana trade in traditional Māori fisheries while comparing past with the present.