Here are some words about our current Mantle of the Expert work, which is with a class of year 4 students.

In this Mantle of the Expert unit the children are in role as a team of earth scientists who work in a fictional company called 'Geo Ready' (modelled on New Zealand’s real crown institute ‘GeoNet’).

Working in this role children will have jobs and tasks to complete that will lead to learning about:

a. New Zealand’s geological hazards: volcanos, earthquakes, and tsunami

b. Scientific equipment used to measure land movement/activity

c. How earth scientists at 'GeoNet' decide where to place their different monitoring systems. In making these decisions children will have to consider things such as types of land forms and rocks in an area, environmental factors such as weather, read maps, investigate history of land, look at old land records, and investigate land ownership and explore ways to seek permissions from land owners.

The work will involve inquiry research, writing in a range of genres including letter writing and report writing, reading a range of materials including lots of map-work covering a variety of keys and scales, and mathematical skills including measuring, and diagram/graph work.

We hope you enjoy sharing our learning journey and the discoveries we make! You can also read past learning journeys by selecting from 'Previous Mantle of the Expert Work at Muritai School', which is a tab on the right hand side of this blog page.

Detail from a map of Wellington geology

Sorting rocks

28 July 2012



Collective World Mapping

Today we started with a discussion about the country Greece.  A couple of the group have visited Greece but no one was really sure about where one would put it on a World Map.  I challenged the group to draw a world map so that we could put Greece on it and the challenge was met enthusiastically.  With no references the children set to work to collectively draw a map of the world, guiding each other with their personal knowledge.  It was very impressive how the children ALL worked together on this task, sharing the pens with each other as they all added different places.  No individual felt confident to draw the whole map on their own but together the group did it!  While it wasn’t to scale they got every continent and as many countries as I, the teacher, could have put on a world map – well done team!  We then placed Greece on the map and looked at some books on Greece and the Greek Islands.  We gathered our ideas about what we knew as a group about this country already and added some things we noticed in the books and maps.

"The first Olympics were held in Greece"
"It is a hot country"
"There are lots of islands"
"It is in the Mediterranean"
"Greece has lots of mountains"
"It is near the ‘boot’ (Italy) and the soccer ball (Sicily)"
"It is near Egypt"
"There are temples in Greece"(there were a range of ideas about what temples were including where people are buried, palaces where princesses live, and places where gods are worshipped – we are going to learn more about these places later!).

Next I invited the group to explore the walls, which had some clues about a fictional company we were going to spend time in.  The group looked at details including books, notices, newspaper articles, company awards, historical timelines, and some photos.  As the children found clues about the company they wrote them up on the board.  This is what they found out:

-"This is a company of archaeologists"
-"They are good at the work they do – they have won awards, the newspaper article talks about how good they are."
-"The company was started in 2000, it is 12 years old."
-"They study Greek things"
-"They are specialists in Greek artifcats from the Golden Age, 479-431BC" (We talked about BC – this was new learning for all).
-"They dig to find old Greek things"
-"They dive to find old shipwrecks"
-"They study ancient Greek gods and goddesses, and mythical creatures"

Next we talked about how we were going to be spending some time in our drama as archaeologists who work in this company.  As a way of getting into this role we next added our own signs to the space, so the group could start to take some ownership of their ‘workplace’.  Signs that were added included:

-pictures on the staff board with details of when they joined the company
-coffee machines and food
-a tool cupboard with tools including clipboards, paper, and pens
-many computers and other electronic equipment
-vases and artefacts

Our Staffboard

Tool Cupboard

Chocolate Dispenser!

Coffee Machine

Adding a Computer to our Computer Suite

There were also some large reference books that were in the space but the pages were empty.  The children spent some time making some pages for the company’s ‘Guide to Mythical Creatures’.  Information pages were written on minotaurs, centaurs, mermaids, unicorns, dragons, and Cerberus.  As we learn more we will be able to add more pages to these books and sort the creatures into different categories.  It was a great way to see what knowledge of mythical creatures the group already has, it was great to see some knowledge of Ancient Greek creatures too.

Reference Books

Next we went into role as archaeologists in a Monday morning meeting.  I, as team leader, had a problem for the team to solve.

‘Over the weekend we had a new cleaner come in to clean our offices as our normal cleaner was off sick.  Unfortunately this new cleaner did not know not to move our collection of artifacts we have on display in our foyer.  Luckily nothing has been damaged but the display is all mixed up.  All the artifacts, labels, and descriptions are out of order.  We are going to have to set the display collection up again…’

The team set to work straight away examining ten different artifacts and matching them up to the right captions and descriptions.  This was a fun task and got everyone talking about, and looking closely at, a range of artifacts from the Golden Age of Greece including: vases, marble relief, amphoras, bronze and marble sculptures, old coins, and armour.

Soon the display was put together in the right order – excellent teamwork again.

Sorting our Artifacts and Descriptions


There was excitement from a couple in the group when I told them that in the afternoon we would listen to some stories about Odysseus.  We are lucky to have a couple of experts on some of the stories of Odysseus and some of the ancient Greek Gods, and they are keen to learn more too! 

As well as being archaeologists in our Mantle work this term, we are also going to spend some time as Ancient Athenians living in about 450BC.  This afternoon we stepped into a typical Athenian house from this time.  We saw rooms with women weaving, rooms where slaves slept, dining rooms where men ate on low long couches, storage areas filled with amphoras (storage jars for food), a courtyard, and bedrooms.  We stopped in the dining room to listen to a bard tell some stories.  Bards were travelling entertainers who told/sang stories about Greek heroes and the gods and goddesses.   Today the bard was telling the story of the Judgement of Paris and the Wooden Horse of Troy.  He then went on to tell the story of Odysseus, one of the Greek generals who fought in the Trojan War and who masterminded the cunning plan of the Wooden Horse.  The bard told the story of Odysseus and his men leaving Troy and being blown off course from home and on to the land of the Cyclops.  We made story maps of the stories we heard today and we look forward to hearing more about the adventures of Odysseus and how Poseidon, the sea god, makes trouble for him!
Story Map: The Judgement of Paris

Story Map: Odysseus and his men hiding inside the Wooden Horse

Story Map: The Cyclops after he is blinded by 'No-Man' (Odysseus)

21 July 2012


Today we came together as a new group of year 3 and 4 students to begin a new Mantle of the Expert unit of work.  We are going to be archaeologists for this Mantle of the Expert Unit, so today we started developing an understanding about what archaeology is and the kinds of work an archaeologist does.

First we gathered our ideas about what we knew as a group about archaeology already:

“They dig for treasure, especially diamonds”
“They dig or fossils and bones”
“They tag beetles so they can study their habitats”
“They look for old things like some tree sap that might have a bug caught in it – they can study the bug and see if it has some dinosaur blood in it”
“They look for ruins”
“They research other civilisations – a civilisation is basically the place we live in, the buildings and the government”

As you can see there was a range of ideas in the group.  We had a sense that archaeology was a kind of science that involved digging things up but we needed to find out some more about what exactly they dug up and studied.

Next we read a picture book called ‘Archaeologists Dig For Clues’ by Kate Duke, and this helped clarify our ideas.

Here is what we learnt from the book:

  • We confirmed that archaeologists do dig things up and that archaeology is a type of science - they are very systematic, careful and organised with how they dig and record their findings!
  • We learnt that archaeologists rarely find treasure and diamonds. 
  • We discovered that archaeologists are actually more interested in ordinary things that belonged to ordinary people – in fact they even get excited about what they find in thousand year old rubbish piles! (archaeologists call old rubbish midden – and they can get clues about what people used to eat by looking at the little bits they left over!)
  • We learnt that archaeologists study things that tell them about past human life.  The study of old dinosaur bones and old bugs is actually a different type of science called ‘palaeontology’. 
  • Archaeologists do study past civilisations and they get clues from finding things that people made (artifacts): old tools, old artwork, old buildings, and things that were written down by past people. 
  • The book also gave us some idea of the kinds of tools archaeologists use and the kind of work they do when they go on an excavation.


In our next activity we imagined we were archaeologists and we were heading out on an excavation.  We generated some ideas in pairs about what kinds of tools we might need to pack and then we did a small drama where we packed a van with the equipment we needed. 

“Its 8 o’clock in the morning and there is a group of people packing their van to get ready for going on an archaeological dig. I wonder what kind of things they are packing for their days work…some people are packing their own archaeology dig kits, some are putting bigger things into the van…it looks like it is going to be a warm day, we are going to need our sunhats and sun-block today for sure….”

The children in role 'packing the van' opening cupboards and taking things out carefully to carry to the van.

After a few minutes in role we froze and listened to each other speak aloud the things they were thinking or packing.

 “small brushes
screens for sieving the dirt
clipboard and paper
bags to put our finds in
a water bottle
string and pegs” (for marking out the squares for digging)

We made a collective list of the things we had packed in the van and then started work on drawing our own individual archaeology dig kits.


We only had the afternoon today but we learnt lots! We are looking forward to a full day of Mantle of the Expert on Monday!