SPARKLERS / Identity and culture

What's In A Name?

A great aiga (family) connecting and learning activity highlighting the importance of our names.
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki understand the importance of names as connected to family traditions

He aha ai? – Why we love it

Whether our name was chosen from a baby book or has a strong family connection our names are important. This is an opportunity for children to learn about their name and/or some family history, while connecting with their culture and identity.

Tāngia ēnei tohutohu – Print me

This activity comes with three printable components. All students will need the first component (1) – then you can like to give them the option of creating a film strip (2) or a poster (3) with their findings.

  1. What's in a name (igoa) worksheet
  2. The story of a name (film strip)
  3. The story of a name (igoa) poster pages

Keen to go printer-free? Checkout our Sparklers At Home version of this activity.

Cultural tips

Many Pacific children’s names are chosen from a significant part of their heritage and culture but often they will shorten their names to make it easier for others or to avoid their name being pronounced incorrectly. If that’s the case, this activity is a great chance for them to connect with their name and identity, and confirm the name they would most like people to use.

Talanoa (talk)

Let your students know that our names are really important. They’ve been chosen especially for us and can have important meanings, be passed down from significant relatives or ancestors or be brand new to our aiga (family).

Sometimes we even choose to change our names and we go through the same process of looking at options and making sure we choose something that ‘fits’.

Whatever the case, your name has a story.

Hei mahi - What to do

Give each student the What’s in a name (igoa)? worksheet and explain that this is a ‘take home’ activity where they can interview someone from their aiga (family) or someone who knows about their name, in order to capture the ‘story’ behind it.

Let them know that the following day, they’ll have the chance to capture this story as either:

  • A film strip (print worksheet); or
  • A poster (print worksheet).

The following day, ask students how they found the exercise. Did they make any interesting discoveries?

Give them time to create the story of their name (or the name of someone in their family/aiga) using the film strip OR to create a poster of their name – nice and large, with pictures of them, their family, some favourite things, and anything they enjoy doing around the edge.


Encourage students to Google their names and summarise someone who shares it. OR if they are the only one with their name, they could write their own biography.


This activity was developed based on the Pacific Toolkit resource created by Angie Taulia Malae from West Spreydon School and the CDHB Health Promoting Schools Team. Big thanks for allowing us to use this work and caring so much about our Pacific children.

Sparklers at Home

If you think it may be useful for whānau to be more involved in What's in a Name, we've got that covered! Simply copy and paste the following 'blurb' into an email or your home-learning programme as an introduction.

In the classroom we've been looking into the importance and significance of our names. Our names are really important - they’ve been chosen especially for us and can have important meanings, be passed down from significant relatives or ancestors or be brand new to our aiga (whānau). Our names always come with an important story.

Sparklers at Home has the same activity, we've been using in the classroom, What's in a Name, ready for home use. It would be great if you could support your child with this. They will really enjoy this time with you.

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