Learning Guide


From the Te Hau Valley rises a large grove of California redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), standing over 40 metres high. These redwoods were purchased from the NZ Forest Service in 1926 (for 1 pound 10 shillings) and planted by the Chambers family who recognised that the Hawke’s Bay climate shared similarities with that of coastal California.

The tallest living tree species on Earth, this beautiful, other-worldly grove of giants is a sanctuary for all. Another younger grove of redwoods in the Park, the Little Redwoods in Te Heu Valley, were planted in 1974 by the Hastings Rotary, propagated by Don Wilson, nurseryman of Hastings, from seeds imported from California. 

A variety of species call the redwoods home from organisms like slaters, beetles, worms and spiders to birds like the pīwakawaka, tūī, tauhou (waxeye), and kererū (New Zealand pigeon). 


Redwoods can live for thousands of years and have a shallow and wide spreading root system; the roots are only 2 to 4 metres deep even at maturity. They thrive and survive in thick groves, where the roots can intertwine, interlock, and fuse together. This creates strength and stability to endure and protect themselves against the powerful forces of nature, like wind and floods.

“Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web,’” says Peter Wohlleben. “All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through the networks, and also use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive these messages.” (Smithsonian)

The entire system relies on these rooted connections. The ancient Mother Trees, or Hub trees, help support the younger trees and provide nutrient to them underground. If a tree dies and begins the stage of decomposition, a new sapling grows in its place to ensure the continuation of the surrounding community of trees. Together they work as a community to stay healthy and strong. 


Watch these videos and learn about how trees communicate and work together to create a healthier, more stable forest environment.

How do trees communicate? 

What role does fungi play? 

What is the hub tree? Why is it important? 

Mycelium– the filaments of fungi that develop into fruiting bodies such as mushrooms, puffballs, toadstools, and truffles. At a certain stage it produces spores, directly or through special fruiting bodies.

Mycorrhizae – fungi that grows inside or on the surface of a plants root which helps the plant collect water and nutrients

Learn more about redwoods…

Carbon Protectors 

Redwoods rank among the most resilient trees on Earth. They are resistant to fire, fungus, and disease, and they are great natural carbon sinks because of their size. As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store it in their leaves, branches, trunks, and roots. The amount of carbon that is stored in a tree directly corresponds to its size. On average, carbon makes up half of a tree’s dry weight. So the larger the tree, the more carbon it’s holding. As redwood trees can grow to such grand sizes, these forests can store more carbon from the atmosphere than any other forest ecosystem. 

The forest is more than just a collection of trees. Trees contain: 

When the network of ancient forests are disturbed or cut down, carbon is released back into the atmosphere, adding to the warming of the earth which has negative consequences for our planet. Protecting our existing forests and planting new forests can help to combat climate change

Animals and humans have kin connections and relationships. So do trees. They do not survive alone, but instead form tribes of rooted connections, relying on each other like you do your whānau. The first thing they provide each other is strength and support through their intertwining roots.  Not deep, but wide, living in an embrace of others.

The Mother Trees or Hub trees are the strongest of these trees and help others to survive. They share water and nutrients, helping other trees to survive. The Mother Trees can recognise their own offspring, the seeds from their own trees. Together, they have their own universal language and way of communicating.

Learn more about how trees communicate

Redwood trees, leaves, and sap contain healing, restorative properties. Traditional practices included eating parts of the tree, making tea, and creating poultices. High in vitamin C, a good tonic and a treatment for earache, colds, and when you are feeling run down. The chewed leaves can be applied directly to reduce localised pain and swelling and as a treatment for earaches.

Redwoods are considered to be a symbolism of wellness, safety, longevity, wisdom, and communication. “To walk in a redwood forest is to enter nature’s cathedral.” (Redwood symbolism)


Activity 1:

Wood Wide Web

created by Sonya Sedgwick – Enviroschools

Together we are powerful 

Parkvale School students form a Wood Wide Web

Create the connecting root system of a forest and experience how it is impacted by removal of trees within that community.

  1. First group: Three people stand in a triangle with one hand on the shoulder of the other students in the triangle (recommend the tallest people in the centre to represent the Hub trees).
  2.  Second group: Six more people come in and place one hand on a shoulder of each of the three people who are in the centre.
  3. The three people in the centre reach out and place a hand onto the shoulder of a person near them  – leaving one arm in with one arm heading out to intertwine with another person.
  4. Third group: Twelve people come in and place a hand on a shoulder of the previous six people from the second group. The second group people reach out and place their free hand onto the shoulder of a person outside of them – leaving one arm in with one arm heading out to intertwine with a person from the third group.
  5. Now the Hub trees in the centre can send messages to the other trees. To send a message, the Hub tree taps a person’s shoulder that they have their hand on and this is passed on. Experiment with 2 taps, 3 taps, and see how it ripples across the community of trees. 
  6. Once the community has sent and received tapping messages, begin to sway gently and feel the grounded connection of the collective. Role play that Tawhirimātea is coming as a storm and see how the community reacts as the collective sways and moves, impacted by the storm. Then the storm passes. Does the group stand strong? Do they support each other? 
  7. Next, alter the integrity of the community by removing some trees from the forest. Remove them strategically throughout so that when the storm comes again, they have less strength and integrity. Begin to experience the changed system by sending messages, starting with a Hub tree. Is the communication between trees altered?
  8. Role play another storm coming with some trees removed. Then the storm passes. What happens? Does the forest stand as strong? Or is it weakened?

Activity 2:

Mihi Whakatau

created by Sonya Sedgwick – Enviroschools

Once outside, bring everyone into connection with the natural world through this mihi. 

Depending on the weather, stand or sit.

  1. Rub your hands together and begin to feel the heat in your palms
  2. Clap four times – pakipaki tahi, rua, toru, whā
  3. Clasp your hands together, one hand over the other, like a putatara shell – breathe into your hands
  4. Raise your hands above your head and say
    Kia ora Ranginui
  5. Look up to the sky and take a deep breath in – Ha ki roto 
  6. As you lower your arm breath out – Ha ki wāho 
  7. REPEAT  steps 1- 3 actions
  8. Breath out Ha ki wāho and bend down and place your hands on the ground and say
    Kia ora Papatūānuku
  9. Give Papatūānuku a massage with your fingers and lower your head. Connect with everything on, in, below the ground, the forest, and the fungal community networks which are the natural engine of the planet.  
  10. Lean back on your heels and take a deep breath in – Ha ki roto and stand up
  11. REPEAT steps 1 – 3
  12. Close your eyes and wrap your arms around your body
  13. Say hello to yourself, say your name, and check in on yourself. Feel your feet connected to the ground, imagine that your feet are connected to all the people and the trees around you. 
  14. Connect in with all your ancestors, remember them now, the tipuna, Te Mata o te Tipuna 
  15. Feel your arms as a cloak around your body, Korowai o Te Matā  
  16. Open your eyes and bring your arms out in front of you and wiri wiri to Tāne mahuta, to haumiatiketike  to everything that is between Ranginui  and Papatūānuku
  17. Finish by calling out together  Tihei Mauri ora
Giant Redwoods in Te Mata Park
Activity 3:

Nature Art

Collect leaf litter from the forest floor to create a collage, pattern or Wood Wide Web – include the matted interlocked root system, the trees and their foliage. Add epiphytes, stones, found objects, anything that you like. 

Activity 4:

Meet a Tree

created by Sonya Sedgwick – Enviroschools

Observation and Conversations with Nature 

Find a tree to get to know and practice the living embrace (awhi).

Above: Look upwards toward the top of your tree, known as the tree crown, and observe the branches and foliage.

Did you know that a tree can house other plant species as well as provide food for various birds and bugs? It is a unique ecosystem hundreds of feet off the ground, attracting birds, bats and invertebrates.

Eye level: Look into the bark, notice the patterns, look for spiderwebs and other creatures that might be living there. Who is making a home in your tree? Did you know that the bark of a redwood tree is around 30 cm thick! That is about the length of your foot. The bark is highly fire-resistant. 

Below: What can you see on the ground? Feel around in the leaf litter. You might see redwood leaves. Redwood leaves are green, flat, and sharp-pointed. The trees shed their leaves allowing decomposers to create a rich dark layer of soil on the surface.

Consider what lies below the soil and leaves that carpet the ground. What is living here?  You may see beetles, spiders, or fungi. What lies beneath? Underneath the forest floor, intertwined with the roots of the trees, is a fascinating microscopic network of fungus.

Learning Grid

  • Redwood Reflections

    Watch this video about how people respond to the redwoods.

    Now create your own reflection in a few words, sentences, or perhaps write a poem.

  • The Mother Tree

    Trees communicate through an underground web and are part of an interacting community. Who is in your community? Draw the mother tree or trees in your family (who might be your father, sister, grandmother, or grandfather) and the connections of others in your community.

  • Visit the Redwoods

    Come Visit!

    Plan a hikoi at Te Mata Peak and experience what you have learned about the redwoods.

  • Carbon Protectors

    What is carbon? How do trees capture and store carbon?

    Watch this video about how carbon is captured in trees and then create an e-book about carbon using Google Slides or Book Creator , or get drawing. 

  • Land Art

    Watch this short documentary about nature artist Andy Goldsworthy.

    Make a plan for creating your own land art in nature. Get some ideas HERE.

  • Epiphytes

    Epiphytes on the Redwoods

    New Zealand forests have many epiphytes growing in trees. Do the Redwoods? What is an epiphyte? What kind of epiphytes will the Te Mata Redwoods attract? 

    Draw some pictures of trees with any epiphytes you might find on them. 

  • How Trees Talk To Each Other

    “A forest is much more than what you see,” says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances. Watch her TED Talk and learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.


  • How do trees communicate?
  • What do you think biodiversity is like when the forest is connected?
  • In the Wood Wide Web Activity, how did you feel during the storm?
  • What did it feel like when some of the trees were removed?
  • How can people be connected  like a community of trees?


  • Spend time in forests, get to know them. Take walks in your local bush areas. 
  • Find out about local involvement action in our own forests. Be active kaitiakiti –  engage in nature clean up days and local planting days. 
  • Protect and sustain old growth forests. Keep the ancient tree alive, the grandmother, the legacy, so they can pass their knowledge to the future trees.
  • Find areas to rāhui and allow forests to regenerate, creating a diversity of natural regeneration on the forest floor. 
  • Design an Action Plan for Te Mata Park and your school  – what ideas do you have? Could you create an area to allow nature to develop undisturbed?