Captain Cook – DIY exhibit activity- 3 concepts.

 Following the successful trialling and use of the DIY interactive exhibit: Survivor WW1, by museums throughout NZ, Intouch Design is developing another interactive exhibit, around the theme of Captain Cook. We have come up with  3 preliminary concepts, and we'd love to hear back from you as to which you like best:

1.    The Master Navigator

CaptCK navigate 1.jpg

2.    Paradise Lost

3.    A Hog for a Hatchet

Concept 1: The Master Navigator

This is an activity in which participants learn about navigation, and Capt Cook’s journeys, whilst building a globe.

Step1- The Framework: Meridians and Latitude will form the structural framework of the globe.  Participants will learn the most important navigational datum’s (The Equator, the Greenwhich Meridian and it’s antipode, and 45 degrees East and West)  and that latitude consists of even slices of the globe.

Step 2- Gores: Longitude & Greenwhich Mean Time The longitudinal gores will then be individually placed on the globe. Participants will learn that longitude is like slices of an orange, getting smaller towards the poles, and that every 15° around the globe represents 1 hour from Greenwhich. They will also learn a bit of geography, as they figure out which order to place the gores in.

Step 3: Grid References: Incidents from Cook’s Voyages Participants will then be given illustrated cards, which show incidents from Cook’s voyages, giving the date and a grid reference, and the place name. They can then place these cards in the correct place on the globe. When they are all placed they can then link the dates in sequence with coloured string to find Cook’s 3 voyages.

Local map + transit.jpg

Step 4: Scaling: The Transit of Venus An additional activity involves marking out 1 astronomical unit (au) in the scale of the globe, on a local map. For example, if you use 630mm bicycle rims for your globe, then 1au is 7.4km away from your museum. The purpose of observing the transit of Venus, was to establish the length of 1 au, which is the distance between the Earth and the sun. This was the first astronomical length to be established, so it was then used to establish the distances between other celestial bodies.

Background information, and suggested artefacts for display.

When Capt Cook first set sail there was no certain way of determining longitude.  Sailors were often shipwrecked because they could only guess how far around the globe they were. A £20,000 King’s Prize was offered for the first person to invent a reliable way of finding longitude at sea. Many learned gentlemen studiously logged the relative position of celestial bodies over 18 year periods, creating almanacs, so that navigators could establish their position on Earth. However, this was of no use in cloudy conditions, or on a pitching and rolling ship. It was a craftsman clockmaker, Harrison, who eventually invented a clock that would keep time accurately enough at sea for sailors to establish their position in relation to Greenwhich. One ship’s clock was kept on Greenwhich Meantime, whilst another was set to local time according to the noon sun. The difference in time between the 2 clocks establish how far round the globe the ship was from the Greenwhich Meridian, that is: its longitude.


Suggested artefacts or replicas: Clocks, watches, globes, telescopes, binoculars, sextants, compasses, chronometers, dividers, rulers, quills, pencils, ink, charts, lead line, ship’s log.

Variations for visitors of different ages and subject areas:

For Primary School children, Step 3 only, but with numbered and colour-coded cards and positions on the globe, so that all they have to do is match the number and colour of their card to a number on the globe. Each voyage is colour coded, so that once the cards are in place on the globe, the kids can use coloured string to connect the cards in numerical order, and find out where Capt Cook sailed. For maths students there is plenty of geometry, scaling, and calculation in the construction of the globe, and in the process of navigation, and the transit of Venus, that they could be asked to draw up and calculate, according to their level of knowledge. For science students: latitude and longitude, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, day and night, the transit of Venus, and astronomical units. For social studies, history, drama, and English students there are the incidents in the voyages of Captain Cook. Some these could be acted out, or incorporated in a game of charades.

Concept 2: Paradise Lost.

pyramid and flora.jpg

This is a game in which participants learn about flora, (plants) from 3 different viewpoints:

  • Enlightenment Science
  • Maori Tikanga
  • Ecology & Conservation
Maori triangle.jpg
Enlightenment Triangle.jpg

Participants stand on 3 sides of a tetrahedron. There are cards with drawings of plants in kete below each side. Participants must select the correct plants from the kete to fill each niche on their side of the tetrahedron. If they don’t have the correct plants they must swap with participants from the other side. Each side of the tetrahedron represents a different system of plant classification:  Enlightenment Science is organized according to the Linnaeus System: i.e. according to the shape of the plant parts. The plant names are given in Latin.  On the Maori Tikanga side plant names are only in Maori, and are arranged according to their usefulness to Maori: for making things, food, medicine, or for spiritual value.  On the Ecology & Conservation side plants are organized according to the ecological niche that they belong to, such as alpine, wetland, seashore etc. and their names are given in English. Thus the same plant may be on each side for a different reason e.g. Phormium Tenax has long straight leaves. Harakeke is used for making kete, rain capes, cloaks, skirts, loin cloths, belts, sandals, fishing nets, sails, bird snares, ropes, floor mats, poultices, purgatives, disinfectants and ointments.  Flax lives anywhere from cliff tops to swamps, but prefers well-drained moist soil, and is pollinated by nectar drinking birds. The same plant will have a different point value for each side. For instance flax may be worth 20 on the Maori side, as it can be used for making so many things, and 1 on the Ecology & Conservation side as it is a very common plant. 3 rounds can be played, with teams moving around to a different side for each round. The winning team for each round is the one that finishes first. This finishes the round. The other teams get to earn the points for the cards that they have managed to place on their triangle. The winner after 3 rounds is the team with the most points.

Variations for visitors of different ages

Secondary school aged children, or adults, can try playing the game without looking at the other triangles. They will only be able to ask for a plant from another group by explaining it from the point of view of their side of the tetrahedron. Thus while someone on the Enlightenment Science side will ask for Phormium Tenax with 6 stamens, a player on the Maori side will ask for Harakeke, which is useful for many things from weaving to poultices. They will have to do some explaining to realize they are talking about the same plant. Participants will gain an understanding of the difficulty of communicating from different cultures, and the differing values of the 3 scientific systems. Primary school aged children, may move around the whole tetrahedron rather than asking to exchange cards, and black and white drawings of the plants could already be in the niches, so they only need match the coloured cards to them.

Background thinking & intended learning outcomes


The name of the game, “Paradise Lost” has three meanings:  It refers to leaves of the book “ Paradise Lost”, which Joseph Banks used to press his plant specimens, whilst on board The Endeavour.  It refers to the species that have become lost or endangered between now and The Endeavour’s journey.  It refers to a loss of innocence, from the Enlightenment Science of Joseph Banks, which classified and collected plants on the assumption that there would always be an endless supply of them for our use, to the current day Ecology, from which we understand that we must live sustainably with plants and their environment. This game is designed to help visitors understand the difference between Scientific Paradigms:     Enlightenment Science in the Age of Discovery, based on empirical observation of the physical world, in which flora was systematically classified in order to identify resources for exploitation.  Maori Tikanga, in which man and plants are seen to have a common origin, and plants are respected as older relatives. The Ngahere (forest) represents the Maori supermarket, the spiritual domain, the schoolhouse and the medicine cabinet.  Ecology, which is the scientific analysis and study of interactions among organisms and their environment. It is an interdisciplinary field that includes biology, geography and Earth science. If one organism is removed from its ecological niche it causes a chain reaction of effects on other interrelated organisms and systems. Conservation of biodiversity is important and humans are not seen as separate from the environment.  All 3 scientific paradigms are useful to us: so all sides of the tetrahedron are equal.

Places the game can be played, and suggested artefacts. 

This game is appropriate for Museums, DOC visitor Centers, and Botanical Gardens Education. For DOC visitor Centers and Botanical Gardens, participants can look for the real plants outdoors. The plants for each niche would change, according to those that are indigenous to that locality. Visitors could be given triangular sheets on which to tick off the plants as they find them, like a treasure hunt. They could also take a photo of each plant on their phones. For Museums the following artefacts or replicas could be on display to compliment the game: Any Maori artefacts that are made from plant material such as; kete, mats, tukutuku panels, waka, paddles, digging sticks, taiaha, wharenui, wakahuia, cloaks, fishing nets and traps. Any equipment similar to that used by Sydney Parkinson and Joseph Banks for recording plants, such as writing quills, paints, pencils, ink, magnifying glasses, microscopes, presses and paper for preserving leaves. Any other artefacts that are made from, or depict images of indigenous plants.  

Concept 3: A Hatchet for A Hog

CaptCK EndPI_1.jpg

This game of bartering helps players understand the difficulties of first contact: of the difficult communication between Capt Cook and his crew and the people of the Pacific. When the game is going well, everyone is friendly and there is a free exchange of goods. When the game is going badly, communication and trade stop, and people are punished, and sometimes even killed. There will be 2 (teams of) players: On one side Capt Cook and the crew of the Endeavour will be aiming to trade items such as nails, hatchets, beads, red feathers, and cloth for fresh water, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, and girlfriends. Their aim is to get enough of these items to recover their health, and to provision the ship so they can sail onwards. On the other side Pacific Islanders will be attempting to protect their land, resources and people from invasion (by neighbouring Islanders, the sailors, strange new Gods, or disease), and attempting to gain as much new technology and mana as possible.

Each side will be given a different set of rules:

  • about how to conduct trade,    
  • about the value of each trade item,    
  • and about the punishments to be taken if the other side breaks the rules.
red feather.png
hatchet 1.jpg

For instance the ship’s botanist may shoot a bird without realizing it is sacred. On the other hand the Islanders may think that stealing the astronomer’s sextant, or the botanist’s breeches, in order to increase their own mana, will go unnoticed. The sextant may be worth 10 points to the sailors, and 1 to the Islanders, whilst red feathers may be worth 1 point to the sailors and 10 to the Islanders. To punish the sailors the Islanders withdraw, and refuse to trade. To punish the Islanders the sailors capture their chiefs, or confiscate their waka. Amends can be made to either side by presenting gifts.  If no amends are made, or if more than one transgression happens at once, then the punishment escalates to violence: flogging, or beating. Escalating transgressions result in death. Each side will have a limited number of items to trade. If the combined value of their items fall below a certain level they will have lost the game i.e. they do not have enough resources to survive.

The aim of the game is not to beat the opposition, but for a win/win situation: the sailors aim to leave with all their provisions and no-one sick, wounded or killed, whilst the Polynesians aim to have enough resources left to survive, and no-one sick, wounded or killed. This game will lend itself well to repeat visitation. As each side learns the others’ rules, they will be able to negotiate better, and to avoid accidentally offending each other. For younger players, the game could simply operate like the card game “Go Fish”: e.g. the sailors ask the Islanders for a hog. The Islanders have no hogs, so the sailors have to “Go Fish” for the hog from the collection of items sitting in the “sea” between the “Island” on one wall of the room, and “The Endeavour”, on the opposite wall.

Suggested artefacts for display

Items similar to those traded (or stolen) between Capt Cook and Pacific Islanders (including Maori): e.g. Bark cloth, tapa, cloth, cloaks, clothes, hatchets, axes, nails, beads, buttons, bottles, feathers. Containers for provisioning the ship, such as barrels, or containers that Islanders used for catching or gathering food, such as kete or fishing nets. Weapons, such as muskets, patu, spears.