Foxton Primary School students have had the opportunity to dive deep into Māori culture this week with Matariki celebrations that include a sleepover at the school.

Matariki, known as the Māori New Year, is a cluster of stars that can be seen in mid-winter. Matariki meant 'little eyes' (mata riki) or 'eyes of god' (mata ariki).

After a night of kapa haka the students stayed the night at the school, borrowing more than 35 mattresses from Motuiti Marae.

The next morning the students were woken at 5am for a karakia and hangi which had started cooking at 4am.

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School principal Tiwana Hibbs said kūmara was cooked in the hāngī as it held special significance. It was believed that when the kūmara was opened the smell would travel to the gods, and that kūmara originally came from the stars.

"The children got to learn about that story and hopefully they can share the story, if given the opportunity," he said.

They also held art workshops consisting of kite making, tukutuku panel weaving and chalk art.

Hibbs said the school was really looking forward to next year's Matariki where they are planning on involving the community in their celebrations.