Science Literacy Program Provides Hands-On Learning for Whanganui Schools

Nickson Ryan, Campbell Wilkins, Hadrian Lee and Cian Murphy work with Alison Hollard from House of Science and Professor Alex Wood at St John’s Hill School. Photo / Bevan Conley

New science kits are introduced in some schools in Whanganui and Rangitīkei with the aim of improving science knowledge.

“What protects the skull and what protects the pelvis?” asks Professor Alex Wood.

Wood was quizzing Year 5 and Year 6 pupils in his class at St John’s Hill School about the skeletons of the kits delivered to their school that morning.

The Dem Bones Ngā Kōiwi Tuahiwi kit contained plastic skeletons, x-ray images, and fossilized animal bones set in plexiglass.

On the other side of the room, students worked with Principal Darren Torrie using the Who-Dunnit? Nā Wai i Mahi? kit containing fingerprint, handwriting, fiber and powder identification tests.

Students mixed powders such as citric acid and baking soda with water and tested pH levels with litmus papers included in the kit.

“It would be difficult for us to install and maintain this equipment at school,” Torrie said.

“The kit has everything included for basic forensic analysis, so it provides a very good introduction.”

The kits are provided by House of Science – a charitable trust whose vision is for every New Zealand child to become science-literate with a clear understanding of science concepts and processes encountered in their daily lives.

Branch manager Alison Hollard said House of Science launched in Whanganui on September 1 and six schools have already signed up for the program which operates on a library loan system.

“Reports from school staff and students have been overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

“The Dem Bones kit contains 14 skeletons so a class of 28 can work in pairs. The accompanying booklets included with each kit are bilingual with text in English and te reo Māori.”

Wood said she worked with the kits at her previous school in Northland.

“I was thrilled to find they are now available in Whanganui,” she said.

“They are so well designed and very child and teacher friendly.”

Cian Murphy examines a lizard skeleton from the science kit delivered to St John's Hill School this week.  Photo / Bevan Conley
Cian Murphy examines a lizard skeleton from the science kit delivered to St John’s Hill School this week. Photo / Bevan Conley

Fordell School had also used some of the kits this week and teacher Tom Abraham used the Lift Off, Kua Rewa Rocket Kits with his 3rd and 4th graders to learn about balanced and unbalanced forces.

“What’s great is that the experiments align very well with recent studies that we’ve done and it’s sometimes difficult to provide these practical demonstrations without a lot of extra time and resources,” he said.

“The kit came with everything we needed, including safety goggles.”

Abraham said the kit included components for two model rockets. The water-powered outdoor version had exceeded expectations by shooting more than 12m in the air.

“It was really exciting and I can’t wait to try out some more kits after the holidays.”

Hollard said there are currently 15 kits designed in accordance with all strands of the New Zealand curriculum and covering all five science abilities.

“They support other areas of learning such as literacy and numeracy,” she said.

“We don’t have all the kits available in Whanganui at the moment, but we will continue to distribute new ones as they become available.”

The kits are developed with the help of scientific organizations such as MacDiarmid Institute, MPI and AgResearch.

Hollard said local sponsorship of the kits pays for the purchase, maintenance, delivery and servicing of each kit and she said businesses in Whanganui are welcome to get involved.

“The Electric Future, Anamata Hiko kit will soon be available here.

“It would be great if some local electrical companies wanted to sponsor this one.”

House of Science was founded by Tauranga teacher and biochemist Chris Duggan in 2013 in response to her growing concern about students’ lack of science literacy upon entering high school.

Duggan decided something had to be done when she read a report from the Education Review Bureau indicating that more than 70% of primary and middle schools in New Zealand lacked effective science curricula.

The project has renowned supporters with microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles and environmental scientist Joel Rindelaub serving as House of Science ambassadors.

About Marion Alexander

Check Also

HHF Celebrates Program Helping Underserved Children Receive Eye Exams and Spectacles

HOUSTON – The Houston Health Foundation celebrates Aramco Americas’ visionary leadership and support of its …