Bilingual science kits give kaiako confidence

Issue: Volume 102, Number 5

Posted: 20 April 2023
Reference #: 1HA_Tb

A team of New Zealand scientists has won a prestigious international award for their vast library of hands-on, bilingual science resource kits that enable thousands of primary school kaiako across Aotearoa to deliver life-changing science lessons.

Ākonga at Matua School love engaging in science lessons.

Ākonga at Matua School love engaging in science lessons.

House of Science NZ was chosen by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Horizon’s prestigious panel of judges as the winner of the RSC Horizon Prizes for Education.

The RSC receives applications from all over the world for their awards, which acknowledge individuals, teams and schools across primary, secondary, further education and higher education, for their exceptional contributions to chemistry education.

While the science kit concept was developed 10 years ago, with new additions and changes along the way, the recent award is testament to their value as a longstanding learning resource.

The development team, led by House of Science Charitable Trust resource developer Jane Hoggard, won the award for their contribution to making science education more accessible with last year’s kits.

Making science accessible

Combining the skills of eDNA experts, science communicators, educators and community engagement specialists, the group created the library of hands-on science resource kits to give teachers the tools and confidence to deliver interactive science lessons.

“I am proud of the work we are doing with both teachers and students throughout New Zealand, fostering wonder and curiosity in the world around us,” says Jane, who considers it a privilege to work alongside scientists to help create the kits for primary and intermediate schools.

Each bilingual kit (te reo Māori on one side, English on the other) includes up to eight different experiments on one topic.

The library includes 40 topics ranging from Climate Change to Flexi Physics and everything in between. Each kit has something for each age group, catering for Years 0–8.

The Electric Future kit, for example, includes an introduction to circuits using ‘energy tubes’ that light up; a discussion on what energy is and where it comes from; an activity to create circuits using batteries, LEDs and playdough; making a torch; making batteries; investigating solar powered cars in different light conditions; and making an anemometer to determine the windiest spot on the school grounds. The activities are sequential, each building on the preceding lesson.

House of Science says the learning outcomes for each activity are linked to the curriculum and are clearly outlined in the teacher manual.

“We are strong believers in the power of hands-on activities to foster a child’s curiosity and grow their science capabilities,” says House of Science NZ CEO Chris Duggan.

Chris is a biochemist and former secondary school teacher who established House of Science because of a growing concern about the lack of science knowledge students had when arriving at secondary school.

“Tamariki articulate how they are gathering and interpreting data while working across the curriculum, and the whānau feedback has been positive,” she says.

“Children are telling their whānau that they act and think like scientists when doing everything from reading and solving maths problems, to gardening and exploring their local environment.”

Time-saving science

Students in Years 2-8 at Opononi School engaging with A Load of Rubbish / He Putunga Para science kit to better tiaki their coastal environment.

Students in Years 2-8 at Opononi School engaging with A Load of Rubbish / He Putunga Para science kit to better tiaki their coastal environment.

Every second week for the past nine years, Matua School science specialist teacher Bruce Reid has used the fully stocked science resource kits containing all necessary equipment, consumables and instructions to tackle high-interest science topics that the children love.

“They’re a massive timesaver for teachers and provide a huge boost to how we deliver science,” says Bruce.

“Our children are getting state-of-the-art science lessons that are having a huge impact. They will tell me about a favourite lesson a whole year later.”

Welcome Bay School started using the kits in 2017. Year 2–3 teacher Julia Bishop says they include all the curriculum links along with learning objectives, lesson plans, questions, links to the science capabilities and mātauranga Māori.

“The science is clearly explained, which saves teachers a lot of time researching,” she says.

Because each kit includes all the necessary equipment for each experiment, the school does not need to have a huge range of science resources, which helps with budget and storage issues too, Julia adds.

Bruce says the children enjoy the learning opportunities and experiments, and progress to intermediate and secondary school with a positive attitude towards science.

“The regular arrival of new science equipment within the kits completely feeds their hunger for new experiences. Many children in parent interviews talk about their love of science now, and parents love anything their tamariki are motivated by,” he says.

Students in Years 2-8 at Opononi School engaging with A Load of Rubbish / He Putunga Para science kit to better tiaki their coastal environment.

Students in Years 2-8 at Opononi School engaging with A Load of Rubbish / He Putunga Para science kit to better tiaki their coastal environment.

Meaningful learning experiences

Both teachers say the hands-on experiences, which allow students to look and feel like scientists, have fuelled their curiosity towards science.

“They are engaged in what we are doing, and I get excited that they are excited!” says Julia.

“It is particularly rewarding when they take the knowledge and language they learn in science contexts and apply it to their play and to other curriculum areas.

“For example, ‘I am investigating’, or ‘I am gathering evidence’, or ‘I am being a problem solver’.”

Bruce says children now seek out science books from the school library to take home to help fuel their curiosity.

At Opononi Area School Year 2–3 teacher Nicky Rogers-Pirini says using the resources schoolwide has helped students engage in topical conversations such as Cyclone Gabrielle and the water system.

“It directly links their thinking to what is scientifically happening in our environment,” she says.

“As a coastal school [beside the Hokianga Harbour], it’s important to give meaningful learning experiences relevant to our environment.”

Two kits that have stood out for the school are A Load Of Rubbish, which looks at how they can tiaki (look after) their harbour, and Big Blue Future, which helps students understand how the ocean is essential in protecting our planet.

Julia says the feedback from parents has been positive too.

“When we share science experiments and activities on Seesaw, parents find it helpful as they can then discuss what the children were learning with them,” she says.

“We found that during lockdown, many families were sharing experiments and kitchen science they were doing at home.”

Integrating mātauranga Māori and science

Te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori are intertwined in the resource kits, with lessons available in both reo Māori and English for kaiako and ākonga.

“We include as much te reo in our science lessons as we can,” says Bruce.

Te ao Māori links such as pūrākau (Māori myths and legends) and references to mātauranga Māori are incorporated within each kit to complement the topic or focus area.

The Volcanoes kit, for example, includes the legend of Rūaumoko, while the Fireworks kit references the legend of how Māui brought fire to the world. The Simple Machines kit explains traditional kōhatu (Māori use of stone tools), and the Food For Thought kit talks about hāngī.

Māori organisations also feature in some kits. Invasion Busters includes Te Tira Whakamātaki, the Māori Biosecurity Network. The Moo To You kit features Miraka, New Zealand’s first Māori-owned milk processing company.

“We don’t claim to be experts, and we acknowledge many pūrākau are specific to iwi or regions,” says Chris.

“But the purpose of the cultural link in our kits is to create opportunities for further exploration and provide kaiako with examples they can then localise.”

Cross-curricular opportunities

At Opononi School, students enjoy using the What’s the Buzz? / He Aha Tērā Huhū? kits.

At Opononi School, students enjoy using the What’s the Buzz? / He Aha Tērā Huhū? kits.

“We integrate literacy and numeracy with the science learning,” says Bruce.

“We recently used the Simple Machines kit and the learners were extending their vocabulary with words such as pneumatic and hydraulic lifting, pulleys, levers and wedges.”

One of the tasks involves measuring the diameter of a variety of wheels and then measuring how far each wheel would travel with one rotation.

“It was awesome mathematics, with a real purpose,” he says.

“The kids are hypothesising, predicting, problem solving – all in a hands-on classroom setting, and learning mahi tahi (collaboration with their peers). Science, mathematics and literacy all go hand-in-hand.”

Increasing engagement

At Opononi School, students enjoy using the What’s the Buzz? / He Aha Tērā Huhū? kits.

At Opononi School, students enjoy using the What’s the Buzz? / He Aha Tērā Huhū? kits.

In April 2021, the Education Review Office released its findings from New Zealand school visits conducted in 2019, and found the science resource kits were an effective means of increasing student engagement in the subject for Years 5–8.

ERO also found the kits helped to reduce teachers’ reluctance to attempt experimental science in class.

“The House of Science kits form a diverse range of the science strands, which gives kaiako the ability to teach even areas they are not confident about,” says Julia.

House of Science currently services 650 primary and intermediate schools across 20 regions, making up more than 30 percent of all primary and intermediate schools in New Zealand.

Approximately 15 percent of House of Science member schools are full immersion kura. The kits are booked online by teachers in member schools.

Chris says they receive no government funding for developing the kits, but do get Enriching Local Curriculum funding.

For example, the funding pays for the loan of a live hive of bumblebees if a teacher wants to enrich the learning in the What’s the Buzz? He Aha Tērā Huhū? kit.

“However, we do rely on grants, sponsors, donors and volunteers to deliver this core curriculum resource to our schools,” adds Chris.

Chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Dr Helen Pain, says as society faces many challenges, educators can give children the tools to advance their understanding of the world around them, and science learning can help them solve many problems they encounter.

“It’s of vital importance that we recognise the crucial role that educators play in the advancement of the sciences,” she says. “And that we commend their ability to inspire and nurture the next generation of bright young minds, so they can go on to make new discoveries and innovations.”

Chris says the kits will be updated in line with the 2025 science curriculum refresh.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:34 am, 20 April 2023

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