Passing on the excitement: Junior Eureka! Pilot Programme

Issue: Volume 95, Number 5

Posted: 21 March 2016
Reference #: 1H9d0s

This month marks the beginning of a new development for the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards Programme – the competition that identifies young students who will carry forward the legacy of one of our foremost scientists and science communicators.

The Junior Eureka! Pilot Programme has been set up to encourage Year 4 to 6 students to embed their science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning to the extent they can talk confidently about what they have learned to their classmates, friends and families.

“If we want our children to be able to participate in an informed dialogue about the important challenges we face we need to make sure the knowledge they can gain through science becomes commonplace and part of their daily lives,” says Francis Wevers, the national convenor of the Rotary Eureka! Trust.

“Science and technology has the potential to provide solutions for problems of climate change, human health and a myriad of other challenges future generations will face. The ability to adopt those solutions in a timely fashion may depend on the extent to which people understand and accept the science which underpins the proposed solutions.”

The purpose behind setting up the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards is to identify and support future leaders in science. Therefore, it is a logical extension to the existing programme to establish Junior Eureka! and to use that opportunity to prepare students to participate, and do well in, the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards as they move into senior secondary school and university.

The Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards Programme began in 2012 and has now engaged with hundreds of secondary school and university undergraduate students from all over New Zealand through workshops, regional competitions and the National Finals Symposium.

Competitors in the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards deliver a 12-minute presentation on a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) idea and how this idea could make New Zealand a better place economically, environmentally, or socially.

“We aren’t expecting our 8-year-old participants in Junior Eureka! to compete against each other. In fact, we want them to work in small groups to identify and explain how science and technology may be applied or used in their community and how the community gets some benefit from science and technology,” says Francis Wevers. “The aim is to see the science in the everyday lives of our students."

“We know that many schools are already doing something similar. What we are asking them to do is to go one extra step and to ask the students to complete their investigations by explaining what they have discovered and why it is important. When they complete that step, we will provide teachers with certificates so they and the students can formally recognise what they have achieved.”

The Rotary Eureka! Trust sees the Junior Eureka! Programme as an important first step in a structured pathway to the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards, which offers prize money and scholarships aimed at providing financial support so students can undertake their tertiary study.

Eureka! Alumini Trust set up

Establishing the Eureka! Alumni Trust was the second major activity for the Eureka! Trust this year. The Eureka! Alumni include all finalists and scholarship recipients from previous Eureka! Awards. The Alumni Group has been a feature of the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards Programme since the beginning.

“Right from the start, we recognised the value of encouraging these eloquent and passionate students to build on the relationships they established at the National Finals Symposium," says Wevers. “They have so much in common that it was a very natural development. Now we have handed them the responsibility for taking that energy and passion for science forward and created the Eureka! Alumni Trust. Among other things it will be a great network so they can keep in touch as the years go by.”

The goals of the Alumni Trust are to realise Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision of making New Zealand the place ‘where talent wants to live’ by bringing together science, technology, business, entrepreneurship and communication, to be a network for and to develop the skills of the Eureka Alumni, to promote and support the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards and to support the Eureka Trust with other initiatives such as Junior Eureka!

The Junior Eureka! Programme has been developed in consultation with teachers and the Ministry of Education and is designed to link in with The New Zealand Curriculum.

“We know future leaders of New Zealand from all walks of life will need to be STEM literate. The reason that Junior Eureka! Is important is that it teaches students and their families that STEM is relevant for everyday living and not just the domain of nerds and geeks."

“If students don’t acquire a better understanding of how science and technology will help us meet the challenges of the future, we will never achieve Sir Paul’s goal of making New Zealand a place where talent wants to live."

If you have any queries about Junior Eureka!, or want further information, go to www.junior.eureka.org.nz(external link) or contact us at nior.eureka@eureka.org.nz

By Jack Wynne (Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka Awards Finalist 2014–2015)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:43 PM, 21 March 2016

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