edition 134 >> 2015
Systems thinking in science education
Reaching out to isolated students
Connecting science education and the media
A slice of Raspberry Pi NEWS
CURRICULUM & LITERACY
LEARNING IN SCIENCE
EDUCATION & SOCIETY
inclusive science 2
Supporting science education
Light up the classroom
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NZASE welcomes new president Chris Duggan
Learning activities with lasers and lenses
Building systems thinking capabilities in science
Let’s shape purposeful learning experiences for our students, writes Rose Hipkins
A comet that lights up the sky
An iwi-based science programme is inspiring Ngāti Whakaue tamariki
Why I teach science
Teachers from around the country explain why they love their jobs
A new initiative is building an enthusiasm for astronomy in Canterbury
- ori into science Encouraging young Ma
A new scheme, He Puna Pūtaiao, is using hands-on marine biology and astronomy field trips to inspire rangatahi into science as a career
A science treasure in the capital
Wellington teachers explore the Malaghan Institute
Nature and science in the primary classroom
The Enviroschools programme provides a good context for integrating the nature of science in the primary classroom
Getting to the CoRe of the matter
Anne Hume describes a collaboration between researchers and primary teachers
CSI comes to Kristin
Three hundred aspiring forensic scientists take part in a challenging holiday programme
Bringing science to the people
Ordinary shipping containers are to be transformed into teaching labs
Thinking about growth mindset in the science classroom
Carmen Kenton explores possibilities for improving student outlook
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CURRICULUM & LITERACY
LEARNING IN SCIENCE
Teaching with tikanga
Customs, or tikanga, provide us with a window into culture and invite us to expand our thinking, writes Georgia Bell
My year of bees
Teacher Dianne Christenson explains why the science of social insects is so fascinating
Saying ‘yes’ is the key
Meet two winners of the 2014 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes
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Potato cannons and pendulums
A range of hands-on experiments is fostering a love for physics at one Wellington school
Is there a problem with NCEA Physics 3.6?
University of Canterbury academics take a closer look at NCEA electrical engineering
What’s the purpose of science education? We need to continually review the ways in which we define achievement, writes Chris Clay
Science education and the media
A group of science teachers is taking full advantage of social media platform Twitter to hold interesting discussions
Blitzing for biodiversity
The Nina Valley Ecoblitz brings together students, scientists and teachers
Pythons and pig hearts
Primary teacher Maria Galbraith writes about her sciencerich travels to the United States on a Fulbright award
Thinking outside the box
From glitter to rockets, a series of hands-on kits is sparking the curiosity of young scientists
Embracing diversity in science education Let’s ensure our classrooms provide a safe and supportive environment where diversity is welcomed, writes Steven Sexton
Looking up close
A lunchtime science club is tapping in to the expertise of the school community
Giant maps and electric playdough
Central Otago students are learning about the science behind their local dam
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EDUCATION & SOCIETY
Order in advance, and other tips
Arwen Heyworth offers some useful tips for teachers working with their science technicians
Health and safety in science education
Good systems and regular reports are integral, writes STANZ president Terry Price
Connecting schools with scientists
Shelley Hersey believes our students’ horizons can be greatly expanded by connecting with working scientists
The world’s her oyster
Marine biologist Zoë Hilton, named a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Fellow in 2012, says new fellowships for New Zealand women are a huge step forward
Finding authenticity: teaching the nature of science Cashmere High School students are good at asking ‘What’s the point?’
Reaching out to isolated students
An academy at Otago University is inspiring both teachers and students from rural schools
Personal inquiries into practical science
Matt Nicoll is enjoying collaborating with his students on a new science class format
Space exploration on home soil
The Spaceward Bound concept unites teachers with NASA scientists on a summer road trip
What is a Raspberry Pi?
Allister Sheppard explains how teachers can bring these little computers into the classroom
Auckland’s Stardome Observatory shares their Pluto resource for teaching
Promoting lifelong learning in science
A special project encourages mentoring and collaboration for students of all ages
An unusually clear sky
Nick Kingston writes about his adventure to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands to study climate change
Bringing chemistry alive
What would you ask from the fairy godmother of science education? Ian Torrie shares his three wishes
Standing Committees reports
New Zealand Science Teacher >>
Science Teacher Kia ora koutou The United Nations devoted this year to the study of light in all its manifestations. The 2015 International Year of Light celebrates its vital role in our lives and highlights the development of light-based solutions to global challenges. Naturally, there are strong scientific elements to this celebration. In schools across Aotearoa, as well as around the world, light-based technologies are being explored and celebrated in different ways. New NZASE president Chris Duggan shares two simple light-based classroom activities to try – one that involves experimenting with lasers and mirrors, and another that uses a homemade lens to explore refraction. In July, I visited the busy science department at my local school, St Patrick’s College in Kilbirnie, Wellington. I was treated to a display of physics experiments, including a potato rocket (the boys’ favourite, for obvious reasons) and two phone books with interlocking pages that could not be separated (my favourite, for its effectiveness and simplicity – not to mention its clever use of a nearly-defunct reference system). In my work I have the opportunity to speak with many teachers about the work they do. On page 10 you will find an article I enjoyed compiling: Why I teach science. While everyone answered this question in different ways, one thing all teachers had in common was a love for their subject and a desire to help their students better understand the world around them. Palmerston North science teacher Matt Balm describes his subject as one that deals with a ‘language; a rational way of investigation that gives us access to reliable knowledge’. Lytton High School’s Renee Raroa sees her work as building foundations for the future. ‘Teaching science in Gisborne enables me to combine my love of science and learning with my passion for development of our Māori
communities. Being involved in education provides an insight into the next generation of citizens,’ she writes. The importance of bringing meaningful and engaging science education to all students is being increasingly recognised by a number of programmes and initiatives. ‘Inclusive science education’ is a strong thread running through this issue. NZASE senior vice-president Steven Sexton writes about embracing diversity in science teacher training. Otago University’s OUASSA programme is offering the tertiary science experience to rural students around the country. We also feature a scheme that aims to inspire rangatahi by using the context of water quality in Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, and connecting the students with working scientists. Likewise, the iwi-based Matakōkiri science programme weaves together science learning and cultural aspects, and the participating tamariki, all descendants of Ngāti Whakaue, benefit by sharing their knowledge with their whānau and wider community. Science teacher Carmen Kenton is noticing great results after exploring the idea of ‘growth mindset’ with her students at Hagley Community College. Read her thoughts on improving student outlook on page 25. I trust you’ve had a good year so far and hope you will enjoy reading the articles we’ve gathered here for you. Ngā mihi nui,
outgoing president’s address It has been my pleasure to serve as the president of NZASE for the past two years. At the July 2015 AGM, I handed over the presidency to Chris Duggan. 2015 has seen several changes put into place over the past few years taking fruition for NZASE. First, one of the forum topics at last year’s SciCon was the Code of Practice. This is a significant document with legal ramifications and implications for any school using, storing and transporting chemicals. Many schools are not aware of the legal implications or requirements for whom can be designated lab managers and they their responsibilities might be. NZASE has been contracted to rewrite this document and as a result, NZASE has been contacted about the potential to work on the redevelopment of the Safety in Technology document. Last year, Sabina Cleary was appointed by the executive as publications manager, to support the editor of the New Zealand Science Teacher journal in attracting the content and material that we as an organisation want in our online and print journal. Last year’s print edition increased from 64 pages in 2013 to 80 pages in 2014. New Zealand Science Teacher is now both readable and a sought-after source of science education in New Zealand. 2
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Stay in touch
New Zealand Science Teacher shares ideas, news, and interestin g links on social media. We’d love for you to join us. Twitter: @NZScienceTeachr FB: TeachingandLearningNZ Pinterest: nzsciteacher Would you like to contribute idea s or writing? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, NZASE is in a transitional period. We have worked over the past few years to redevelop and re-energise our association as a relevant, useful and meaningful organisation to our members. Currently, we are working to attract back member schools who have suspended their membership for various reasons. As NZASE moves into the 21st century and makes itself more accessible online, we need to determine if we are going to remain a school-based membership or a more individual-based membership. How science support organisations work together in the next few years will be critical. I have had the pleasure of being in this role for the past two years. In these two years a few personal highlights have been helping, together with the Otago Science Teachers Association, to host SciCon2014 here in Dunedin, at which Jenny Pollock was awarded the 2014 Sir Peter Spratt Medal. SciCon2014 also provided the opportunity to bring Bill McComas here in person. Respectfully yours,
Steven S. Sexton
CURRICULUM & LITERACY
LEARNING IN SCIENCE
EDUCATION & SOCIETY
NZASE president’s address Welcome to the 2015 print edition of your journal, New Zealand Science Teacher. The NZASE executive committee is extremely proud of this publication, which is a showcase of articles and contributions from our members around the country. You are holding a veritable treasure trove of inspiration and we sincerely hope you share this journal with your colleagues or circle of influence. Additionally we hope you frequently visit the digital NZST, which is a quality website that is updated daily. In July I was voted in as your new president after serving on the executive committee for 12 months as junior vice president. My background is in secondary education, having taught chemistry, biology and science for 15 years. The last two years have seen me step out of the classroom and start a new venture called the House of Science Tauranga. This is administered by a charitable trust and aims to resource and connect the local science community. I am honoured – and a little nervous – to be in this new role and hope to serve you, the NZASE members, as we together work towards representing and supporting the needs of all science educators in New Zealand. In July, BEANZ and NZIC ran their biennial conferences in tandem for the very first time. With a theme of: ‘Moving Forward; Pathways and Partnerships for Biology and Chemistry Learning’ we were treated to a spectacular opening event, a range of joint sessions and concurrent specialist sessions, a shared dinner at Te Papa and a capital range of field trips. There really was something for everyone and the large number of delegates ensured a positive buzz at the many networking opportunities. Finally, I would like to encourage feedback from you, our members. We will be seeking this from you over the next few months so please feel free to contribute and voice your thoughts. Below is a list of the services we provide – this may be a good starting point for the discussions. »» SCICON and special interest group conference sponsorship »» New Zealand Science Teacher journal and website »» Access to science tasks »» Notification of events and professional opportunities »» A national voice on issues affecting science teachers and technicians »» Representation on national committees »» Access to Ministry curriculum contracts Kind regards,
New Zealand science teacher ISSUE 134 Level 2, NZME. House 190 Taranaki Street Wellington 6141 New Zealand PO Box 200, Wellington 6140 T: 04 471 1600 © 2015. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher.
New Zealand Science Teacher is published by NZME. Educational Media on behalf of the New Zealand Association of Science Educators. JOURNALIST: Melissa Wastney (@NZScienceTeachr) T: 04 915 9784 | E: email@example.com Production: Aaron Morey General manager & Publisher: Bronwen Wilkins Errors and omissions: Whilst the publishers have attempted to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information, no responsibility can be accepted by the publishers for any errors or omissions.
New Zealand Science Teacher >>
The NZASE welcomes new president, Chris Duggan, who is on a mission to raise the profile of the association and provide support to all New Zealand science educators – particularly those in primary schools.
hris Duggan wants science teachers to know that NZASE is ready to serve them. The newly elected president of the New Zealand Association of Science Educators is excited by her new role, and is looking forward to connecting with NZASE members all around the country. “Belonging to a subject association can be really beneficial to a school, and to individual teachers,” she says. “I want to raise the profile of our association among scientists and science educators. “There can be some misunderstanding about what we do as an organisation. I really want people to have a better understanding of what the journal and the website is all about. It’s important that we all have complete buy-in,” she says. In the near future, Chris hopes to survey the membership, in order to better understand how they can be served. “We need to get the message out there that we work together, that we are all science educators, and responsible for science education. And that NZASE is here to support them with that job.” In particular, Chris says, she wants primary teachers to realise their importance as members of the association. “Our goal is to let primary teachers know that we are here to serve them, and to help them grow in confidence in the way they teach the subject. We can do this by helping with resources, professional development, and other kinds of support.”
House of Science Tauranga provides practical help
Chris started her science journey by completing a biochemistry degree at Massey University. She was a classroom teacher, then HOD science at Tauranga Girls’ College, before undertaking a large project establishing Tauranga-based science education organisation House of Science Tauranga. She is now director of the House 4
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There are a lot of amazing online resources out there, but ultimately, teachers need to have something actually in their hands; something ready to use.” of Science Tauranga, which aims to resource and connect primary, secondary, tertiary and industry in science learning. She says that although it might be seen to some as a conflict of interest, her position within the House of Science enables her to interact with classroom science teachers every day, and better understand their needs. “Because I’m involved in the running of the House of Science, I do feel that I have a much better understanding now of what the needs in primary schools are, especially. My job allows me the potential to get out and about a lot more than I could as a classroom teacher.” What are those needs? “Put simply,” says Chris, “they need confidence and resources. What we’re doing is giving them practical help, basically. House of Science resources do certainly seem to be hitting the mark.”
“There are a lot of amazing online resources out there,” she says, “but ultimately, teachers need to have something actually in their hands; something ready to use. No hurdles. Not too many steps. And then if they’re not confident to teach science to start off with, it all just becomes too hard.” Established in early 2014, and run through a charitable trust, the House of Science facilitates the sharing of local science resources. This involves the creation of relevant material and coordinated delivery of professional development and science resources. Simultaneously, links between the local science community and schools are strengthened. In addition, the organisation offers special-interest clubs and school holiday programmes for school students, science conferences, and public events. Since its beginning, the House of Science has grown significantly, says Chris. “Seventy-five per cent of our local schools are now members, which represents 85 per cent of our students, so most of our local children have some contact with us.” The day-to-day operation involves a science resource library packed with materials to the value of more than $35,000, and some generous volunteers, keen to help bring the joy of science to their local community. “The resource library is staffed by volunteers. These science-loving souls give their time to deliver the kits to schools each week. Currently, the resources are reaching between 700–1,000 students per week.” Between directing the growth of the House of Science, and her new position as president of NZASE, Chris is excited about the future of science education in this country, and sees her role as a driving force for change. “Even though I do miss classroom teaching and my students, I’m living the dream,” she says.
CURRICULUM & LITERACY The Physical World
Light up the Activity one: Laser light
Using a laser pointer, this activity helps us learn that light travels in a straight line. Light is a form of energy that travels in waves from one place to another. The background To understand light, you have to know that what we call ‘light’ is only what is visible to us. Visible light is only one small portion of a family of waves called electromagnetic (EM) radiation. Did you know that ‘laser’ isn’t a word but is an acronym? It stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser produces an incredibly powerful, concentrated form of light. Inside a laser, light waves are bounced back and forth between two mirrors to build up energy before being released as a narrow beam. What you need A laser pointer (still available at electronics stores), a water spritzer bottle and several small mirrors. SAFETY NOTE: never shine a laser beam into someone’s eye as you could burn the back of their eye because lasers have a lot of energy! The experiment 1. Shine the laser pointer onto a wall. Note how you can see where the pointer hits the wall but you can’t see the light path (beam). To show the light beam, darken the room and spray a fine mist of water in the path of the beam. The light beam is now revealed as the water droplets in the air are lit by the laser beam. 2. Now use a small mirror to bounce (reflect) the light beam from the pointer to the wall. Again, spraying the water will show where the light beam is. 3. Now for the challenge: find a few friends or family members and have everyone hold a mirror. How many mirrors can you bounce the laser beam off and still hit the wall? What’s happening? Light travels fast and straight. The speed of light is about 300,000 kilometres per second. When a light beam hits a shiny surface like a mirror, it is reflected. The angle of reflection is always the same as the angle it hits the mirror. Shine your laser into a glass of milk, or try reflecting it off a water surface in a clear bottle.
cl a ss roo m
Explore the International Year of Light in your classroom with these two learning activities; one with lasers, and one with ice. These activities were prepared by NZASE president Chris Duggan. Activity two: Make an ice lens
In this activity, we use a homemade lens to explore refraction of light. The background Light travels in straight lines until it hits a different thickness of material. Many materials are transparent (see-through) but cause the light to slow down. This will result in refraction. Lenses are used in many applications where we want to enlarge or reduce an image. What you need You’ll need a small bowl, some cling film and access to a freezer. What to do Fill a small bowl with hot water and then tip the water out. Immediately cover the top of the bowl with cling film and allow the bowl to cool. As the bowl cools, the cling film will be pulled down. Why? As the air inside the bowl cools, it takes up less space (contracts). Place the bowl in a freezer to cool the air even more. After about 30 minutes, fill the space on top of the cling wrap with water. Leave overnight to freeze solid. Now that the water has frozen, you have an ice lens!
Does your lens magnify or reduce the size of the image? Why? Can you make an ice lens that’s slightly thinner than your first one? How does this affect what you see? Note To keep your ice lens for as long as possible, store it in the freezer when you’re not using it. What’s happening? Our eyes are using light to see various objects all the time, but when this light travels through different mediums (such as water and air) it changes direction slightly. Light refracts (or bends) when it passes from water to air. Air has a refractive index of around 1.0003, while water has a refractive index of about 1.33.
Questions Look at writing on a page or pictures through your ice lens. What do you notice?
International Year of Light The United Nations International Year of Light is a global initiative to celebrate the importance of light and optic technologies in our day-to-day lives, and in international development. Non-profit, governmental and private organisations have marked the year in various ways. Find out more at www.light2015.org In 2016, expect to hear a lot about lentils and chickpeas. 2016 is the International Year of Pulses.
New Zealand Science Teacher >>
CURRICULUM & LITERACY Nature of Science
Building systems thinking
capabilities in science Let’s consider adding systems thinking to help shape purposeful learning experiences for our students in science, writes ROSE HIPKINS.
n last year’s New Zealand Science Teacher print journal the idea of ‘science capabilities’1 was introduced as a way of weaving together The New Zealand Curriculum key competencies, the NOS (nature of science) strand and the concepts and skills of the four contextual strands in the science learning area of The New Zealand Curriculum. The very idea of capabilities implies that we should be thinking about what students are capable of now, and what we want them to be and become capable of in their futures. The Curriculum answers this question for the science learning area2 as follows:
“In science, students explore how both the natural physical world and science itself work so that they can participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role.” (Ministry of Education, 2007, p.17) This is a fine-sounding statement, but we still need to work out what, specifically, we want students to be capable of 6
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– and what part science can play in building the citizenship capabilities we envisage and value. The set of five capabilities published on TKI3 gave us a good starting point, but this was never meant to be a definitive set. The most helpful way to think about these capabilities is as ‘ideas to think with’ when shaping purposeful student learning experiences. This article proposes that we should consider adding systems thinking to the capability-related ideas we use to build purposeful learning experiences in science.
Why systems thinking matters “The ability to think in terms of systems is an important capability for democratic participation. Complex issues and decisions need to be considered from multiple perspectives. Indirect (hidden) connections between events and things are as important as more obvious connections.” (Ben-Zvi Assaraf & Orion, 2005: Hipkins, Bolstad, Boyd & McDowall, 2014) As part of the development of our recently published book4 Key Competencies for the Future my co-authors and I used a small selection of wicked problems to do some futures-thinking. We wanted to explore the sorts of capabilities that our young people might need to develop so that they become future-building citizens5. Food security was one of the wicked problems we investigated. People who are ‘food secure’ have access to enough
nutritious food to maintain a healthy body. Not everyone in New Zealand is food secure and it is obviously an acute problem in many other places in the world. Our analysis of food security issues flagged systems thinking as an important capability for all global citizens, but especially for those of us who live in comparative affluence. Global food systems are so complex that it’s very likely that our food purchasing choices and habits contribute to a lack of food security for people elsewhere in the world, without us even knowing it. The challenges we uncovered spurred me on to find out more about teaching and learning for complex systems thinking, and the rich opportunities that science provides.
Does systems thinking need to be taught?
This is an important question to ask. The science curriculum already includes a number of systems, especially in the Planet Earth and Living World strands. If students are going to develop systems thinking anyway, wouldn’t teachers’ time and effort be better spent on developing other capabilities? When we look at the research, there are strong signals that explicit teaching and practice will be important. The research evidence summarised in the next box tells us that systems have some features that make them harder for students to fully understand without targeted support.
Our analysis of food security issues flagged systems thinking as an important capability for all global citizens, but especially for those of us who live in comparative affluence. Global food systems are so complex that it’s very likely that our food purchasing choices and habits contribute to a lack of food security for people elsewhere in the world, without us even knowing it. The challenges we uncovered spurred me on to find out more about teaching and learning for complex systems thinking, and the rich opportunities that science provides.” »» General conceptual knowledge about specific types of systems is necessary but not sufficient to be a systems thinker. Teaching approaches typically break systems down into their constituent parts to make them easier to learn. But this does not build a sense of the dynamic inter-relationships between parts of a system, and the emergent qualities implied by these. (Ben-Zvi Assaraf & Orion, 2005: Sommer & Lucken, 2010) »» Important targets for systems learning include the specifics of the context, and practical matters concerning how interactions within the system work to create their effects. (Hipkins, Bull & Joyce, 2008) »» In complex systems, cause and effect can be separated in time and/or space. This can make their effects hard for young students to recognise or trace. (Sommer & Lucken, 2010) »» Cyclic events and processes can be key parts of complex systems dynamics. The dynamics of these cycles need to be understood in their own right (e.g. ‘the water cycle’) and within the systems as a whole. (Ben-Zvi Assaraf & Orion, 2005) »» Complex systems typically exist in far-from-equilibrium dynamic states. Major changes in systems can be oneoff events that are never repeated. (Mayer & Kumano, 1999) Another tricky challenge is that systems thinking has a strong dispositional component. You have to want to do it. The Waters Foundation in America specialises in supporting the teaching and learning of systems thinking in schools. They have identified a set of habits6 that systems thinkers need to develop. Habits build slowly over time, so students will need lots of practice in all the areas identified in the Waters Foundation resource. As for any aspect of capability building, students will also need opportunities to talk about the progress they are making, and the evidence that tells them their systems thinking is getting stronger.
»» Systems thinking is underpinned by some key habits of mind. Students need a lot of practice to develop these habits. (Benson, N.D.) »» Systems thinking has dispositional dimensions. This means that attitudes and values are important learning targets, as well as concepts and skills. (Sommer & Lucken, 2010, Hipkins, Bolstad, Boyd & McDowall, 2014) »» Students need to learn to tolerate uncertainty because there will not be one simple answer to questions about systems dynamics. Contingent and flexible thinking is needed. This could be called “it depends” thinking. But this type of thinking and question-asking can be unfamiliar in traditional learning and assessment contexts. (Joyce & Hipkins, 2009)
How can systems thinking be taught?
The research literature has some useful advice about this question too.
»» Creating a model system allows interactions between to be deliberately explored. Even primary school children can do this. (Sommer & Lucken, 2010) »» Children’s ability to think in systems terms is enhanced when they work with rich visual materials, developing non-verbal ways of connecting ideas. (Benson, N.D.) »» This support could take the form of a simple drawing outline that children complete and annotate with systems parts and interactions. (Ben-Zvi Assaraf & Orion, 2005)
I’ve been quite surprised to find that some visual thinking tools I use quite a lot are claimed as systems tools. The iceberg metaphor is a good example. I’ve used this many times for digging into ’hidden layers‘ beneath the surface of the key competencies.
It turns out that concept maps7 are also used a lot to explore links between parts of a system. And consequence wheels8 are used to explore relationships between causes and effects. Many teachers will already know and use these rich visual thinking tools9.
Build students’ confidence to be question-askers
We typically expect students to be questionanswerers, so I want to come back to the idea that supporting them to be questionaskers makes an important contribution to building systems thinking capabilities. I’ve explored this challenge in several recent teacher workshops (mainly with primary teachers) in the context of food security. I started off by introducing a headline from a recent international project in which scientists investigated food security as a global issue. I gave them the front page of a BBC article10 on the findings. It said:
The study calculates that almost one in six people depend on forests for food and income.” I invited the teachers to ask questions that might help students understand the systems dynamics at work behind this dramatic claim. Then I collected and collated their ideas. It’s really encouraging to see how many aspects of systems they collectively covered. Here are their questions, grouped into clusters by me: Continued on next page >> New Zealand Science Teacher >>
Have a play
I hope this snapshot of ideas encourages you to think and plan more deliberate systems thinking experiences for your students, whatever their age. It would be really good to start building a collection of rich systems inquiry topics and tools, so if you have ideas to share, do send them in to New Zealand Science Teacher.
1. http://bit.ly/1JhCebI 2. http://bit.ly/1J3k7mH 3. http://bit.ly/QC9bpx 4. http://bit.ly/1ggCxGg 5. http://bit.ly/1JhDxHE 6. http://bit.ly/19MOuul 7. http://bit.ly/1LkGXsy 8. http://bit.ly/1e2t6tw 9. http://bit.ly/1NhqeFz 10. http://bbc.in/1F0Q7Yi
»» Benson, T. (N.D.). Developing a systems thinking capacity in learners of all ages. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1GGiMBA »» Ben-Zvi Assaraf, O. & Orion, N., 2005. Development of System Thinking Skills in the Context of Earth System Education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(5), 518-560. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1MUUHqO »» Hipkins, R., Bolstad, R., Boyd, S., & McDowall, S. (2014). Key competencies for the future Wellington: NZCER Press. »» Hipkins, R., Bull, A., & Joyce, C. (2008). The interplay of contexts and concepts in primary school children’s systems thinking. Journal of Biological Education, 42(2), 7377. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1fyYHnV »» Joyce, C., & Hipkins, R. (2009). Assessment dilemmas when “21st century” learning approaches shift students into unfamiliar terrain. Paper presented at the annual conference of the International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA) in Brisbane in September. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1CrzkJt »» Mayer, V., & Kumano, Y. (1999). The role of system science in future school science curricula. Studies in Science Education, 34, 71-91. »» Sommer, C., & Lucken, M. (2010). System competence – are elementary students able to deal with a biological system? NorDiNa (Nordic Studies in Science Education, 6 (2), 125-143. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1GGkJOf
Dr Rosemary Hipkins is a chief researcher at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER). 8
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Contextual questions What is a forest? (Is an orchard a forest?) »» Are all forests the same? (What is the difference between native and indigenous forests?) »» How are New Zealand’s forests different from forests elsewhere? »» What type of forests produce food? »» Where are forests found? What are forests like in other countries? Where do you find forests that produce food? »» What/who lives in forests? What other animals and plants live in forests? »» What else comes from the forest? (What things do we use in our everyday lives that come from forests?)
‘What’ questions about food »» Where does food come from? »» What foods come from forests? (Which of these do we eat every day?) »» Which foods grow on trees? How is food harvested from forests? »» Where else does our food come from? »» What other sources of food can be found in forests? »» What did people eat in the past? (What has changed in how we get our food?)
Link between income/other resources and food security »» What is an income? »» What types of food generate income from forests? Can forests be used for both food and income? »» What are the ways that people get income from forests? »» What are the effects on communities when forests are no longer viable? What would happen if the logs in forests became worthless? »» What careers or industries would be eliminated if there were no forests? »» If your family business relied on the forest, would you survive without it?
Questions that implicate awareness of environmental impacts on food »» How do different seasons affect the availability of food in forests? »» What habitats are found in forests (and what lives in them)? »» Who looks after forests? »» What conditions do forests need to flourish? »» What has changed in forests? How do we protect the plants in forests? »» What would happen if we cut down all the forests? »» What would happen if a virus or disease wiped out a forest? What would happen if there is a fire and the forest is wiped out? »» How do our actions impact on wildlife in a forest? How does wildlife impact on us? »» What needs to happen for forests to provide food and income for the future? »» How can a forest protect downstream food production areas? (How can forests on steep land prevent flooding and soil erosion in downstream farmland?) »» How would the lack of rain impact on our forests and communities? »» What is affecting the sustainability of food sources?
Drawing on students’ own experiences »» Who has family members involved in forest industries (e.g. transport, wood processing, conservation)? »» How would our diet and lifestyle change if there were no forests? »» Who has been in a forest? What do you use a forest for?
A comet that
lig ht s u p th e sk y
Linking science / pūtaiao to Māori language, culture and identity through students’ tikanga and whakapapa is getting some great results for the Matakōkiri project.
atakōkiri is an iwi-based science programme run by Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iko Ake Trust for local students, whānau, teachers and schools. “Matakōkiri is a comet that lights up the sky – it’s about lighting that spark within our tamariki. We have 40 children in each wānanga, from both Māori and English medium schools, who are all descendents of Ngāti Whakaue,” says Hinemoa Anaru from the Trust. “Our parents learning alongside the tamariki is integral to the kaupapa of Matakōkiri”. Wānanga are led by teachers who are able to build strong links back to the curriculum. Often the programme has a waiting list, but they deliberately keep the size small so that learning is optimal. Their most recent wānanga had a specific focus on Te Ihi, Te Wehi, Te Wana – forces and weather, both natural and man-made. Learning took place over a few days of rich experiences for akonga and whānau in the Taupo district, based at Waipahihi Marae. Prior to leaving Rotorua and heading south to the mountains, the group had two presentations on the weather. The first was from former weather presenter Tāmati Coffey. He spoke about his work in translating information from the weather service into plain English every night. Tāmati brought some of his old weather scripts with him, and the children had a go at presenting the weather themselves. Next was Graham Timpany from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). He brought in some of NIWA’s instruments to demonstrate what they were and how they worked. Both Tāmati and Graham’s talks tied in with learning about an ancestor Ngātoroirangi and his battles with the elements, which led to the coming of fire (Te Pupu and Te Hoata, who brought fire from Hawaiki to save Ngātoroirangi and thus formed the Taupo
Volcanic Zone). Throughout the wānanga the students learnt about their ancestors, their journeys and actions, which tied into the science of the many places they visited. After those talks, the group headed off on their journey to Taupo. Their first stop was the Aratiatia Rapids, where the Waikato River falls 28 metres in the space of one kilometre and the surging rapids have been harnessed for environmentally sustainable hydroelectric power. The group was able to witness how science is able to tame and shape the force of nature into a force of human power. Lunch and a trip to the Wairakei Terraces followed, where the tamariki learnt some more of the legends and stories of the area. Then the group headed to a powhiri at the Waipahihi Marae and settled in. Activities based on forces like gravity followed – constructing hovercraft out of CDs and balloons and building bridges out of spaghetti to hold up marshmallows. That evening the group were joined by Tuwharetoa decendants Dylan Tahau and Henare Pitiroi, who shared their stories of Te Puku o Te Ika, Kahui Maunga, Journeys of Tia and Ngātoroirangi and the connections shared with Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa, mai i Maketu ki Tongariro. On the final day, the wānanga split in two. Half the group went through the GNS Science’s Wairakei Research Centre and the other to the Taupo Volcanic Centre before swapping over. At GNS Science the children learned about geothermal energy generated in the area before being taken through the labs.
“Once they [scientists] understand about the wānanga, they’re more than happy to come on board. The science community has been really supportive and giving of their specialist expertise and resources,” says Matakōkiri project lead Renee Gillies. “Marrying the science with the cultural aspect is the key to success. Scientists can’t believe it when they see how engaged our tamariki are.” But thinking about science doesn’t stop when the wānanga is over. “One of the key aspects of Mātakōkiri is that it’s a learning journey for the whānau as well,” says Renee. “The whānau have to sign on for at least two days – but they end up staying the whole week because they enjoy it so much. They go home and talk to their kids about the learning they have shared together. It’s knowledge that we know they share across their whole family.” Wānanga have been running for two years now, in the second week of the school holidays, every term. While there are new children on each wānanga, there are those who come along every time, developing more and more passion for science. “We try to keep some of those eager students every time because we want to nurture their interest in science. Our tamariki are asking questions so scientifically now,” says Hinemoa. “They get to check out a few of the science areas they might be interested in, and hopefully at school work on building those areas.” Progress is apparent, and each wānanga involves more scientific enquiry. The Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iko Ake Trust is clear about what its end goal is. “We want to develop Ngāti Whakaue scientists who are empowered to contribute to the wellbeing of the people,” says Renee.
By Joanna McLeod. This article first appeared in the Education Gazette on 24 August, 2015. The Matakōkiri group at the Wairakei Research Centre. New Zealand Science Teacher >>
EDUCATION & SOCIETY Science education & culture
W h y I t e a ch
Science education is about so much more than Bunsen burners and periodic tables. New Zealand Science Teacher asked a selection of teachers around the country about why they do what they do. Tony Cairns
I teach science because I want to help my students find awe in the real, the natural and the forgotten world. I try to get their ears, eyes and minds ready for the real problems and burning issues of the world they will shortly inherit. I make lesson plans for the autistic student coding and designing an air force in Minecraft, for the many geeks wired into the net, and for the artists, the dancers, the sculptors, the gardeners, winemakers, physicists and biologists clustering in small pods, making and breaking their own devices, apps and techno tools. Science education is about sharing my vision that the world is wonderful and amazing and they need to grasp their short, mayfly time on earth with both feelers and rise, fly and shimmer as if there is no tomorrow. Tony is a science teacher at Wellington High School.
It gives me immense satisfaction when children leave my class and say “your lessons and stories are fun, in fact, they are crazy”. I love the hive of activity of 30 bright challenging minds, asking questions, deriving answers or just taking over the board as my assistant teacher. In class we always work as a team. I love to connect science to the real world, making every effort to add practical hands-on activities that help foster curiosity. My lessons have variety to prevent boredom from creeping in. Each and every student in my class has to participate, even if they do not know the answer. It is all to do with hypothesising. Student engagement and confidence-building are my forte. And truly there is no other subject that can make learning as much fun as science can. I make each of my students feel special which adds to the flavour and zing of enjoying science. Sutapa is a senior science teacher, head of biology and coordinator of the Gifted Education Programme at Papatoetoe High School.
In helping my students, I get to see the theories of my studies in psychology and neuroscience in action.”
Teaching is a science. What I love about being a science teacher is that I am able to teach my craft whilst practising it. In helping students to realise their strengths, interests and potential for learning, I get to see the theories of my studies in psychology and neuroscience in action. Teaching science in Gisborne enables me to combine my love of science and learning with my passion for development of our Māori communities. Being involved in education provides an insight into the next generation of citizens. In science, progress sometimes comes from serendipitous discovery. Teaching science creates the space for such encounters. Students bring open minds and unbiased views to our discipline, and they are able to see it with new eyes. I believe that these budding scientists are an undervalued resource in scientific progress. I am excited that science education is moving toward a focus on the nature of science and developing scientific literacy. Being a science teacher today, for me, is about leading development and change. Renee teaches science at Lytton High School in Gisborne. 10 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
I think life is awesome! Science is the only language that explores and explains the complex and wondrous phenomenon that is the universe around us. To me, science is a language. It’s a rational way of investigation that gives us access to in-depth, reliable knowledge about how life happens and what it may become. With such a tool as science embedded in my conscious interaction with the world, I see beyond the beauty to the astonishing elegance of evolved systems. How could I not share this with my students? If every person knew what I know, and could see what I see, the world would be a happier place! Matt is HOD Science at St Peter’s College, Palmerston North.
Teaching science has for me become about three key ideas: critical thinking, encouraging technical creativity and providing a window into our wonderful universe. To me, science is a way of creating and connecting new knowledge. Once you have enough of that knowledge it allows you to appreciate the connections and similarities in the universe. The idea that the flow of particles in a plasma is similar to the way particles move within a liquid sounds dull, but allows us to understand why galaxies interact the way they do; how stars exist; how our hearts are able to pump blood. It’s these connections between physically disparate phenomena that excite me to always try and learn more about the universe. The more I understand, the more beautiful and interesting the universe is. And yet somehow, science is often still perceived as boring! Elf is completing a PhD in physics with the MacDiarmid Institute and is currently a lecturer at Victoria University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.
With such a tool as science embedded in my conscious interaction with the world, I see beyond the beauty to the astonishing elegance of evolved systems. How could I not share this with my students?”
I had an opportunity to go on a Royal Society Science Fellowship in 2012 (something I really recommend!) and got to hang out with a bunch of scientists at NIWA for six months. This reignited a passion I had for science that had got snuffed out a bit with everything else in our busy curriculum. I love tapping into kids’ curiosity about the world around them. There is an untainted awe about the world that kids display and I love being able to nurture this and give them opportunity to explore. I enjoy integrating science with other curriculum areas, especially in helping kids experience success in literacy through scientific investigations. I believe all kids need to have an understanding of science – of how it is all around us and why things do what they do. They need to be able to make informed decisions based on their own investigations and research. I love being able to provide opportunities for them to do so. Carol has been teaching for over 20 years. She is currently at Hampton Hill School, Tawa, and is teaching a year 2 and 3 class.
I teach science because the subject has been a passion for me, ever since I was a child. I love exploring, and finding out new things. I love the creativity of science, and the piecing together of different parts to the puzzle. Most of all I enjoy passing this passion and enthusiasm to my students – the ‘aha!’ moments they have make it worthwhile for me. The relationships I build with my students as they catch the excitement of science, and bring new ideas to it, make my job even more exciting. I teach science because I have always had a curiosity about the world I live in and it is so important that our students grasp some of that during their school years. This will only create more curious minds for an innovative New Zealand. Chhaya is a chemistry teacher and HOD Science, at Elim Christian College, Auckland.
I love the energy and excitement of the children I teach. They are tinder boxes of marvel waiting to be ignited. There is also the unknown element of surprise. What happens if I do this? We love surprises, and it makes us want more! Science has the power to engage students and keep them in school. What does the classroom look like when I’m in it? Questions and more questions, inquiring minds, science and little scientists are everywhere. We get to play and experiment in our classrooms every day. It is okay to make mistakes. That’s where the learning happens. Science helps you understand the world, the awe and wonder. It’s a creative endeavour. It keeps the brain sharp. Why do I teach science? I get to do the fun stuff – creating, learning, and experimenting as I work with the students. I get to hear “I want to be a scientist when I grow up”. Sterling (aka Mr Science) is a specialist primary science teacher at Victory School, Nelson. New Zealand Science Teacher >> 11
LEARNING IN SCIENCE Innovative science education
Left to right: Pooja Jinu (John Paul II High School), Taylor Blom and Shay Van Brugge (Buller High School) examine the Moon during the Star Quest star party.
building enthusiasm for astronomy
Allowing students to take telescopes home and share their new astronomy knowledge was part of a Star Quest 2014 pilot programme at the University of Canterbury. It was so successful the programme was run e wanted to enthuse students again in 2015, writes JOAN GLADWYN. about astronomy and science.
We felt to allow the students to communicate their new knowledge to whānau and friends at school they had to be able to take their telescope home with them. The workshop was held in May 2014, close to Matariki. The telescopes provided were Galileoscopes. They were originally produced for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy but have proved so popular they are still being produced in the thousands. The original concept was to produce a telescope of the same quality as Galileo might have used for his astronomical discoveries. Though the casing is made of plastic, the objective and eyepiece lenses are glass doublets of high quality, and actually much better than Galileo would have had. The Saturday workshop idea had its beginning in the lead up to a 2013 event. Engaged to help with activities during the Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival, myself and University of Canterbury astronomers Dr Loretta Dunne and associate professor Steve Maddox realised a weekend in Tekapo was financially out of reach for many school students in Canterbury. We applied successfully for funding from the Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust to run a Saturday astronomy workshop for year 10 students in decile 1–6 schools. It was great we could buy the telescopes alongside the ones for Tekapo. We got a good discount on them, and on the shipping charges, which meant we could use most of the funding to buy tripods for each student. We also paid postgraduate students to help, allowing the school students to get maximum benefit from the workshop. We were quite concerned that the telescopes might get broken or dirty without a case so we bought map tubes for each
12 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
student and they made great cases in which to transport the telescopes. Twenty-four year 10 students were invited to take part in the workshop, which involved a range of activities beginning with the process of image formation by a lens and a telescope. After that, the students made their own Galileoscope under instruction. It’s impossible to hold a long telescope steady enough for observations, so learning to make a tripod came next. Students also learned how to find an object in the field of view and how to estimate the magnification. We had a riddle on the whiteboard and students found the answer by reading the sheet of paper we’d pasted upside-down on a distant garage door. With the date of the workshop close to Matariki, we were privileged to have Dr Pauline Harris from the Society of Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions at Victoria University of Wellington with us for the day. Dr Harris spoke about the history of Māori astronomy and introduced some of the Māori names for stars and constellations. This led into an activity where the students made their own planispheres (maps of the sky), which can be set to the current day in the year. Associate professor Steve Maddox ran an activity where students learned why the constellations change their positions in the sky. Individual students represented each of the constellations (the signs of the zodiac) along the ecliptic, the path the sun appears to take through the sky as a result of the earth’s orbit around it. Other students represented constellations above and below the path. Dr Loretta Dunne also used students being stars to teach the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. This chart is at the core of astronomy teaching. The chart shows the distribution of
known stars according to their luminosity and peak wavelength. “We find that most stars are on the ‘main sequence’ – a diagonal line across the chart – with hot white dwarfs in one corner and cool red giants in the opposite corner,” Loretta explains. “We named each student a particular star, for example Betelgeuse, and used the classroom walls as the axes of the diagram. The students arranged themselves on the ‘chart’.” With students physically involved in the chart “it was immediately obvious the stars were arranged in a distinct pattern according to their luminosities and colours”. University of Canterbury astronomy students played an important role in the workshop too. Ryan Ridden-Harper and Toby Hendy, two ‘urban astronomers’, instructed the students in how to use solar telescopes and what information could be found about our sun and other stars. Urban astronomers explore the many astronomical sights that can be seen, even when living in urban locations with high light pollution. Other students mentored small groups throughout the workshop and took part in the ‘Meet an Astronomer’ sessions at the end of the day. These sessions allowed small groups of students to meet and question five astronomers in a ‘speed-dating’ scenario. Apart from making a telescope, the students told us this was the session they enjoyed the most. They liked getting their own questions answered by experts. It’s fantastic that the students were keen to apply to come to the workshop. They all went away buzzing with enthusiasm about stars, galaxies, black holes and the sun. The Star Quest workshop was run for a second time in May this year.
By Joan Gladwyn firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image top: From left, Riana Prentice, Tangianau Thompson, Keziah Thompson, Storm Kiddie, Te Ao Marama Davis, Aroha Dixon (Ngāi Tahu), Lucy Brown.
Encouraging young Maori into
s ci e n ce
A University of Canterbury scheme aimed at encouraging Māori secondary school students into university science studies is already changing lives and encouraging rangatahi to consider new pathways for their future.
Image right: Nicole Spriggs (Ngāi Tahu), from Lincoln High School, getting close to an invertebrate in a UC lab.
e Puna Pūtaiao is a partnership programme between the University of Canterbury College of Science and several Canterbury secondary schools that began in 2013. Based on a scheme delivered by LENScience at the Liggins Institute in Auckland, He Puna Pūtaiao engages year 10 Māori students in the culture of science by involving them in scientific research. Using the context of the water quality in Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, the students are mentored in literature reviews and collecting and analysing data in the field, before presenting their findings both in e-book format and a research poster displayed at a Pō Whakanui at the end of the programme. The partnership schools – Cashmere High School, Burnside High, Linwood College and Lincoln High School – all select nine year 10 Māori students to attend the intensive six-week programme during October and November, which includes weekly visits to the University of Canterbury and a field trip to Te Waihora. John Pirker (Ngāi Tahu), Māori adviser to the UC College of Science, says partnership schools and students’ whānau have been heavily involved in the planning and partnership since it began. A science teacher from each school attends the programme with the students, and postgraduate students and staff from University of Canterbury science departments volunteer their time to mentor students during each week of the programme. “That’s been a pivotal role and one that’s had an enormous effect on the students,” says John Pirker.
“Being mentored by some of our postgraduate students has been very inspiring for the school students. They’ve been mixing with university students, visiting lecture theatres and learning that university isn’t a scary place. “That, coupled with the research work they do around Te Waihora water quality, shows them that they can achieve in a university environment if they choose to.” University of Canterbury Science Outreach Coordinator, Joan Gladwyn, says He Puna Pūtaiao has had a very positive response from school staff and students alike. “Many of the students who’ve done the programme talk about gaining confidence and an interest in science,” she says. “As a result of the course, they can see that a career in science is an achievable goal for them. The programme is about exposing them to opportunities and it’s definitely working. Some of these students had never heard Māori and science talked about together before.” John Pirker says that Te Waihora was an obvious study choice, especially given that one of the schools (Lincoln) is within the Te Waihora catchment. “We have the support of Te Taumutu Rūnanga, Environment Canterbury, the Department of Conservation and the Waihora Ellesmere Trust for the students to work around the lake, and with the number of co-management plans involved in Te Waihora restoration, it’s a perfect example of Mātauranga Māori and western science working together to remediate the lake,” he says.
In addition to testing Te Waihora water quality, the students also learn about the lake’s history and mahinga kai practices, and they meet Taumutu kaumātua; their site visits have also included interactions with bird experts and practising scientists. “I’m pleased to say the students can already see the need to drive these restoration projects forward for iwi Māori and the wider community. They can see the need for Māori to have a voice within science. We’re excited about that. “If they go ahead with university science studies there are good job prospects and leadership roles there if they want them.” Joan Gladwyn says it’s very rewarding to see He Puna Pūtaiao is already having such a positive effect on students. “We know we’re making a difference and if the Auckland programme our scheme is based on is anything to go by, we’ll continue to see significantly more young Māori going into university science studies. That’s very satisfying because these young people are our future and they have a voice that needs to be heard. “He Puna Pūtaiao is all about igniting fires, inspiring people and changing lives. We’ve had students tell us that the programme has opened their eyes to what they are actually capable of doing. That’s always rewarding.” She says they will run this programme for the third time later this year. “It is a very important programme for us,” she says.
Many of the students who’ve done the programme talk about gaining confidence and an interest in science.”
Find more about Whakaor Waihora a Te here: http://tewaiho
By Adrienne Rewi
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 13
CURRICULUM LITERACY EDUCATION && SOCIETY The Living World
The Malaghan Institute:
a science treasure in the capital As New Orleans marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, researchers at Wellington’s Malaghan Institute acknowledge an international science connection, writes KATHERINE ALLEN.
Wellington teachers take a look at Malaghan In May, secondary school science teachers in the Wellington region were invited to a special evening event at the Malaghan Institute, which is situated on the Victoria University campus. As well as the opportunity to meet the Malaghan scientists and hear about their work, the teachers were given a guided tour of the research facilities. Malaghan Institute communications manager Katherine Allen says many of Malaghan’s 90 scientists were taught by gifted science teachers in the Wellington region and they saw the evening as a chance to reconnect with the school science sector. “It was our pleasure to host the teachers for a bite to eat, a chance to meet and share our latest medical research, and to thank them for inspiring many of our home-grown staff in their career choice,” she said. A group of teachers from a range of secondary schools attended, and enjoyed learning more about the fascinating research
14 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
he world-first discovery in cell biology made by scientists based in New Zealand and Australia in 2015 might have been made a decade earlier if not for Hurricane Katrina, according to a researcher who watched as rising water and eventual power failure destroy his cell cultures at Tulane University, New Orleans in August 2005. Scott Olson, now an associate professor at the University of Texas, contacted Professors Mike Berridge (Malaghan Institute) and Jiri Neuzil (Griffith University) to congratulate them on their publication in January 2015; pleased that, despite the years, science had found a way through. His work was among the approximately 300 federally funded projects at New Orleans colleges and universities, cumulatively valued at more than US$150 million, that was set back by the destructive power of Katrina a decade ago. Mike Berridge said of Scott’s email contact, “It was a wonderful gesture but typical of the scientific community. We are competitive, of course, but ultimately if we advance something that may change the way we treat disease, the research world takes notice. Defective mitochondrial DNA is known to account for around 200 diseases and is implicated in many more.” Subsequent to their discovery this year, Professors Berridge and Nuezil were invited to review their work on mitochondrial transfer between cells in the prestigious journal Cancer Research. As a consequence of the 2015 paper, the focus of mitochondrial shuttling between
Top: A cartoon showing mitochondrial shuttling between cells. Image: Dr David Eccles. Bottom: Image shows the transfer of fluorescent mitochondria between cells, and the connecting nanotube. Image: Dr David Eccles.
cells has shifted from an interesting cell culture observation to a silent and stealthy physiological phenomenon with potential relevance to development, human health and disease. Without mitochondria, a cell typically dies. Mitochondria donation could become possible in the future to restore cell health, or starve, for example, a tumour cell of the energy required to grow.
Katherine Allen is communications manager at the Malaghan Institute.
References and further reading »» Discover more about the research undertaken at the Malaghan Institute: http://bit.ly/1KiVpRU »» Read about the work tackling asthma with vaccine technology: www.bit.ly/1Ieaw9d »» In April 2014, a team of researchers at the Malaghan published a paper in Nature Communications on a hookworm breakthrough: http://bit.ly/1JYpk3c »» Professors Mike Berridge (Malaghan Institute) and Jiri Neuzil’s (Griffith University, Queensland) mitochondria research was picked up by popular science website IFL Science early in January: www.bit.ly/14atMb3 »» In an August 2015 paper in Cancer Research, Drs Berridge and Neuzil review the in-vitro and in-vivo evidence for mitochondrial transfer between cells: http://bit.ly/1i0bq4c
EDUCATION & SOCIETY Science Education & the Environment
Nature and science in the
The Enviroschools programme provides a wonderful context for integrating the nature of science in the primary classroom, writes CAROL BRIESEMAN.
nviroschools is a programme that many New Zealand schools and early childhood centres are involved in, with the aim of empowering children and students to create healthy, peaceful, sustainable communities. What a wonderful opportunity to engage students in scientific investigations that have real-world applications! For example, we teach students to pick up rubbish and to recycle but do they know the scientific reasons behind being a ‘tidy Kiwi’? Students really need to understand that recycling is more than the aesthetics of tidiness. It’s about using our planet’s finite resources wisely. Hampton Hill School has recently achieved the ‘silver’ stage in its Enviroschool journey. The school uses its gardens a bit like a science lab, teaching environmental science while simultaneously integrating the Enviroschool principles of empowering students, learning about sustainability, recognising and honouring Māori perspectives, and showing respect for the diversity of people and cultures. The structure of the science learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum gives us the message that the Nature of Science strand is very important. Through this strand, students learn what science is and how scientists work. Find out more about the strand at scienceonline.tki.org.nz/Nature-of-science. The Enviroschools programme provides a context through which students can develop their understanding about the nature of science. Examples of integration suggested in the table on page 17 are contexts where the four Nature of Science sub-strands (investigating, understanding, communicating, participating and contributing) can be developed.
Investigating in science The students need opportunities to make use of a variety of investigative approaches and understand which approach suits an investigation best. Understanding about science Expect students to make decisions based on evidence. Communicating in science Using scientific language appropriately, showing integrity with communicating the data gathered and respecting others’ points of view are all important aspects of communicating in science. Participating and contributing Students should be expected and encouraged to be fully engaged, with opportunities to develop their curiosity about the world around them, and to look at things through a scientific lens. They need to be able to work together to devise action plans with a sustainability focus and take action with these plans to see them through to completion.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 15
Useful Links and resources »» http://scienceonline.tki.org.nz/ Introducing-five-science-capabilities »» http://scienceonline.tki.org.nz/ New-resources-to-support-scienceeducation/Resources »» http://scienceonline.tki.org.nz/ What-do-my-students-need-to-learn/ Building-Science-Concepts
Nature of Science
Empowered students are enabled to participate in a meaningful way in the life of their early childhood centre or school. Their unique perspectives are valued for the knowledge and insight that they bring, and they are supported to take action for real change.
Investigating in science
Carry out science investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things, or developing systems.
Participating and contributing
Bring a scientific perspective to decisions and actions as appropriate
»» www.tki.org.nz/r/assessment/ exemplars/sci/index_e.html »» http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/ Curriculum-resources/EFS
The Connected Series has a wealth of ideas – here are a few examples: »» CONNECTED, LEVEL 2 2014, How Do You Know? Garden with Science by Sophie Fern »» CONNECTED, LEVEL 3 2014, Why Is That? Counting Kākahi by Hannah Rainforth »» CONNECTED, LEVEL 2 2013, I Spy … Take a Closer Look by Margaret Cahill »» CONNECTED, LEVEL 4 2013, Are You Sure? After the Spill by Maria Gill
The principle of learning for sustainability recognises the types
- ori perspectives The principle of Ma honours the status of tangata whenua in this land and the value of indigenous knowledge in enriching and guiding learning and action.
Communicating in science
of teaching and learning that foster student empowerment, decision-making, action and sustainable outcomes.
Learn about science as a knowledge system: the features of scientific knowledge and the processes by which it is developed; and learn about the ways in which the work of scientists interacts with society.
Develop knowledge of the vocabulary, numeric and symbol systems, and conventions of science and use this knowledge to communicate about their own and others’ ideas.
Participating and contributing
Bring a scientific perspective to decisions and actions as appropriate.
Respect for the diversity of people and cultures acknowledges the unique gifts, contributions and perspectives of individuals and groups, reinforcing the need for participatory decision-making in Enviroschools.
Communicating in science
Develop knowledge of the vocabulary, numeric and symbol systems, and conventions of science and use this knowledge to communicate about their own and others’ ideas.
Participating and contributing
Bring a scientific perspective to decisions and actions as appropriate.
Sustainable communities act in
ways that nurture people and nature, now and in the future, to maintain the health and viability of our environment, society, culture and economy.
Communicating in science
Develop knowledge of the vocabulary, numeric and symbol systems, and conventions of science and use this knowledge to communicate about their own and others’ ideas.
Participating and contributing
Bring a scientific perspective to decisions and actions as appropriate.
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Examples of Integration (not an exhaustive list by any means!) Vegetable gardening
»» »» »» »» »»
Plant life cycles Soil types and testing Micro-organisms Pests and plant diseases Ecosystems
»» www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/ EnvSci_p055.shtml
»» How long do things take to decompose?
Beach, stream monitoring and clean-ups
»» Butterfly life cycles »» What plants are needed for feeding and attracting butterflies »» Native butterflies http://sciencelearn.org.nz/Science-Stories/Butterflies/Monarchbutterflies www.forestandbird.org.nz/branches/auckland/central-auckland/ central-auckland-branch-contact/butterfly-breeding-guide/native-n
»» Food chains »» Importance of bees in the environment
»» »» »» »» »»
Compile data on rubbish collected Analyse data and make conclusions relating to rubbish collected Action plans Understanding the importance of water and the issues affecting it. Introduce features that make water special, including recreational and cultural values, but especially ecosystem values »» Water-related problems, including pollution, drought and flooding. Investigations with water from an ecology and environmental viewpoint.
»» Give students the opportunity to study weather recording systems and to compare weather patterns with other locations
Recycling, Reducing, Reusing
»» How and why do we conserve our natural resources and protect our planet? »» Why do we recycle? Look at what materials break down in this experiment (six-week timeline) www.ducksters.com/science/experiment_landfill.php
The key idea here is to recognise and communicate Māori perspectives whilst understanding the scientific reasons behind them.
Native plants, animals and insects
»» The Water Cycle. Find ways to conserve energy and water and why it is important. www.gw.govt.nz/turning-on-the-tap »» Why is it better to use reusable items instead of disposable ones? »» Understand different methods of waste disposal http://scienceonline.tki.org.nz/Introducing-five-science-capabilities/ Engage-with-science/Hukanui-Enviroschool
»» Caring for the land – Poster about why and how we can care for our land
Plant and animal habitats/natural ecosystems
»» Endangered species and conservation projects www.projectcrimson.org.nz/schools/page.aspx www.wwf.org.nz/what_we_do/education
»» Rongoā (traditional Māori medicine) »» Rotating crops
Any of the above suggestions can be used as an opportunity to learn what it means to respect the diversity of people and cultures. »» Compare what different cultures do with conservation. Present the findings. »» Look at the different cultures represented in your classroom/school and invite people from the community to share (for example) how they garden. Then look into the scientific reasoning behind why they do this. Present the findings. When there is a good scientific understanding of why we ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’, committing to and maintaining these practices is more easily sustained. »» Sustainable practices in place following the investigations and action plans carried out (see ‘Empowered students, on previous page.’)
Carol Brieseman is a teacher at Hampton Hill School, Tawa, Wellington. In 2012, she won a Primary Science Fellowship and spent six months at NIWA. Following that, she returned to the classroom with a renewed passion for teaching science and has recently been awarded a Primary Science Teacher Fellowship Alumni Award from the Royal Society of New Zealand.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 17
TEACHER EDUCATION Primary
A student investigation into evaporation and condensation using a container of hot water, cling wrap covering and ice cubes.
Getting to the
CoRe of the matter: developing a primary school’s science plan Introduction
This article tells the story of a partnership between university researchers and the teaching staff of a primary school that sought to strengthen and more closely align the school’s science education programme with the intent of The New Zealand Curriculum. This year-long collaborative investigation featured the use of Content Representation (CoRe) design, as a means of professional learning for the teachers within their own school. CoRe design has a proven record for enhancing teachers’ capabilities in science teaching and the researchers saw its potential for assisting teachers in curriculum design. A CoRe is a means of making key features of the pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) of an individual teacher, or group of teachers, obvious to others. This exposure of the knowledge underpinning the teaching of certain science content to specific groups of students is achieved with the use of a framework or template, which teachers are asked to fill in. It contains what the teachers believe are the big ideas of the topic to be learned by students, and a series of questions/prompts which reveal the reasoning and actions of these teachers as they help students to develop understanding of the big ideas. See bit.ly/1LKDQws for Table 1: Template for a Content Representation (CoRe). 18 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
A collaboration between researchers and primary teachers strengthened a school’s science education programme, writes ANNE HUME.
In the collaborative project, the researchers provided expertise in science content, inquiry learning in science, and CoRe design facilitation, while the teachers were knowledgeable of their students, their school context and its complexities, and how best to introduce the CoRe design and determine its impact. Data to inform the project came from surveys, videoed teacher workshops, document analysis, classroom observations, and focus group interviews. To increase the chances that the findings of the investigation resulted in meaningful change and improvement of classroom practice in science, the school established a science leadership group, known as the Science Development Group (SDG). The SDG’s responsibility was the development of a schoolwide science education plan, known as the Science Implementation Plan (SIP), based on the experiences and findings of the project. With the researchers’ guidance, the 25 teachers in the school To engaged in the jointly see the planned activities as full version outlined in Table 2, and of this article for the most part the project went to plan. For please visit teachers, the key intent bit.ly/1K5g4Uk was to trial the CoRe design intervention as a
precursor to planning, implementing and evaluating a series of related science lessons featuring inquirybased learning. The outcomes of these trials would then inform the planning of the SIP such that teachers at the school felt a sense of authorship and ownership of the plan. See bit.ly/1Pqoi0h for Table 2: Timeline, goals and milestones of the Getting to the CoRe of the Matter study.
The early phases of the project
During the first workshop for teachers in January (co-planned by the principal and research team), self-review data related to the existing school science programme was gathered in a brainstorming session. In small groups, teachers were asked to comment on the following questions about the science education provided at the school: Where are we at? What have we done? How well are we going? Where do we need and/ or want to be? What is driving this change? What are our needs in terms of the science education programme and our professional learning? This data was shared and discussed in a whole staff forum session facilitated by the research team. To further inform these discussions the research team provided key findings from the most current literature related to scientific literacy learning goals and inquirybased learning in science. They also introduced the teachers to the Primary Connections Programme resources (Australian Academy of Science, 2014), which feature the 5Es approach to inquiry learning in science in everyday contexts, and reacquainted them with the Science Learning Hub (SLH). From the outcomes of the self-review session, the teachers arrived at agreed upon programme goals and their professional learning needs for the project, which were to develop a school science implementation plan for 2015 that is aligned with the school’s vision and goals and meets the requirements of the NZC (2007); enhance teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) with a focus on inquiry-based approaches to learning science; and identify resource needs based on the revised school implementation plan for science education.
CoRe design begins
In late March a second workshop was held, where teaching teams worked in separate groups – two junior school groups, two middle school groups and one senior school group. Each of the five groups had negotiated a science topic for teaching in the next school term, and the focus of the workshop was the use of CoRe design as a ‘pre-planning tool’ before formal unit planning began. The five groups each worked on the design of Content Representations (CoRes) for inquiry learning in science using the SLH as a resource for their chosen topic. These CoRe design workshops were facilitated by members of the research team, including two writers from the Science Learning Hub who were former primary teachers and helped teachers to navigate the SLH website. The CoRe design exercise was initially challenging for the teachers, particularly the identification and selection of key learning content for students. There were significant differences in science PCK across and within teaching teams. Teachers found the task difficult at times, but the facilitators were able to provide considerable guidance, particularly around science content and concepts and the selection of big ideas for the CoRes. “We felt challenged coming up with key ideas to match our children’s level. We were unsure of how big the key ideas needed to be … we realised our own understanding of the topic wasn’t secure. Therefore we struggled to simplify to the level of the children. This process helped us to realise that we need to thoroughly unpack our own scientific ideas first.” (Junior school, year 1 team reflection) Examination of the CoRes at the end of the workshops showed the upper sections of each CoRe were the most detailed and specific. The lower sections to do with students’ prior knowledge, teaching procedures and assessment of the big ideas became more generic (see the example in Table 3 on page 20), which reflected teachers’ inexperience in teaching the specific topic. Despite the challenges, all teachers were positive in their reflective
comments about the process, noting growth in: their science content knowledge; the usefulness of the SLH for locating and understanding the science for their chosen topics; and their confidence to teach science.
Classroom implementation of the CoRes
A very experienced year 2 teacher was surprised and encouraged by students’ positive responses to the investigations into everyday phenomena related to mixtures and mixing, and the scientific understanding they gained.”
In phase 5 of the project, CoRe design provided further focus for PCK enhancement as teachers used the CoRes as guides for subsequent unit planning by teaching teams and teaching. The five teaching teams together developed science unit plans (with help from the SLH facilitators and researchers) for their respective levels of schooling from their CoRes and taught them in their classrooms.
Teachers’ views on the first cycle of the project
Many of the teachers reported positive experiences in the subsequent team planning and classroom implementation of their science units based on their CoRes. In their focus group interviews they put this success down to the collaborative CoRe design process, the available resources (Primary Connections units and to a lesser extent the SLH) and assistance from members of the research team with planning. CoRe design proved helpful in highlighting the key science ideas and enhancing teachers’ content understanding, but the resources and SLH facilitators proved more helpful for teaching strategies and assessment. The CoRe was a new way of planning, like it made me focus on concepts of water and then hone in on what we wanted … The CoRe made me realise how I gloss over things. (Y3/4 teacher, focus group interview) The structure, the link between the CoRe and the ‘All mixed up’ (primary connections unit) gave us confidence. (Junior school teacher, year 2, focus group interview) A very experienced year 2 teacher was surprised and encouraged by students’ positive responses to New Zealand Science Teacher >> 19
Table 3: Mixing and Melting Materials CoRe by the year 1 team
Pedagogical questions/ prompts
Key idea Dissolving and melting are two ways of changing materials
What you intend the students to learn about this idea
»» When materials change they often look different »» Melting is turning a solid into a liquid »» Dissolving is a special kind of mixing. When a material dissolves, it is still there, even though it seems to have disappeared. We can use our senses to explore this »» Some types of changes can be reversed but not others – sugar and salt are reversible »» A solid can be a liquid. A liquid can be a solid
»» Energy is heat in different forms »» You need to add or take away energy to make a change »» Melting always requires the energy of heat »» Dissolving is usually sped up by the addition of heat »» Heat needs to be removed for the material to solidify »» Some materials need less heat to melt than others
Why is it important for the students to know this?
»» An awareness of dissolving and melting materials is relevant to our everyday life »» How materials can be reused/recycled – different uses »» Some changes can be reversed – cause and effect
»» An awareness of dissolving and melting materials is relevant to our everyday life »» Energy has more than one meaning »» Different uses of heat »» Cause and effect »» Personal safety. Awareness of safety in relation to heat in everyday contexts
What else do you know about this idea (that you do not intend students to know yet)
»» Conservation of matter »» The terms ‘permanent’ and ‘temporary’
»» Fire triangle – burning: fuel/source/heat
Difficulties connected with teaching this idea
»» Teacher knowledge and understanding of science concepts/Concepts go against children’s preconceived ideas and conceptions/Abstract understanding of dissolving and mixing/Linking to developmental level and experience, ESOL, language needs/Safety issues involved with using heat to conduct experiments with young children – risk management/Resourcing and availability/Parental help required
Knowledge about student thinking which influences teaching about this idea
»» »» »» »»
Other factors that influence your teaching of this idea
»» See difficulties connected with teaching this idea
Teaching procedures (and particular reasons for using these to engage with this idea)
»» Hands-on experiments/Looking at the world around them (school and home)/Observations/Asking questions “I wonder”/Word wall in classroom/Recording observations/Comparing observations with predictions (reflecting)/Explanations using pictures and diagrams/Picture journal and class journal/Shared writing – a record of our journey
Ways of ascertaining student understanding or confusion about the idea
»» Observing/Listening/Children asking questions/New vocabulary/Children’s oral explanations, story writing and drawings/Conferencing/iPads/Checklist/Formative assessment/Summative
Experiences will be varied Idea that things disappear – change of state Idea that you can’t reverse a change of state Confusion between melting and dissolving
20 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
Key idea Energy is needed to make a change
»» Experiences will be varied »» Understanding of the term ‘energy’ in relation to a heat source
the investigations into everyday phenomena related to mixtures and mixing, and the scientific understanding they gained. As an associate teacher, she saw the potential in the resource materials for developing the professional knowledge and capabilities of student teachers. She recognised how the resource had scaffolded her own scientific understanding and that of her students. Slow to start, I felt this is going to be too boring, but I was wrong. The first two lessons getting their ideas was not exciting, but actually it did hook the kids in. …You couldn’t go wrong. The student teachers could take this lesson and do well. It gave me the background knowledge, broke it down into the children’s thinking, and gave you scope to move sideways. …After you [researcher observer] came in and observed my sifting lesson, I really thought the kids had not really quite grasped it, which I was quite surprised about, so I did another lesson, but with different substances as a whole class lesson. I linked it back to noodles and rice, and suddenly I saw little light bulbs going on everywhere and “Oh, of course!” I also used a steamer with holes and the kids recognised this. (Junior school teacher, year 2, focus group interview) This same teacher reported how students’ curiosity was raised and how they took ownership of their learning. I liked the way a number of children who brought things from home to share, some parents were asking me about it. Because the children had ownership of their mixture it made the learning more relevant – what would happen when their cornflakes and milk had sat there for three days? (Junior school teacher, year 2, focus group interview)
levels of student engagement and interest in their science learning. Further analysis of the observational data revealed strengths and areas for further enhancement in the teachers’ PCK. Collectively, the teachers’ PCK strengths included rich knowledge of their learners’ characteristics, strongly studentcentred teaching and assessment, and curriculum design decisions focused on students’ interests. Areas for enhancement included knowledge of curriculum, specifically science content knowledge, and pedagogy for authentic inquiry-based learning in science.
Recommendations for the SIP
Teachers welcomed the redesign of the school’s SIP. They expressed the need for it to be flexible, but with a framework that ensured all strands of the science learning area are covered through the 6 levels of schooling and topics are not repeated. Such a framework could be conceptually based on big ideas that could be covered in a range of topics.
They also suggested that a system was needed for keeping track of what has been covered at different class levels e.g. a Google document. The researchers also contributed some observations, notably around the nature of inquiry learning in science. They commented that there is an important difference between science inquiry learning and inquiry learning in other curriculum areas, which some teachers in the school were perhaps not fully appreciating. In inquiry learning in science, students need to ask scientifically oriented questions, and be given opportunities to design investigations themselves where they collect primary data, build explanations and test and critique those explanations. Such inquiry at a glance differentiates it CoRe - Content repres entation from inquiry in PCK - Pedagogical con tent knowledge other curriculum SDG - Science developm ent group areas. The SLH - Science learning hub researchers SIP - Science implement ation plan cautioned that the
Teachers carried out the second cycle of the project on their own, that is, without direct facilitation by research team members. It was a good opportunity for the teachers to use the CoRe design tool to create a second set of CoRes and accompanying units without ‘outsider’ direction. All teams produced second CoRes and science units, and classroom observations by the researchers recorded high
A word wall for the ‘Where’s the water?” unit, using transparent water droplets to cover a window.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 21
A student investigation into evaporation. Cups holding melted ice/water are on the windowsill and marked to show original levels.
distinctiveness of science risks being missed if taught as generic inquiry. Also some teachers, when referring to inquiry learning in science, had commented ‘we are learning along with the students’. At this point, the researchers raised the issue of teachers’ subject matter knowledge and their ability to lead and guide student learning in science. How do teachers recognise the teachable moments as science learning if their own science knowledge is underdeveloped? How does the teacher ensure that the students know the appropriate scientific knowledge i.e. their answers are scientifically accurate? How can teachers get to know the science? Access to quality resources and collaborative planning of science lessons and/or topics could be likely solutions. Finally the researchers talked about the tension in curriculum design around deciding what students need to learn in science. Students’ interests take you in one direction but this approach may not ensure curriculum is covered. How do teachers ensure that the children get experience in areas they are not exposed to by following their own interests? Teachers may need to provide those experiences that good teachers of science know students should be exposed to for well-rounded science education.
The design of the school’s SIP
Using the findings from the study, the SDG and researchers generated five principles for strengthening teachers’ PCK and primary science education programmes as they developed the SIP. 22 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
The principles included: Collaborative CoRe design and unit planning as a means of strengthening teachers’ science content knowledge, PCK and feelings of self-efficacy. A schoolwide science implementation plan with a conceptual framework that provides direction and guidance for students’ learning progressions in science as they move through their six years of primary schooling. Pedagogies where students engage in inquiry-based learning that mirrors authentic scientific inquiry The development and fostering of scientific capabilities and dispositions in students (i.e. engage with science and ask questions, design investigations, gather and interpret data, use evidence, critique evidence, and interpret representations). Schoolwide assessment of sufficient depth to allow students to show that they can perform in increasingly more complex ways as they move through their primary schooling. Evidence in any year to include a range of data to exemplify conceptual development, and science capabilities and dispositions linked to the school’s Science Implementation Plan. At a three-day planning session in November, the principal encapsulated how these principles and the collaboration with the researchers underpinned the construction of the school’s SIP and teachers’ professional learning. The three days spent by the development team in designing a new school implementation plan were a real gift to the school.
The strong partnership that had developed with the researchers became a true collaboration. The researchers provided really helpful analysis and expert support. Rarely do lead teachers have such quality time for reflection, professional learning support and co-construction of school curriculum. Working together where everyone contributed; being able to clarify progressions for concept development in science in the New Zealand curriculum for our implementation plan; making resource links and a purchasing plan; exploring and capturing examples of assessment practice from online sites such as the MOE, NZCER and the old NEMP exemplars were integral to the completion of our work for the year. conclusion: This study confirmed that the collaborative process of CoRe design within a school-based PLC contributed to enhanced teachers’ PCK and development of a coherent schoolwide science curriculum plan. This plan was developed and owned by teachers and contained the key elements of reform-based, future-oriented science education. We’ve agreed as a team that the year has been hard work but rewarding. We will continue to meet again next year to manage progress with the implementation plan and keep science learning on track. The research partnership and the plan we co-constructed to carry this out were instrumental in our success.
This research was undertaken with the support of a research grant from the Research and Study Leave Committee of the Faculty of Education at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Other members of the research team included Dr Jane Furness, Barbara Ryan, Angela Schipper and Hong Nhung Nguyen.
Australian Academy of Science (2014). Primary Connections: Linking science with literacy www.primaryconnections.org.au
LEARNING IN SCIENCE Authentic science education
science comes to Kristin
The July school holidays saw students from Kristin School investigating complicated murder cases.
ore than 300 budding investigators came together from all over New Zealand over the July holidays for Forensics@Kristin; an intensive, student-led programme that challenges participants to solve complex simulated homicide cases. Gifted students from primary, intermediate and secondary schools across the country came to embrace the challenge and test their problem solving, research, logic and creative skills at this unique and exciting camp. Split into three different camp experiences, Forensics@Kristin includes a five-day experience for students in years 5–10, a one-day Junior Edition for years 3–8, and a five-day Senior Scholars’ Edition for selected students in years 11–13. Joining together as teams of detectives, the students had three days to work through their cases. They used forensic techniques such as fingerprint testing and DNA analysis, and employed the multitude of resources, skills and intelligence at their disposal to sort the evidence from the red herrings and direct their own lines of inquiry. Their investigations culminated in a simulated court trial where detectives became defence and prosecution lawyers, interviewing key witnesses and arguing their side of the case. The 15 participants in the Senior Scholars’ camp acted as expert scientific witnesses in the mock court trials. In an extraordinary simulation, the Senior Scholars’ investigation included the discovery and subsequent examination of a burial site in relation to their homicide scenario, and their
evidence was critical for the prosecution of many of the detective teams’ cases. Over the course of the week, participants had the opportunity to meet with specialists from the field who explained the real-life application of what they were learning and the realities of forensic investigation. Detective Peter Litherland spoke to the students about the role of a detective in the police force and what it takes to solve a crime. Forensic technician Laura Parsons from Environmental Science and Research (ESR) took to the stage to explain her line of work. She provided many tips for the camp’s detectives to help them build a strong and compelling prosecution case. Independent forensic scientist Dr Anna Sandiford gave the participants an amazing insight into the world of forensic investigation for the defence, breaking down the myths created by television shows and shining a light on the fascinating and challenging aspects of her profession. Defence lawyer Phillip Hamlin gave valuable insights into the trial process. The complex scenarios were designed by a team of students in the roles of ‘controllers’ and ‘scenario doctors’. These students, mostly in years 9 and 10, had been selected from the very best of previous years’ detectives. They invested many weeks in preparing the scenarios and related evidence and were kept busy throughout the week, generating information and responding to the many lines of inquiry from the detective teams.
An additional team of students was responsible for the logistics of running the camp. This included catering for all of the participants and supervising teams, overseeing the science laboratories and general day-today business of running the camp. While staff Images by Lucy Wilson. were on hand to help and guide as necessary, it was the students who led the camp, addressed the participants and took responsibility for its ultimate success. Forensics coordinator and GATE teacher Raewyn Casey says it is the student leadership that makes the Kristin School forensics camp so unique. “This is the only programme on this scale in New Zealand that is entirely student-led. “Although teachers are there to provide guidance, the complete control of the experience is handed over to the students,” she says. “They learn skills of managing small and large groups and have to communicate with a variety of companies and many different adults. The skills they are learning, especially when there is a problem to solve, will remain with them for life. I am always amazed at how capable the students are and the high level of commitment we see from them.”
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 23
EDUCATION & SOCIETY Science education & culture
Bri n g in g
science to the people
Ordinary shipping containers are to be transformed into extraordinary teaching laboratories. They’re free of charge and just waiting to come to your school, writes PETRA DEARDEN.
Unlocking Curious Minds
In mid-2015, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced funding for a range of projects supporting the interaction between science and New Zealand society. Unlocking Curious Minds is a pilot contestable fund, designed to support projects connecting citizens with science and innovation. One of the grants was awarded to Genetics Otago, and the Lab-in-a-Box project is a collaboration with partners Otago Polytech, Otago Museum, the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre and Orokonui Eco-Sanctuary. Lab-in-a-Box aims to deliver hands-on, relevant science education to schools, in particular primary and intermediate students, and rural communities.
ab-in-a-Box has landed and we are here to support you and your teaching in your school. We know that you are amazing at your job, and that you engage every day with the future of New Zealand. We know that often it is a struggle to get the results you want with the tools at hand. We know that often rural schools miss out on the advantages of their urban counterparts, but Lab-in-a-Box wants to help you to help your students. Until the end of 2015, Lab-in-a-Box will be available to schools free of charge. Charges may apply in 2016 and beyond, depending on what is requested, and consumable and transport charges. This ambitious idea comes with government funding and a whole lot of enthusiastic industry support in the form of science toys, tricks and treats that will thrill and enthral. We have machines, telescopes, technology, consumables, safety gear, and most importantly, people – people who are as excited about your subject and your aims as you are. Lab-in-a-Box is a shipping container transformed, sparkling and gorgeous, into a cutting-edge mobile teaching and research laboratory, and it is ready, waiting and willing to be taken to your school to support and extend your already wonderful programmes. Lab-in-a-Box is a flexible and multifunctioning classroom, with its very own on-board, real-life, 100 per cent biodegradable, interactive educator. We will drop it in your school grounds and let you
24 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
Lab-in-a-Box will get your students humming with excitement about the chance to get their hands dirty with fullon, no holds barred experimental science. We want primary and intermediate pupils to start their love affair with science…” go crazy. Whatever your unit, we can come prepared. Plus, Lab-in-a-Box will be something new, exciting and special in the school – and you, because you are amazing, brought it. Your students will be able to carry out messy, but very fun, science experiments (volcanoes are always popular), look at microscopic pond life, and check out a river’s health, peer inside an atom or look out to the planets and stars, or even design and 3D-print the ‘next big thing’. Lab-in-a-Box will help you to let your students ‘have a go’ with practical science, and discover how science works and what scientists do. With the Science Learning Hub
and the Science Media Centre, we will help you to show your students what science is happening in New Zealand and how scientists are making a difference in New Zealand and the world. We want to work with you, the science teachers, and help you show your students how much fun it is to discover, detail, describe, develop and sometimes destroy things. Getting your hands dirty, ‘getting right up in it’, can spark a joy in science, and learning in general, that is life-long. And you will be the coolest teacher. Like a good political leader, Lab-in-a-Box wants to take science ‘to the people, by the people and for the people’. We want to bring to you the gear you need to teach the way you want to. Initially Lab-in-a-Box will be visiting primary, intermediate and area schools in South Canterbury, Westland, Otago and Southland. Ultimately, the aim is to run programmes within secondary schools as well, and to make our pride and joy, our Lab-in-a-Box, available across the whole of our country.
Read more about this project here: http://bit.ly/1Ot6teB
EDUCATION & SOCIETY Science education & culture
Thinking about growth mindset in the
one tea che r’s sto ry Looking for ways to improve student outlook recently became a priority for Christchurch teacher Carmen Kenton.
ne science teacher is finding ways to ‘switch students on’ using their current knowledge, and improve their outlook, in order to develop further understanding in the subject. Carmen Kenton is HOD science at Christchurch’s Hagley Community College. The department covers a wide range of science subjects: from the traditional disciplines (physics, biology and chemistry) to pre-health nursing, psychology, and philosophy. Carmen also teaches science to refugees recently arrived in New Zealand. The department has 12 teaching staff and two technical staff members. Classrooms throughout Hagley Community College include a number of students with complex learning differences that result in learning gaps, and lower reading ages. Carmen says many students also have well-established work avoidance strategies. “The students are often smart enough to work at their year level, but struggle to get their thoughts and understanding down on paper,” she says. “Our job is to switch them back on to learning by finding ways to tap into their current knowledge and their developing understanding.” New Zealand Science Teacher asked Carmen about some teaching strategies she has recently explored at Hagley Community College around growth mindset and helping her students to overcome some of their learning barriers. Carmen explains: My year 11 science class in 2014 was an ‘internal pathway class’, just sitting internal achievement standards in science, and formed part of our supported learning programme. Our school has an extensive learning support programme for students in year 9–11 who have been identified as having learning difficulties that can be addressed with specific and targeted support. These students were able to pass science achievement standards at Level 1, but needed literacy learning support to get them there.
I noticed they were not confident and I thought that by getting them familiar with the literacy of the topics, they would realise their potential. My whole plan for the year was to build their confidence with some quick credits from the Science Unit Standards in the first term, and then build on that learning with Chem 1.1. Early on in the learning for Chem 1.1, we co-constructed an assessment template and then used it for all the learning as well, with the hope that once we got to the assessment, they would have the confidence to use it. It didn’t work out as I had hoped. Within 15 minutes of the assessment starting, many of the students gave up and wouldn’t even entertain the notion of giving it a go. “I’m not doing this. I won’t pass anyway,” was a common refrain. Only 11 of the 20 students achieved the standards. My hypothesis was not supported by my data. All the literacy strategies in the world weren’t enough to help these students because that wasn’t their main learning problem: they had no self-belief. I began looking for ways to help my students change their outlook. I remembered watching some time ago, a TEDX video presentation about young, south Auckland Pasifika people breaking down their invisible barriers. So I hunted out the video and watched it again. Joshua Iosefo’s Brown Brother: http://bit.ly/1IOdGX7.
Fortuitously, just after this, a professional learning development session with our local science advisor had us unpack ideas around ‘fixed and growth mindsets’. I went home and made a lesson, and the very next day we watched the video together. Then I shared with my students some of the barriers I had experienced in my life. I asked them to write down the barriers that they had experienced in their lives, and then asked them to think how they would break these down. I asked them to go home and share this with their families, a mentor, or a good friend, for homework. It was the only homework they ever did all year. They were very keen to share their thinking the next lesson. We discussed how some barriers are put there by us, by peers, and by society. We discussed what we might do about it and they became passionate and really felt like they were empowered. In the end we spent three hours of class time on this, and every second was worth it. My students began actively doing things to break down their barriers and asking for ways to break a barrier. They started using new language in all their classes: fixed, growth, breaking barriers. They began explaining it to their other teachers, and I believe they are beginning to develop open and growth mindsets.
Carmen Kenton is HOD science at Hagley Community College in Christchurch.
What is growth mindset? In her best-selling 2007 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that it’s not our abilities and innate talents that bring us success, but rather the attitude we bring to learning and achievement. Since the book’s release, these ideas have received plenty of attention in the education sector. Dweck explores our most intrinsic beliefs, in particular, the way we think of ourselves, and concludes that we should view our personalities, strengths, and weaknesses as things we can alter as we go through life – and not as ‘absolute’ traits. As such, Dweck argues that possessing a malleable, or ‘growth’ mindset, as opposed to a ‘fixed’ one can help us realise our goals and achieve more in life. New Zealand Science Teacher >> 25
Using tikanga in science classes can provide our students with different and interesting ways of looking at science challenges, writes GEORGIA BELL.
ustoms provide us with a framework may be intimidating for some at first, but attract sharks and thus you would become for understanding the world around dinner! Most aspects of tapu were practical after a while you will get a feel for what these us. Customs help us to interact like this example, but commonly spiritual customs mean and how they are put into with people and the environment, connotations were added – perhaps to really practice. provide us with a window into cultures and, scare us. Other people may also have their own thus, invite us to new ways of thinking. In In my experiences in the science world, interpretations on aspects of tikanga, but Māoridom, we call these customs tikanga. For tikanga was often challenged, in particular essentially their underlying meanings will me, tikanga are a series of guidelines on how tapu. When I was working in a cancer still be maintained. In the rest of this post I to treat people, how to be a productive person, immunology lab I processed blood from will interpret some common tikanga within and how to optimise the health of our people people with colorectal cancer. Intrinsically, it the context of science and include some and land. was important to treat the samples with extra explanations and examples: I took part in the recent #scichatNZ care out of respect for the patients (wouldn’t as introduced by @SciencehubNZ. Whanaungatanga/whakapapa want to ask for another sample!), but also to Being passionate about Māoritanga and These concepts embody relationships protect myself working with samples that science, naturally I was elated to engage in with people and our surroundings. In an could have contained hepatitis or HIV. For me, conversations around cultural context within environmental field this aspect can be applied this was a clear example of how tikanga such science. to the context of both macro and micro levels. as tapu can be modernised in today’s society. As a disclaimer, I am not a school teacher; For example, discharging treated waste leads One could spend a very long time however, I am involved in science wānanga to hypoxic conditions in coastal systems, this discussing all the aspects of tikanga, their and I work part-time at the New Zealand can cause damage to eels whilst an influx of origins and their meanings, due to their Marine Science Centre. I am an MSc student nutrients can potentially induce toxic algal complexity and malleability to all areas of in the Department of Marine Biology, blooms. life. It is best to experience scenarios where University of Otago. My tribal affiliations are Within the field of immunology, working out tikanga play a big role, such as a hui at a Ngāti Marutuahu and Ngāti Maniapoto. the lineage of individual immune cell types is marae or at wānanga. These experiences Throughout my studies I have become very passionate about the education of our young people, as I Genealological Tables often reflect on my own educational experiences and how that can 1250 PAWA (Capt. of Horouta) KIWA (Priest of Horouta) be used to improve those of the next generation. I believe that the 1275 Hine-akua Kahutuanui use of tikanga in classes can be 1300 Haua the ‘golden ticket’, as this is what encouraged me to fully engage with 1325 Aniu-ki-taharangi my learning at a university level. It is important to understand the reality TAMA-TE-KAPUA HOTU-ROA TAMATEA-ARIKI-NUI 1350 Ngore of what we were learning in the (Capt. of Te Arawa) (Capt. of Tainui) (Capt. of Takitimu) classroom, as well as a perspective of what science might look like in Rongo-Kako Hotu-ope Kahumatamomoe 1375 Uehanganui the real world. Our tupuna (ancestors) were very Hotu-nui Tawake-moetahuna 1400 Tahungahenganui in tune with their environment and their analysis and observations Tamatea-Pokai-Whenua Panui Uenuku-mai-rarotonga 1425 Ruatepuke built tikanga. Why is it tapu (an activity or area requiring extra care KAHUNGUNU Hine-puariari Rangitihi 1450 Ruapani and precautions) or forbidden for menstruating wahine to collect Rongomai-papa Tuhourangi seafood? Because back in their time they found that the presence of Note: The line down to Kahungunu shows one generation. blood in the water could potentially
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Embrace the differences in the way your peers see and understand things, as they may be adding a deeper and more complex understanding of the research questions.” a good analogy of whakapapa links. I always tell people that if they are capable of figuring out the link between themselves and their fifth cousin, then they can understand the pathways required for the generation of a macrophage. Whakawhanaungatanga can also be translated as networking. Good scientists network to get help for research collaborations; sometimes this whakawhanaungatanga will spread far and wide to the people who live on the other side of the world! It takes a collaboration of people to run a marae, just like it does to drive good research!
This is commonly translated as guardianship. We often think about looking after our land and people with this term, but we need to make sure that we are catering to all the other species that coinhabit the world. Consideration of kaitiakitanga is currently occurring with research on the effects of climate change on different organisms. The aim of this research is to determine whether these species will cope with climate change and, if not, what could we possibly to facilitate coping mechanisms. Our tupuna would put rahui (gathering bans) on shellfish beds that had been over-harvested. The rahui would allow for foodstocks to replenish, thus ensuring that there were plentiful resources for future generations.
Mauri ora ki a tātou!
For further reading on tikanga check out: Tikanga Maori: Living by Māori Values. Sir Sidney (Hirini) Moko Haerewa Mead (book): http://bit.ly/1CPkkW9
’Tikanga Māori Pre-1840’ – by Timoti Gallagher (electronic article) http://bit.ly/1GTljW5 Find the ‘Storify’ (edited online record) of the conversation ‘What contexts from Te Ao Māori (and others) can we use for teaching science?’ here: http://bit.ly/1LYwFfQ Something for our students to think about is: what are the science questions that we need to answer to ensure a better life for our kids, and for their kids?
»» Embrace the differences in the way your peers see and understand things, as they may be adding a deeper and more complex understanding of the research questions.
This refers to the need to bring unity and to work collectively. People from Kotahitanga Marae in Otorohanga explain that kotahitanga means the bringing together of people from all different walks of life with different skills and different opinions. We don’t have to be of the same construct, but we might have similar agenda. In my postgraduate diploma studies we were told by our then head of department (Frank Griffin) that he believed it was important for him to encourage a range of people from different cultures to work in the department. Why? Because we all have very different sets of lenses through which we see the world. Many hands make light work, and many minds with different lenses allow for a more complex understanding of research questions … perhaps it is the customs of other cultures that allow our differences. Some points for our science students to think about with regards to kotahitanga: »» Everyone has a different role in a research group, just like on the marae or in your family home.
This means leadership and chieftainship. It is important that we prime our young people to be leaders in a way that is empowering and not intimidating. They can show rangatiratanga at any stage of life by doing things that empower and care for others. I like to encourage students to take home what they have learnt from wānanga and pass it on to their families, friends and iwi. To conclude, why might it be important to utilise these concepts in a science context? I feel that not only do these aspects give students inspiration to do science, a sense of belonging and connectivity, but also they provide some awesome guidelines for making wicked scientists! I like to think that teaching with tikanga primes these young minds with different and innovative ways of seeing science challenges.
Georgia Bell (Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Maru, Hauraki) has recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Otago.
This is interpreted as showing generosity and care for others. Manaakitanga is not only necessarily for people and things that are ‘here and now’ but for those in the future too. If all our resources are spent and there is no land for our future generations, how will they survive? I like to think about manaakitanga in respects to passing on science knowledge to our future generations. Are we providing our young leaders with the right tools and resources to become future scientists themselves? And do they have the fundamental understanding of the challenges that we have come to?
The Immune System, 3ed. (© Garland Science 2009) Left: Whakapapa table of some of the waka captains that descended from Pāoa and Kiwa of the Horoutawaka. Above: Chart of the generation of blood cellular components, a process called haematopoiesis. (Mitira, Tikia Hikawera (John Hikawera Mitchell) – Mitira, Tikia Hikawera (John Hikawera Mitchell) – Takitimu (1944/Wellington 1972); on New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (NZETC). New Zealand Science Teacher >> 27
A forager bee.
CURRICULUM & LITERACY The Living World
My year of
spent the first six months of this year engrossed in the science of bees and other social insects. As a primary teacher, I’ve always had a passion for fanning the flames of curiosity in my students and encouraging them to explore their local environment. Having the chance to model ‘being a learner’ to my students was one I could not resist. If you have ever debated applying for this programme, which is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand, I urge you to do so. I was one of 35 primary and junior secondary teachers who began 2015 working in science institutions all around New Zealand. There is a twofold purpose to the programme: firstly, to upskill us as teachers of science and secondly, to provide us with the skills to become curriculum leaders of science within our schools. During the two-term placement, we all participated in a week-long leadership programme at the University of Otago. This professional development gives us a firm foundation to support other teachers within our school in teaching science. Alongside this is a series of curriculum development days that focus on the Nature of Science: investigating, understanding, communicating, and participating and contributing (The New Zealand Curriculum, 2007) and the Science Capabilities: (gather and interpret data, use evidence, critique evidence, interpret representations and engage with science). Led by a great team (Brigitte Glasson, Dayle Anderson, Rex Bartholomew and Alice Ho), these curriculum days help to maintain a focus on school and education. We all looked forward to these get-togethers, getting to know each other and building strong connections with teachers from all areas. An added bonus was the opportunity to visit previous participants in their schools who willingly shared their experiences and expertise. Being Wellington-based, there was a range of organisation host options. The School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University offered me a placement: I joined Professor Phil Lester’s group of students studying social insects, and so began my adventures with bees, wasps and ants. Initially I was tossed completely out of my comfort zone but that is all part of the design of the project. I had only a high school science knowledge of biology and the learning curve
28 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
A place on the Royal Society’s Science Teaching Leadership Programme and a chance to be immersed in the buzzing world of tiny creatures was irresistible, writes DIANNE CHRISTENSON.
was steep but so incredibly worthwhile. With the support of students and staff at Victoria, I was able to participate in a large variety of projects. The real-world context is a key component of the programme. Many science teachers have little experience of working as a scientist outside the classroom and this opportunity is a chance to gain a first-hand understanding of the overarching Nature of Science strand of The New Zealand Curriculum. If we want to bring engaging, real-world science into our classrooms and inspire our students, we need to experience this ourselves. In ‘A Nation of Curious Minds’ (2014) it is said that “New Zealand needs people who can ask questions. In an increasingly complex world, with increasingly complex problems, the answers to many of these questions will come from an understanding and application of science”. This programme gave me the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of science and to apply that science to some real issues. A key focus for me was working with a group of beekeepers in Gisborne investigating the causes of a number of hive deaths. We were looking at the possible effects of a group of pesticides on the hives. I did a lot of background research and then was able to work in the field collecting data and samples for further analysis. My team included both a range of scientists and beekeepers. This practical work and the methods used to gather data is something I have brought back into the classroom with me. I was constantly reminded to use evidence before drawing conclusions and also to look at the design of a project very carefully. When working with the bees I discovered that there is a lot of overseas research that may not apply to our New Zealand situation. Dianne in the lab, identifying pollen samples.
To get a good understanding of the problems facing New Zealand’s bees, you need to go to the original research as it can be misquoted or sensationalised. That small piece of learning cemented, for me, the reason we need to be teaching the capabilities; we all need to use and critique evidence in making daily choices. For my school, we will look very carefully at any sprays we use in the school garden and try to ensure there is a minimal effect on our pollinators. This is learning that I hope will spread out to our community. Making links between science and industry has given me a way to share with my students how their learning at school can be relevant to future careers. I made contacts with scientists who are willing to work with my students at school. My learning is directly applicable to the sustainability teaching we do through the Enviroschools programme. I was able to broaden my knowledge by attending seminars on manuka honey and meeting with Dr Linda Newstrom-Lloyd to discuss bringing the ‘Trees for Bees’ project into Koraunui School. Although my time with this project has finished, the research is continuing and I am able to take many aspects of the work back to school. I have first-hand experiences to share with my students and also with the staff. There were so many adventures. Other highlights for me included visiting Eastwoodhill, the National Arboretum in Gisborne; spending a week on Maud Island gathering data on the native frog population; assisting in field work with PhD students; learning to process and analyse pollen samples at GNS Science; attending ‘Geology Rocks’, a week-long camp for students in Hawke’s Bay, which was run by GNS Science; presenting at the primary science day for the ChemEd BioLive conference in Wellington, and so much more. The ultimate benefit though was the ‘wolf pack’ that I gained – a group of wonderfully talented educators who are passionate about providing students with insights into the awe, wonder and excitement of the world of science. It has been a highlight of my career thus far, providing me with a wealth of experiences to take back to the classroom and it has reignited my passion for teaching science.
Dianne Christenson is a primary teacher at Koraunui School, Stokes Valley.
Science Teaching Leadership Programme
Make a real difference to students’ science learning Apply for this exciting initiative for schools and their nominated teacher of Y1 – 10 students that will: • Enhance science programmes to better engage students and develop their science knowledge and skills • Contribute to the professional learning and development of teachers • Build links between schools and practising scientists This programme, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand, provides opportunities for a nominated teacher from each school or science department to work with a host science organisation for two terms, develop their leadership skills and enhance the teaching of science within school communities on their return to school.
For further information and application forms, go to www.royalsociety.org.nz/stlp Any queries, contact email@example.com
EDUCATION & SOCIETY Science education & culture
Saying key to achievements
Onslow College science teacher Terry Burrell credits her success to a can-do attitude and a supportive working environment.
n enabler of others and a strong advocate for collaborative teaching won the 2014 Prime Minister’s Science Prize for Teaching. Terry Burrell, learning area leader in science at Wellington’s Onslow College, says she was honoured to be awarded the prize, worth $150,000.
At the awards ceremony in December, Terry was described as possessing an “infectious” love of learning and someone who allows others to develop and be successful. Accepting the prize, she spoke about the “passionate people, the intelligent people” she’d been able to work with over the years. Indeed, her approach to teaching is a collaborative one. “I see myself as working with my students— we are on a journey of discovery together with a focus on developing the ability to observe and think critically about evidence.” But it’s not only about the students. Terry credits her colleagues with helping to build a rich and engaging science programme at the school. “I had a really bad case of imposter syndrome when I first found out I had won the prize, because I know so many good teachers, – I’m surrounded by them. “But then, when I reflected back on it, I think it was very much about the opportunities that I’ve been given. You meet people in your life, and these chances come up. I’ve tended to put my hand up and grab those opportunities. There are just so many of them, and you never know where the next one is going to lead you.” This positive attitude and willingness to take risks has seen Terry work with an array of leaders in the science education sphere in New Zealand. “I’ve been thinking about how many people have enriched my work, and my life, since I went back to teaching. It’s about saying ‘yes’, and listening to those people out there who have got ideas, and helping to make things happen. “I also think it’s about grabbing the hands that are held out, and taking risks. Sometimes you might look a bit foolish, but putting yourself out there – you get back so much more than you give,” she says. 30 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
Science at Onslow College
From Gisborne originally, Terry has been teaching at Onslow College for five years. During this time, the number of students taking science at NCEA Level 1 has increased 31 per cent, while the numbers staying in the subject through to Level 3 are up 32 per cent, and the school’s achievement statistics consistently exceed those of similar schools. Terry doesn’t want to take credit for the increased student numbers, and says it’s the department that attracts and retains young scientists. “The depth of experience and expertise in this department is quite amazing,” she says. “We have a stunning array of teachers, including two young teachers, who make me think critically every day.” Peter Leggat, principal at Onslow College, says Terry is an outstanding leader. “She has had a huge influence on the quality of science teaching and learning available at Onslow. She leads by example and constantly encourages her team to review their practice and follow what they are interested in and what they are best at.” The supportive environment at the school is also manifest in the way the students help each other learn. “At Onslow it’s very much a student-led environment,” says Terry. “There’s a certain ethos in this place; you let the kids lead things, and off they go. You see that in the science department too: physics teams involve students mentoring other students. Seniors guide the juniors: it’s the Onslow culture.” Being awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize sees Terry receive $50,000 and Onslow College $100,000. Peter Leggat says the money will be used to build capacity in the science learning area, including purchasing equipment and releasing Terry from some teaching responsibilities so she can work alongside other teachers. “The idea for the money is to buy our science department some time to think, plan and collaborate,” says Terry. “We want to reinvest the money into our department, and in the first instance it will buy us time, in the form of some more teaching hours. We want to put into place some of the initiatives that have been sitting here on the backburner, wishing we had time to do them.
We’ll free ourselves up in order to be more flexible in how we explore some of those initiatives – maybe looking at more team teaching, and time out to go and look at other schools to see what they’re doing, with IT in the classroom, and literacy projects on the go, and with things like the big push to teach through socio-scientific issues.” Terry’s award makes Onslow the first secondary school in New Zealand to have been associated with two Prime Minister’s Science Prizes—the inaugural Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize, worth $50,000, was presented to Stanley Roach in 2009 for research he carried out while a year 13 student at Onslow College.
Other work in science education
Terry spent time away from the classroom when she had young children and in 2007 she worked as a senior subject advisor for science. “I had the privilege of travelling around the country and being in so many classrooms, and I got to see some amazing teachers out there,” she says. In addition to her classroom work, Terry has been seconded to a number of expert panels and national science groups, including being a member of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Group and working as teacher advisor with the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, one of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence, to develop school resources based on the Centre’s science. She was also a lead writer for the senior science teaching and learning guidelines to support the implementation of a revised science curriculum and worked on the project to realign the NCEA achievement standards with The New Zealand Curriculum.
EDUCATION & SOCIETY Science education & the environment
To graze or not to graze? That is Tim’s question
The Canterbury region has one of the highest numbers of endangered native plants in the country.
From a thriving department
Darfield High School student Tim Logan won the 2014 Prime Minister’s Future Scientist prize with an ongoing research project on native plants.
Darfield High School HOD science Remco Baars, says Tim’s future is looking bright. “His options are so open and he could choose to do anything he likes in science,” Remco says. “It’s all quite amazing, really. It gives us some real hope for the future to have bright young students like Tim.” At the awards ceremony, it was noted that the winner of the Emerging Scientist Prize, Otago University lecturer and researcher Karl Iremonger, had also attended Darfield High School and had, in fact, been named Dux in his final year.
im Logan’s field work paid off late last year when he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize, worth $50,000. Tim joined a group of top national scientists at an awards ceremony at Wellington’s Te Papa Tongarewa. Tim, 17, combined his studies at Darfield High School with a two-year project investigating the protection and survival of New Zealand native plants, many of them endangered. Focusing on his local Waimakariri Plains landscape, Tim examined the effects of stock grazing on indigenous grassland species, the first study of its type to be done in lowland Canterbury. With the aim of preserving the biodiversity in the region, this work comprised more than 60 hours and utilised a series of grids over different land types, including grazed and ungrazed sites. Tim identified and counted the plant species in each site and consulted widely with other scientists in the field. A statistics modelling computer programme was used to graph the data, and Tim says he had incredible support from his science teacher, Remco Baars, as well as Landcare Research ecologists Susan Walker and Colin Meurk. “Colin helped me a lot with plant identification,” he says. “And Susan – who I still haven’t met, actually, put in so much time, helping me with the technical aspects of the modelling. “I wanted to find whether stock grazing enhanced the survival of low-growing native plant species in the mid-Waimakariri floodplain; whether soil depth was a factor; and whether sustainable land use through low to moderate intensity stock grazing could achieve both economic and ecological goals without the need for compromise.” Tim’s parents agreed to fence off a part of their lifestyle block to create a native plant nursery and restoration project. The project boasts around 800 trees, most of them native species. “It did take a bit of convincing my
parents to let me do the planting two years ago,” he admits. Driven by a fascination for New Zealand’s unique biodiversity, and what it might have looked like 1,000 years ago, Tim wants to protect indigenous plants from extinction and believes this is possible with careful agricultural practices that balance ecology with economics.
The landscape ahead
Tim says the prize came as a surprise. “I was really excited and overwhelmed when I found out I had won,” he says. He is keen to dig in to further studies and will use the prize money to fund his tertiary education. “I could be looking at doing quite a few years at university so will need it,” he laughs.
It did take a bit of convincing my parents to let me do the planting two years ago.”
The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes acknowledge and celebrate scientific excellence in our country. Each year since 2009 a select group of Kiwi scientists has been recognised with these awards. The awards celebrate outstanding science in the community. A total of five prizes are presented each year, awarding a total of $1 million to some of our top researchers and scientists. Entries for the 2015 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes closed on 31 July, and the winners will be announced at a ceremony later this year. The specific prizes are as follows: »» An individual or team who has made an transformative discovery or achievement in science that has had a significant impact on New Zealand or internationally: The Prime Minister’s Science Prize »» An outstanding emerging scientist undertaking research for a PhD or within five years of the date of the award of their PhD: The Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize »» A science teacher for outstanding achievement in teaching science: The Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize »» A secondary school student for outstanding achievement in carrying out a practical and innovative research or technology project: The Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize »» A practising scientist who is an effective communicator, to provide them with an opportunity to further develop their knowledge and capability in science media communication: The Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize New Zealand Science Teacher >> 31
CURRICULUM & LITERACY The Physical World
Potato cannons pendulums At a Wellington secondary school one science teacher is fostering a love for physics among his students through a myriad of hands-on experiments, writes MELISSA WASTNEY.
arlier this year, the PPTA released a series of video clips about the value of New Zealand teachers, featuring vignettes of everyday teachers doing their thing. Featured in one of these clips is a long metal tube firing a potato high into the air, as uniformed schoolboys watch and whoop. Welcome to Doug Walker’s physics class at St Patrick’s College in Kilbirnie, Wellington. Spurred on by this video, I visited his year 13 physics class, notebook in hand, to see the vegetable cannon in action. (Doug has made a video clip explaining how he built his air rocket launcher, or giant spud gun. Watch it here: bit.ly/1jMqvro)
Getting the balance right
Doug says he tries to strike a balance in his physics class between practical work and writing and recording, so that about 50 per cent of the class is spent doing hands-on science. He believes that once students have the conditions for conducting experiments and are playing with equipment, they will come up with innovative ideas of their own. “I’ve found fifty-fifty is a good balance and keeps the students motivated,” he says. “Hands-on experiments capture their interest. And I think if you can do that, the battle is won.” And it seems the students are as enthusiastic. At the suggestion of demonstrating a concept to me using oxalic acid and iron filings, one student exclaims, “That one is mint as!” When I visited the school on a sunny winter’s morning, Doug’s year 13 physics students showed me some of their favourite experiments. First on the list was the department’s own giant pendulum. This hangs at the front of the
Doug made a class Ruben’s Tube, which the students use to show me the relationship between sound waves and sound pressure. The Ruben’s Tube, consisting of a length of steel pipe with holes along the top, is sealed at both ends, but one end is attached to a small speaker that is in turn powered by a signal generator, and the other to a supply of gas. As the tube is filled with gas, the perforations are lit, and show how the sound waves affect the flames. Students demonstrating the class Ruben’s Tube. 32 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
classroom and weighs 60 Newtons. Used to demonstrate the principle of energy loss due to friction, students took turns drawing the ball close to their bodies then standing quite still as it swung away. The class has recently used a high frame rate camera to analyse the velocity and momentum of the falling ball. The pendulum has a variety of uses in the physics classroom, though ‘fun’ is its primary function, admits Doug. “In Level 1 classes, we use it to demonstrate conservation of energy, predicting speed and checking our calculations using a high frame rate recording and free software called Tracker.” In Level 2, students use the pendulum to work out physics relationships from basic principles, such as the period of a pendulum, and demonstrating that mass has no effect on this by measuring the period with and without a student sitting on it as it swings. Level 3 students extend these principles to calculate simple harmonic motion.
Digital learning for success
St Patrick’s College is a state-integrated Catholic boys’ school in Kilbirnie, Wellington. Doug says the science teachers try to collaborate as much as possible and share resources and ideas. “We do have very passionate teachers here, though I think most schools would say that,” he says. “It’s easy to become unadventurous in our work, but we’re always sharing best practice – and keep Google Docs that we use together.” Flipped classroom teaching is also a feature of science teaching at the school. “We do use digital learning as much as possible to introduce concepts to the students before a more hands-on class begins. Many students are getting great results like this.” Some teachers at the school are creating their own video clips, and the science department is gradually building a digital resource library for students to access. Google Classrooms has seen students helping their fellow students – homework can be accessed and completed online, and resources and links readily shared.
No visit to this particular science classroom would be complete without a firing of the potato cannon. With a polite request to shoot only a small potato at a ‘reasonable’ velocity, Doug explains that the classroom ceiling has recently been repainted. And so the students squash a potato into the top of the steel pipe of the cannon.
The chamber behind the tube has air pumped into it with the aid of a bike pump or air compressor. A quarter-turn valve allows this air to be released rapidly into the rest of the tube, accelerating the projectile. Junior students at the school use the same apparatus to launch cardboard rockets they design and build, in order to investigate force, friction and rifling.
Two students try to separate two phone books, the pages of which have been interlocked. This simple experiment explores friction, surface area and force.
A jar of ultraviolet light-reacting beads on the classroom windowsill. These indicator beads change colour when exposed to UV light, and can be used in experiments with light and sunscreen, for example.
“I like doing the hands-on stuff in class,” says year 12 student Jacob Farr, who tells me physics is his favourite science subject. “I really enjoy seeing it in action, and realising how physics is all around us every day.” Year 13 student Finn Lowndes wants to go on to study engineering. “I like seeing the principles we learn about in action, and see physics coming to life,” he says.
See the P PT featurin A clip, Walker’s g Doug phy class he sics re: http
://bit.ly/1KEu i3H For more info rmation abou t equipment, co ntact Doug: doug.walker@ stpats.schoo l.nz
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 33
CURRICULUM & LITERACY The Physical World
Is there a problem with
NCEA Physics 3.6? An electrical engineering perspective Schools are in need of simple and reliable circuits that are easy to set up for classroom experiments, write University of Canterbury academics ANDREW LAPTHORN, SHREEJAN PANDEY and YUSUKE HIOKA.
n recent years the number of students taking the Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) programme at the University of Canterbury (UC) has declined, despite strong numbers in engineering as a whole. A similar trend has been noted at The University of Auckland, which has seen a reduced cut-off grade point average for EEE, compared with other programmes. However, industry demand for qualified EEE engineers is still high and there is genuine concern that universities will not be able to meet the needs of industry if this trend continues. Anecdotal evidence from some of our students suggested that the electrical component of NCEA physics is possibly too difficult and may be deterring potential EEE students. Some said that the electrical component of NCEA physics is not even taught at their
***figure 1*** 1: Motivational factors for engineering studies.
schools so they taught themselves because of their interest in the subject.
choice of professional engineering discipline in their second year. ENGR101 enrolments provide a good crosssectional sample of students who retained their interest in sciences and mathematics at secondary level. At the end of class tutorials over a one-week period, 112 of approximately 800 ENGR101 students were asked to respond anonymously to 21 multichoice questions in three parts: ‘General’; ‘Motivations for Pursuing Science and Engineering Study’; and ‘Career Path’. Survey results of the motivational factors behind pursuing engineering are shown in Figure 1 and highlight that career potential ‘definitely’ influenced the majority of respondents (62 per cent).
Survey results highlight curriculum issue
Concerned about this enrolment trend and the anecdotal evidence, we investigated possible causes. This involved surveying engineering students at both UC and UA, analysing data for secondary school pass rates in NCEA physics, and holding focus groups with secondary school physics teachers. We aim to highlight a potential problem with the NCEA physics curriculum and invite discussion and debate around ways to improve it. Two separate surveys were conducted, the first of which involved first-year Bachelor of Engineering Secondary school influence students at UC. This group included minimal on first-years students who are interested in all the What is of particular interest is that engineering disciplines offered at UC. only 17 per cent of first-years were The second group consisted of EEE ‘definitely’ and 29 per cent were ‘not and mechatronic***figure students1*** from both at all’ influenced by their secondary UC and UA. school teachers. Similarly, only a small 70 Mechatronics was chosen for the 8 per cent were ‘definitely’ and 51 per 60 study as there is common ground cent were ‘not at all’ influenced by their between EEE and mechatronics high school careers advisors. These 50 (mechatronics being placed between figures indicate that students who 40 electrical and mechanical engineering). choose to pursue an engineering degree We were interested30in why the are usually career motivated and both students chose engineering, what secondary school teachers and career 20 influenced their choice, and what type advisors only minimally influence their 10 of engineering they intend to pursue. choices. 0 As part of UC’s first-year Bachelor See Figure 1: Motivational factors for Research Attending UC Scholarship Secondary Careers Secondary of Engineering study, students opportunities m activities prior school career studies. school engineering enrollement advisors are required to take a compulsory teachers See Figure 2: Degree preferences Definitely (%) (%) of the first-yearSomewhat engineering student Not at all (%) ENGR101 ‘Foundations of Engineering’ sample. paper before committing to their ***figure 2*** 2: Degree preferences of the first-year engineering student sample.
Computer Science and Software 6%
30 20 10 0 Careers
Secondary Secondary school career school advisors teachers Definitely (%)
Ability to find Family Attending UC Scholarship opportunities member or practical work prior vacations friend enrollement enrolment Somewhat (%) Not at all (%)
34 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
Forestry 1% Not sure Yet 8% Civil and Natural Resources 35%
Electrical and Computer 11%
Chemical and Process 11%
40 30 20 10 0 Secondary Secondary school career school advisors teachers Definitely (%)
***figure 2*** Figure 2 shows the respondents’ preferred choice of study in completion of their engineering intermediate year. Electrical and computer (11 per cent) is a third-equal choice of study following civil and natural resources (35 per cent) and mechanical (22 per cent) engineering degrees. A considerable proportion (8 per cent) had not decided their choice of study and some may choose to pursue EEE. EEE and mechatronics student surveys In the second survey, three cohorts of students from UC and The University of Auckland (UA) were surveyed anonymously: at UC, 34 third and fourth-year EEE students and seven third-year mechatronics students; at UA, 37 third-year mechatronics students.
»» In which stage of education (e.g. school year) did you decide to study electrical and electronics engineering/mechatronics? »» What was the most important factor for you to decide to study electrical and electronics engineering/ mechatronics? »» How did you collect information to make a decision to study electrical and electronics engineering/ mechatronics? »» What factors influenced your decision to study electrical and electronics engineering/ mechatronics? Please elaborate. »» Did you consider any other disciplines in engineering as your speciality? If yes what disciplines were they and why? If not, why not? »» What are your career aspirations? At the completion of your undergraduate study, do you want to be a specialist or a generalist?
In question 1, all mechatronics students at UC made their decision in the first year of university, in contrast with the majority of EEE students at UA, who made their minds up in high school.
Mechatronics See Figure 3: Question 1 results. Level 3, made up of 14 credits each, in 6% See Figure 4: Questions 2 and 4 three approved subjects results. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Computer Science and The most prevalent answer 2014). Software to questions 2 and 4 around UC’s engineering college requires 6% influencing factors was interest in the students enrolling in the first year particular discipline, followed by job of the engineering programme to opportunities or high income potential. have 14 credits in Level 3 calculus orand Computer Electrical However, around a third of mathematics, physics and chemistry,11% mechatronics students specified with 18 credits recommended. To get the broadness of the discipline as into the EEE programme a student Chemical and Process the main contributing factor to their does not require chemistry. 11% decision, in contrast to the EEE students. When asked in question 5 about any other disciplines that the students had ***figure 3 a*** considered, mechanical engineering was the Other most popular option 12% ***figure 3 b*** 3: Question 1 results. across all three cohorts. It should also be noted Other 11% ***figure 3 b*** that mechatronics was University ***figure 3 b*** 1st year also a strong candidate High Other 21% School for the EEE students, Other11% 36% 11% whereas computer/ High software engineering was High High School School more popular with the 36% School 67% 36% mechatronics students than with the EEE University students. 1st year One significant 53% difference between University EEE and mechatronics 1st year ***figure 4 a*** University students is the number 53% 1st year of ‘none’ answers (‘none’ 53% meaning the student did ***figure 4 a*** Other not consider any other 4: Questions 2 and 4 results. ***figure 4 a*** Other disciplines didn’t look interesting specialisation options): Other only about a third of the Broad/Multi-discipline/General EEE students answered Other Other disciplines didn’t look interesting Job/Money/Future growth ‘none’, whereas the Other disciplines didn’t look interesting Broad/Multi-discipline/General majority of mechatronics Interest in something within the discipline students had considered Broad/Multi-discipline/General Job/Money/Future growth 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 several different options. Job/Money/Future Interest in something within thegrowth discipline See Figure 5: Question 5 results. ***figure 4 b***within the discipline 0 Interest in something 2 4 6 8 10 12 14
Looking for year 13 electrical systems AS numbers
***figure 4 b***
***figure 4 disciplines b*** didn’t look interesting Other Universities require Other students to have Broad/Multi-discipline/General completed Level 3, 10 Other disciplines didn’t look interesting Job/Money/FutureOther growth literacy credits at Level Broad/Multi-discipline/General 2 or above, 10 numeracy Other disciplines didn’twithin look interesting Interest in something the discipline credits at Level 1 or above Job/Money/Future growth Broad/Multi-discipline/General and three subjects at
Interest in something within the discipline Job/Money/Future growth
Interest in something within the discipline
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 35 5
Not s Ye 8%
In a nutshell… Concerned by declining numbers in the Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) programme at the University of Canterbury, we investigated the causes by surveying engineering students. The surveys found that students are generally motivated by career opportunities and also showed that the majority of students studying EEE made their decisions at secondary school. Enrolments dropped for year 13 calculus and physics (important subjects for engineering) after the introduction of NCEA, followed by a slow recovery. This suggested a reduction in the number of students available to choose engineering at university. A closer look at the electrical NCEA Level 3 physics external achievement standards revealed an unusually high void rate for the external electrical component (3.6), compared with 3.3 (waves) and 3.4 (mechanical). This suggests students find the electrical component more difficult. Finally, focus groups held with local physics teachers revealed that the electrical assessment is based on outdated technology and should be updated to suit modern environments that appeal to secondary students. These focus groups also revealed that 3.6 is considered to be the most difficult of the three external topics and schools are in need of simple, reliable circuits that are easy to set up for classroom demonstrations and experiments.
We are interested in the number of students opting to take physics in year 13. Moreover, we are particularly interested in the number of students who opt for the ‘electrical systems’ achievement standard (AS) in year 13. In order to understand enrolment numbers in secondary school mathematics and physics, we obtained ‘Secondary schools enrolment data for the past ten years by subject’ and ‘NCEA Physics Results for Levels 1 to 3’ from the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) respectively. The data was used to obtain absolute year 13 calculus and physics enrolment numbers and trends. It was also used to identify (None) NCEA 3.6 (electricity) examination results, Other and compare them against other external examination results. (None)
Rising physics enrolments not reflected in EEE numbers
5: Question 5 results.
CME(chemical&material) Computer/Software (None) Civil Mechanical Other Computer/Software Mechatronics
CME(chemical&material) Mechanical 0 Civil Mechatronics Computer/Software
***figure 5 b*** Mechanical
***figure 5 b***(None)
Other Eng Sci (None)
5CME(chemical&material) b*** Other EngCivil Sci Computer/Software CME(chemical&material) (None) Mechanical Civil Other EEE (electrical/electronic) Computer/Software Eng Sci
EEE (electrical/electronic) Civil
***figure 5 c***
***figure 5 c*** (None) EEE (electrical/electronic) 0
***figure 5 c***
CME(chemical&material) Computer/Software (None) Civil Mechanical Other Computer/Software EEE (electrical/electronic) CME(chemical&material) Mechanical 0 Civil EEE (electrical/electronic)
Computer/Software 36 >> New Zealand Science Teacher 0 0.5
Figure 6 presents year 13 enrolment trends in secondary physics and calculus at a national level. The decline in enrolment between 2003 and 2005 coincides with the introduction of NCEA Level 3 replacing bursaries in 2004. Based on discussions in sections to follow, it is the authors’ speculative assertion that the decline may have been related 8 10 12 to physics and calculus being perceived as the more difficult subject by 8 10 12 students who wished to limit their risk of ‘Not Achieved’ Level 3 credits 10 12 at a time when NCEA was first introduced. See Figure 6: Year 13 physics and calculus, number of students enrolled in each course. Overall, year 13 enrolment numbers in calculus and physics 16 18 are rising, which is likely to lead to a greater number of tertiary level 16 18 engineering students, but have still not fully recovered (especially in 18 calculus). However, the following sections present findings and discussion on why rising enrolment numbers in year 13 physics may not necessarily result in more students pursuing 3 3.5 EEE degrees. 3
NCEA physics and electricity achievement standards
See Figure 7: NCEA physics, number of students enrolled in external AS. Figure 7 shows a comparison between the number of students sitting the external achievement standards (Ex ASs) in NCEA physics from 2009 until 2013 for each level and the number taking the electricalbased Ex AS. This data gives an indication of how many schools are teaching the electrical component of NCEA physics. There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from this data. »» There is an overall trend of growth in student numbers for each level of physics, which is consistent with Figure 6. »» There is a reasonably significant drop in student numbers between Level 2 and Level 3, suggesting failure in and/or discontinuing of physics for some students. However, the number appears to be constant and combined with the growth in overall student numbers represents a decreasing percentage in attrition of Level 3 physics students. »» The electrical Ex AS appears to be widely taught, with nearly all students taking physics also taking the electrical component, especially in Level 3. This is largely encouraging news for the EEE programme. More students taking physics and calculus is likely to translate into more students enrolling in the EEE programme.
Following a few informal meetings and discussions with secondary school physics teachers, the EPECentre hosted its first outreach focus group workshop in February 2014. Teachers from five Christchurchbased secondary schools actively
Number of students
Number of students
Number of Students
Secondary teachers’ focus group findings
participated at the workshop and provided their valuable perspectives. The following is a summary of findings from the first focus group workshop. »» NCEA assessments in support of electrical engineering are based However, the theoretical aspects on outdated technology and need of UC demonstrations are not to be updated to suit modern usually covered until the end of environments that appeal to the year. UC staff’s explanation of secondary students. For example, electrical systems may not be well resources consisting of cathode ray understood by most students at the television technology examples can time of their visit. It also needs to be be updated to refer to LED TV or relevant to their 3.6 curriculum. smart phone technology. »» Secondary school physics teachers »» Most schools teach electricity are interested in working together (NCEA 2.6 or 3.6) towards the with the EPECentre, UC to develop end of the academic year to resources and teacher refresher enable students to remember the training programmes in support of content prior their external NCEA NCEA 2.6 and 3.6. examinations. This is because NCEA 3.6 is usually considered to be the Points for discussion most difficult of the three external The survey results show students choosing engineering are primarily topics. However, there is often less motivated by career prospects, with time to teach it at the end of the other lesser contributing factors, academic year. including family/friends, research »» Students find concepts related to activities and school teachers. mechanics (NCEA 3.4) and waves (NCEA 3.4) easier to understand and therefore more exciting 12000 than electricity. 10000 »» Most secondary 8000 schools are not 6: Year 13 physics and calculus, number of students enrolled in each course. equipped with 6000 12000 sufficient resources, 10000 4000 such as functioning 8000 2000 oscilloscopes to 6000 0 run electrical circuit 4000 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 demonstrations and/or Female Male (Physics) All Students (Physics) 2000 (Physics) experiments. Female (Calculus) Male (Calculus) All Students (Calculus) 0 »» Schools are in need 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 of simple and reliable Female (Physics) Male (Physics) All Students (Physics) circuits that are easy Female (Calculus) Male (Calculus) All Students (Calculus) to set up for classroom ***figure 7*** demonstrations and 7: NCEA physics, number of students enrolled in external AS. experiments. Teachers 16000 ***figure 7*** have 45 minutes 14000 available to them and 12000 16000 circuits that often 10000 14000 do not work during 8000 12000 demonstrations can 10000 cause delays. 6000 8000 4000 »» Students enjoy their 6000 outreach visits to UC 2000 4000 laboratories and are 0 2000 likely to remember 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Level 1 Electrical Level 2 Total 0 Level 1 Total them for some time. Number of Students
Unfortunately, if one digs a little deeper some troubling trends begin to emerge. Figure 8 shows pass rates for NCEA 3.6 from 2009 to 2013. Two of the categories of this plot benefit from some explanation. Firstly, ‘Absent’ represents the number of students who did not show up to the exam, whereas ‘Void’ represents those who are abstaining from a particular AS. One of the quirks of the NCEA system is that a student does not need to pass every AS in order to pass or receive an endorsement in a particular subject. If a student feels that they might not pass a particular Ex AS they can choose to skip it and consequently receive a ‘void’ for that AS, which does not show on their record. If they start an Ex AS (i.e. attempt to answer some questions) but do not gain enough marks the student receives a ‘Not Achieved’, which does show on their record. See figure 8: NCEA 3.6 pass rate for the years 2009 to 2013. What stands out in Figure 8 is that about half the students sitting 3.6 are either failing or choosing to skip the electrical Ex AS. Furthermore, if we compare the pass rates of NCEA 3.6 with the other physics Ex AS, 3.3 waves and 3.4 mechanical systems, it is apparent that 3.6 has an unusually high void count. This is illustrated in Figure 49, which shows 22 per cent of students voided 3.6 Ex AS compared with only 7 per cent for Ex AS 3.3 and 3.4 during the 2013 exams. The results for other years are similar. This suggests that a significant number of students consider the electrical component of physics either too hard or not necessary. See Figure 9: NCEA physics external achievement standard results 2013 (A) 3.6 electrical (B) 3.3 waves and 3.4 mechanical.
We are interested in the number of students opting to take physics in year 13. Moreover, we are particularly interested in the number of students who opt for the ‘electrical systems’ achievement standard (AS) in year 13.”
Level 22009 Electrical Level 1 Total
Level 2 Electrical
2010 Level 3 2011 Total Level 1 Electrical Level 3 Total
2012 Level 3 Electrical 2013 Level 2 Total Level 3 Electrical
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 37
We invite secondary school teachers to contact us about our survey findings. Do you think there is a problem with Physics 3.6? Would you like to contribute to the field guide? What resources would help to deliver the 3.6 curriculum better?”
curriculum change around 3.6 to make it easier and more relevant to modern technology. We invite secondary school teachers to contact us about our survey findings. Do you think there is a problem with Physics 3.6? Would you like to contribute to the field guide? What resources would help to deliver the 3.6 curriculum better?
Number of Students
Number of students
There is a noticeable difference equipment. We have looked at the between when students make up their curriculum and think it is too hard for a minds to study EEE and other degree high school level. Some of the material choices, such as mechatronics, with we do not teach until second year a significant portion of EEE students university. deciding in high school. We believe there is a problem with Furthermore, a significant number NCEA Physics External Achievement 12000 of EEE students were interested in the Absent Standard 3.6 and we are working to fix Acknowledgements 4% 10000 EEE programme over other disciplines, it. We are putting together a field guide The authors would like to thank David but this was not the case for to assist students and teachers with 8000 Wilson, New Zealand Qualifications Void mechatronics students, who appeared concepts of the 3.6 curriculum. Authority; Gurusingham Sathiyandra, 22% 6000 more interested in mechanical The guide, still in its early stages, Ministry of Education; Geoff Knight, 4000 engineering. contains videos explaining key Carl Johnston and Pip Collins, 2000 One theory for this could be that EEE concepts such as static electricity, Excellence Burnside High School; Nathan students already have a strong interest DC electricity, electromagnetism and 0 Mehrtens, Christchurch Boys’6%High Merit electrical 2003 2004 in2005 2006 engineering 2007 2008 despite 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 AC electricity; why they behave the School; Tim McCall, Cashmere High 17% other influencing factors, whereas All Students way(Physics) they do and how we have applied Female (Physics) Male (Physics) School; Brent Cummack, Female (Calculus) Male (Calculus) (Calculus) mechatronics students who show All Students them to the world we live in. We plan St Andrew’s College; Erik Brogt and some interest in electronics are turned to add more to the guide in the future, John Freeman-Moir, Absent University of away from electrical and towards such as tutorials and games. Our Canterbury; ENGR101, UC EEE, UC 4% ***figure 9 b*** mechanical due to a bad experience in longer-term goal is to look at getting a and UA mechatronics students for ***figure 7*** high school. their input. Void While the drop in student numbers Not Void taking ‘harder’ NCEA courses such Achieved 16000 Excellence 7% 22% as calculus and physics is a concern 21% 6% 14000 Absent 9: NCEA for us, the bigger concern is the 12000 physics external 4% unusually high void rate for 3.6. The 10000 achievement Excellence conversations we have had with Achieved Merit 8000 standard results 6% secondary school physics teachers 20% Not Merit 2013. 30% 6000 Void suggest there are significant problems 2010 2011 2012 2013 Achieved 17% 4000 22% with the curriculum for 3.6. This All 2000 Students (Physics) (A) 3.6 electrical. 21% includes references to outdated All Students (Calculus) 0 technology and insufficient resources 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 for teachers in the form of time and Level 1 Total
Level 1 Electrical
Level 2 Total
Level 2 Electrical
Level 3 Total
Level 3 Electrical
Merit ***figure 9 17%
2013 ***figure 8: NCEA8*** 3.6 pass rate for the years 2009 to 2013. ysics) lculus) 8000
Void Excellence 7%
7000 Number of Students
Achieved 30% b***
Not Achieved 23%
***figure 9 b***
5000 4000 3000
Void Excellence 7%
0 2009 Absent
Zealand Science Teacher 2012 38 >> New 2013 ***figure 9 a*** Level 2 Total
Absent Merit 4% 20% Not
(B) 3.3 waves and 3.4 mechanical. Achieved
LEARNING IN SCIENCE Innovative science education
W hat’s th e pu rpos e of
science education? The changing nature of our society means that the purpose of our practice and its relationship with the ways we define achievement requires continual discussion, writes CHRIS CLAY.
eachers work hard. In addition to working through piles of marking, we also spend an inordinate amount of time planning what and how to teach. However, it seems that we spend far less time thinking about why we teach what we do or considering the wider purpose of our practice. Thinking about the purpose of education isn’t just philosophical pondering, it’s this that determines what we identify to be problematic, what we consider to be achievements and how we allocate and prioritise resourcing. So why isn’t this more prominent in our conversations? In May I was honoured to be asked to moderate the weekly Twitter chat #scichatnz where I was keen to have this discussion and so focused my questions on the purpose of science education. Unsurprisingly, it quickly became clear that people believed its purpose to be oriented in ensuring students have an appreciation for the nature of science as a discipline, sufficient scientific literacy and become capable of considering evidence objectively when making decisions. What I find more interesting, however, is the comparison between our intended purpose and our actual practice. We often share many great examples of practices that align well with a version of science education focused on developing an appreciation of the nature of science. However, for every story of a lesson that engages students in controversial issues or discovery-based learning, there seem to be a handful of less satisfying stories that involve lessons narrowly focused on assessment preparation. It’s almost as if we see two versions of science education – the one we have to engage with and the one we want to engage with. It seems unlikely our students will be aware of any conflict between the way we want to teach and the way we actually teach. A study by Osbourne and Collins (2000) of King’s College in the UK investigated student perceptions of the role of science education. They suggested that students often feel as though they are being “frogmarched across the scientific landscape from one feature to
Surely having students posing really great questions and then seeking the answers is an achievement?” another, with no time to stand and stare, or to absorb what it was they had just learned”. If this is how students perceive science education, it seems unlikely they would infer its purpose to be focused on little more than memorising information and passing tests. I know many science teachers can sympathise with this notion of covering large volumes of content in preparation for assessments. However, standardised assessment only features in years 11–13 and the role this plays in terms of what and how we teach and assess in the years that precede this is under our control. Surely this provides an opportunity for teachers to engage with a more desirable version of science education? We could argue that we should still prepare students for this way of learning in earlier years if they are to reach their potential in assessments. However, this is a questionable assumption that should be challenged more often. Perhaps students would be far more engaged with science beyond year 11 if they had been given more opportunities to experience the nature of science as a process of discovery and critique rather than a body of facts.
If we are to break free of the shackles of assessment in these earlier years, we will also need to reconsider what constitutes good teaching and learning in science. When we talk of achievement, why should this always relate to test results? Surely students engaging in impassioned debates around emotive socio-scientific issues is also an achievement? Surely having students posing really great questions and then seeking the answers is an achievement? Of course, defining successful learning at different stages in a child’s development is not a simple task and our discussions should yield a wide range of different definitions and perhaps also reveal the true complexity of what we are trying to achieve. Should we perhaps be alarmed when we become too certain of anything and stop questioning? Perhaps discussing the issues will reveal as many questions as answers. Open and honest reflection will help us move from ’have to’ to ‘want to’ science education. Whilst there are constraints that remain outside our sphere of direct influence, many opportunities remain for us to try something new, particularly in the primary, intermediate and lower secondary years. Whilst parents and senior leaders may still need convincing, being clear on the alignment (or lack of) between our purposes and practices will help us do this with far greater clarity. Science is a dynamic and continually evolving discipline and the work of scientists is continually shifting in relation to changes in their environment. Surely the science education system must be equally dynamic if it is going to remain relevant to society? Without continual discussion about the purposes of our practices, we risk becoming obsolete and then people really will begin to ask – what is the purpose of science education?
Chris was the founding education director of The Mind Lab by Unitec and is now carrying out doctoral study with AUT University and working as a future-focused education consultant.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 39
TEACHER EDUCATION secondary
Science education and the media:
In June a group of curious people got together to explore ideas about the relationship between science education and the media, writes Melissa Wastney. Collaboration and curiosity
The first #SciChatNZ session took place in mid-2014, and since then has established itself as an exciting new platform for science teachers to explore ideas relating to their profession. Held during the school term, participants log on to Twitter at 8.30pm on alternate Tuesdays and get stuck in to the topic at hand. The live chat format works by tweeters using the hashtag #SciChatNZ in their tweets at a designated time and responding to question prompts from the chat host. #SciChatNZ was first conceived by Rachel Chisnall and some fellow tweeting science teachers. Rachel set up the hashtag and a corresponding Twitter account. She then collaborated with science teachers Matt Nicoll and Chhaya Narayan to create the fortnightly event. Support was also given by teacher Danielle Myburgh, who helped to bring the #SciChatNZ under the umbrella of the greater #EdChatNZ community. Since its inception, #SciChatNZ has been well attended by both primary and secondary teachers, as well as academics and practising scientists.
Strength in community
Co-founder and chemistry teacher Rachel Chisnall believes the greatest strength of the #SciChatNZ format is drawn from its community of members. “Of the chat sessions themselves, the strength
Want to join in, but not sure how to begin? Want to join Twitter and add your voice to the discussion? It’s easy to sign up and tweeting couldn’t be simpler. Find a starter’s guide here: https://media.twitter.com/the-basics Are you wondering exactly how a live chat on Twitter works? Here is a guide put together for #EdChatNZ: bit.ly/1r5vqTi If you would like to follow the discussions after they take place, you can visit a page where the conversations are recorded, using a platform called Storify. Find past conversations by visiting: bit.ly/1OOnXlx Find some useful Twitter tips, to improve your experience on the platform: bit.ly/1g66g5v
40 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
lies in the wide voice of educators involved. Often the questions lead to side discussions and personal connections that can be followed up later,” she says. In a wider sense, the hashtag is used on Twitter daily to collate classroom resources and ideas, promote science education events, and sometimes even to share a laugh. “It amazes me how willing educators and scientists are to contribute their ideas, no matter what level they are working at,” she says. Rachel says it was important to her and the rest of the founding team that the conversations didn’t become ‘an echo chamber’, given many of the participants were like-minded. “To try to combat this, we have a designated ‘devil’s advocate’ participating in the chat sessions, to challenge people’s ideas. We also alternate our chats with a guest moderator to keep the flavour of the discussions changing, to encourage new participants and to extend everyone’s thinking.” Future plans for the #SciChatNZ community include continuing to grow the participants, for wider-reaching results. “How high is the sky?” asks Rachel. “We’d like to plan some digital forums towards the end of the year, and maybe even organise an in-person conference in 2016.” Sharing best practice with colleagues is key to updating an individual’s pedagogy, believes Rachel. “No person is an island, although it can often feel this way when you are in your classroom with the doors closed.”
Exploring the media and its relationship to science education In June, New Zealand Science Teacher hosted a chat
session, with the topic ‘What is the role of media in science education?’ After a welcome and introductions were made, the following questions were put to participants: »» Does the mainstream news help or hinder when it comes to educating society about science? »» Do you use the mainstream media as a science teaching resource? If so, how? »» What other media do you use (sites, journals, social media) yourself and/or with your students? »» How does the issue of ‘balance’ in science reporting affect how we understand important science? »» Can we use case studies from the media to teach critical thinking in the classroom?
Past chats Some of the discussions that have taken place so far include: »» Maintaining our students’ love of science »» Creating authentic science learning experiences »» Managing the Nature of Science and assessment »» Fostering creative thinking in science: moving beyond ‘facts’ »» Bridging the gap between primary and secondary science »» Sharing best practice »» What contexts from te ao Māori (and other cultures) can we use in science teaching?
»» How can we use the media to raise the profile of science education in New Zealand? »» Scientists and journalists both ‘seek truth and want to make it known’ (science writer Boyce Rensburger). How can they better work together? »» As a science educator, what support would you like to see from the media? Scientists, educators, including a representative from the UK Royal Society of Chemistry, and communicators all joined in on the evening, and some interesting ideas were expressed. High-profile New Zealand science communicators included Michelle Dickenson, Nigel Latta, and Siouxsie Wiles, as well as science journalists from Radio New Zealand National.
Exploring science media in the classroom
Some interesting ideas raised in the chat included: »» The term ‘media’ is a very broad one. While the attention given to celebrities espousing ‘bad science’ is problematic, there is quality science reporting to be found, and YouTube clips, social media, science journalism shows are very useful as teaching resources. »» Mainstream media is good at providing examples of ‘bad science’ to critique in class, and to explore how an issue’s coverage changes the way we think about it. »» A school newspaper could employ student ‘science communicators’ to write articles about local science-related events or larger scientific issues that affect the school community. »» The more that scientists engage productively with journalists and media ‘power-brokers’, the better science media coverage will be. »» To read the full conversation, visit: bit.ly/1IiJ51i
No person is an island, although it can often feel this way when you are in your classroom with the doors closed.” Classroom ideas
»» The following is a list of ideas for resources that were mentioned in this particular chat. Visit each link for more information.
Print and online news media
»» Article from the New Zealand Herald about wi-fi and children’s health: bit.ly/1P52IfY and a scientist’s response to compare and contrast: bit.ly/1LFLZB3, Explore with students the possible impacts of unbalanced reporting and investigate possible solutions. »» Kiwi Kids News an online collection of news written for students and including both national and international articles and media education resources: www.kiwikidsnews.co.nz »» Herreid, Clyde Freeman; Schiller, Nancy A.; and Herreid, Ky F.: Using case studies to teach critical thinking National Science Teachers Association, USA. Online link includes teaching notes and answer keys to download: bit.ly/1IFzIG1 »» The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus a fauxscientific site to be used as a resource for teaching critical thinking in the classroom: zapatopi.net/treeoctopus »» Connected series, curriculum-aligned scientific literacy resources (TKI): bit.ly/Mtn5bW »» IFL Science is a popular science website with a large international readership: www.iflscience.com »» EPIC resource database, free media library for teachers, including full archive of New Zealand Geographic, New Scientist and Scientific American www.epic.org.nz »» The Mole chemistry magazine www.rsc.org/eic/mole »» Science, meet journalism: you two should talk is an article from The Wilson Quarterly by Louise Lief: bit.ly/15vRyPS »» Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) Public attitudes to chemistry report: rsc.li/1Io2yM9
Online video and audio media
»» ASAP Science video channel provides ‘answers to the world’s weirdest questions, most persistent rumours, and unexplained phenomena’ in a colourful and engaging way: bit.ly/1alhWO4 »» Our Big Blue Backyard is a New Zealandmade marine science television show, available online: bit.ly/1himI3k »» Nigel Latta Blows Stuff Up is an engaging television series, available online here: bit. ly/1Nb7mri There are also science teaching resources to accompany the television show: bit.ly/1HgCmCp »» Project Matauranga Māori science and innovation television series, available online: bit.ly/1GwfthO »» The glowing spiderbug is an animated film clip written and narrated by Auckland microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles: bit.ly/1IFBEhW »» VSauce is a YouTube channel featuring video clips relating to various scientific and philosophical topics: www.youtube.com/user/Vsauce »» Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Climate change debate is a humorous take on the problem of unbalanced science reporting: bit.ly/1l358vP »» Our Changing World is a weekly science podcast on Radio New Zealand National: bit.ly/1g5tsw3 »» Invisibilia offers podcasts of a psychological and brain science show made by National Public Radio, USA: www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 41
TEACHER EDUCATION secondary
Blit zi n g
The Nina Valley EcoBlitz project brings together students, scientists and teachers, working together to discover and document biodiversity.
he EcoBlitz event took place in March last year, giving hands-on scientific experience to secondary school students in North Canterbury’s Nina Valley. New Zealand Science Teacher asked Lincoln University ecologist Tim Curran about the project. Hi Tim. How did the idea for the event come about, and what’s your role in the project? The vision for this project came from Tim Kelly, the head of science at Hurunui College. He and his students had been working for several years to control pests and release kiwi in the Nina Valley and he was keen to learn more about the biodiversity of the area and to give a wider range of students the chance to experience the Nina Valley. He contacted a range of people from the Department of Conservation, Lincoln University, Environment Canterbury, and Hurunui District Council to form an organising committee and we started meeting about 14 months before the event. My role, along with Jon Sullivan and Cathy Mountier, two colleagues from Lincoln University, was to organise the scientific programme. This involved enlisting the help of ecologists and taxonomists and planning the range of activities for the event. The event involved nearly 200 high school students and teachers. How did you recruit the schools and students? Being a science teacher himself, Tim Kelly contacted his colleagues throughout Canterbury and the West Coast. He also used various networks, such as the New Zealand Science Teachers Association to contact teachers. Finally, others on our committee who have worked with schools sent the word out. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for schools and students to attend so our aim was to ensure that there was no cost to them. Through generous sponsorship from the Canterbury Community Trust, Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust, Lincoln University, Department of Conservation, North Canterbury Women’s Institute, Hurunui District Council, Environment Canterbury, MainPower, Farmside Internet, and Westland Milk, we were able to cover all the travel, accommodation and catering costs for all students and teachers.
42 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
The EcoBlitz team in action. Students are in orange, and teachers and scientists in yellow shirts. Photo: Sonny Whitelaw.
The Nina Valley is a beautiful place and has many of the habitats associated with the Southern Alps; beech forests, kanuka forest, shrublands, grassland, and sub-alpine vegetation.” A ‘bioblitz’ is a similar event- but how is an ecoblitz different, and what makes it more suitable for students? Both of these events are citizen science projects aimed at increasing the awareness and knowledge of biodiversity. My colleague, Jon Sullivan, has a written a great piece about these two different events (see link in ‘further reading’ box). A ‘bioblitz’ generally runs for 24 hours, and attempts to record as many different species as possible. It is a great vehicle to
expose many people to biodiversity and the methods used to survey it. A bioblitz often turns up some very interesting discoveries. However, this format does not lend itself to monitoring change in biodiversity over time; to do this requires standard, repeatable ecological survey methods (hence the ‘eco’) and extensive follow-up work to identify specimens and curate data. Our ‘EcoBlitz’ attempted to do this so that future surveys could begin to see whether the biodiversity of the Nina Valley has improved or declined.
»» See some beautiful images from the 2014 Nina Valley EcoBlitz by visiting this Flickr photo pool: bit.ly/1NbwGzR »» Read more about the Nina Valley EcoBlitz: ninavalleyecoblitz.com »» Find out about differences between a bioblitz and an ecoblitz: bit.ly/1IMfP0Y »» What did the participating students and teachers think about the event? Read some of their comments here: bit.ly/1JUTuml
We designed our EcoBlitz specifically for the high school students and tried to give them as much opportunity to experience most of the different survey approaches. Most participants were there from Friday night to Sunday afternoon and so were able to have a wide range of experiences. Of course, ‘bioblitzes’ are great events and I would encourage anyone interested in biodiversity to get involved with one. Can you tell us about the Nina Valley – what makes it a special place to study? The Nina Valley is a beautiful place and has many of the habitats associated with the Southern Alps; beech forests, kanuka forest, shrublands, grassland, and subalpine vegetation. The area is very special to Hurunui College, whose staff and students have been controlling mammalian pests there since 2008 and have worked with the Department of Conservation and others to successfully reintroduce great spotted kiwi. It is also special to Lincoln University staff and students – we have been running a field ecology course there since 2012. Many of New Zealand’s iconic species are still found there: for example, kiwi, whio (blue duck), kaka, and kakariki. It also helps that there is excellent accommodation nearby at the Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre. Why is it important that young people have the chance to participate in a citizen science project like this one? What did they get out of it? There are many reasons. Perhaps the most important is that it allows high school students the chance to work alongside scientists and university students and experience the joy we get out of studying biodiversity. Being out in the field is perfect for breaking down any barriers that might exist, so it helps to demystify the science and the scientists. Everyone there had a shared passion for the natural world and a desire to understand it better. They can also directly contribute to collecting data that is needed to conserve New Zealand’s amazing biodiversity. From our feedback it seemed that we have (re)ignited the passion for science in many of the students. They saw some amazing plants and animals that few New Zealanders ever get to see and got hands-on experience with
Perhaps the most important thing is that it allows high school students the chance to work alongside scientists and university students and experience the joy we get out of studying biodiversity. Being out in the field is perfect for breaking down any barriers that might exist, so it helps to demystify the science and the scientists.” a whole range of techniques used to survey them. Electro-fishing was a particular hit and a personal favourite of mine; I got to see it myself for the first time! More blitzing A group of scientists, teachers, students and biodiversity experts carried out an ‘EcoBlitz’ in late September. Held at St Peter’s School and Owl Farm, Cambridge, the EcoBlitz’s aim was to encourage secondary school students to learn more about the importance of biodiversity for sustainable farming. In the same way that bioblitz events bring together students, teachers, and experts , the September EcoBlitz saw students working with scientists to rigorously collect and record biodiversity data in specific areas, so that surveys can be repeated to measure changes over time.
Lincoln University received funding from the Waikato River Authority to conduct two of these events at Owl Farm, which is a demonstration dairy farm jointly operated by the university and St Peter’s School. “We hope this EcoBlitz will document the beginning of a long-term improvement in the biodiversity of Owl Farm as wetland restoration and more sustainable and productive farming practices are implemented,” says Lincoln University ecologist Jon Sullivan. The second EcoBlitz is scheduled for 2017.
Tim Curran is a senior lecturer in ecology, and BSc coordinator at Lincoln University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Along with Jon Sullivan and Cathy Mountier, he coordinates the scientific component of the Nina Valley EcoBlitz.
Photo: Sonny Whitelaw.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 43
TEACHER EDUCATION Secondary
Pythons pig hearts
Maria with the class python at STEM Magnet Academy, Chicago.
n March 2015, I travelled to the United States on a Fulbright Meg Everton Professional Enhancement Award in Education. This award provides the opportunity for recipients to research and undertake professional development in the US on a topic of their choosing to enhance their professional knowledge, practice or skills. Only two people received this award for 2015, and I was lucky enough to be one of them. I chose to focus on the teaching and learning of science at primary/elementary level; seeing how the American system compared with the New Zealand system, and what outside facilities and support there was for the sciences.
Enter the pig hearts
My first stop in the United States was Seattle, with my first day spent at the Seattle Science Foundation’s Kids in Medicine programme. This incredible programme offers schools the unique opportunity to 44 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
bring classes to visit a state-of-the-art medical facility, custom designed for post-graduate and specialist learning for medical professionals. I was shown around by the chief executive Joanie Block then observed a fifth grade class (year 6) participating in a session designed to build their understanding of heart anatomy, function and health. This culminated in them entering the surgical room wearing surgical gowns and gloves and using surgical tools to dissect pig hearts. The educators here were simply phenomenal – they made a conscious effort to refer to the students as ‘scientists,’ and made lots of connections to jobs and careers in medicine, making it clear to the students that you don’t have to be a surgeon to work in medicine. After a visit to a local school, I moved on to Chicago. As the third largest city in the country, Chicago was host to the National Science Teachers Association national conference. With around 10,000 delegates, this was the largest conference I have ever attended (and probably ever will). Selecting which sessions to attend was one of the harder parts of the trip – there were 1300 presentations in all! The sessions I chose were based on curriculum content, innovation and outside partnerships. A few of them were absolutely stand-out: Dr Kieren O’Mahony from the University of Washington, talking about neuroscience and the adolescent brain; Dr Neil Shubin from the University of Chicago, talking about evolutionary biology and the discovery of Tiktaalik roseae, the fossil species that proved the transition from life in water to life on land; and exploring simple machines (with free chocolate!) with staff from the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. There were almost as many exhibitors as there were learning sessions, with an extremely large hall full of companies and organisations
that support the teaching of science. So very many freebies and so little luggage space. Did I want a free bird feeder? Why, yes. Thanks. Did I want a free (vacuum sealed) pig or shark foetus, or maybe a frog with its internals exposed, posted to my school? No. No, thank you! Staying on in Chicago, I visited the Field Museum, spending time with their educators, led by Heidi Rouleau, and seeing the amazing resources they have available for schools to support the teaching of the natural world. I also heard about the E2SP initiative they are part of that brings institutions like themselves together to work in tandem with a group of elementary schools, providing professional development for staff and therefore impacting the learning outcomes for the students. I visited North Park Village Nature Center, one of the only large urban parks within Chicago’s city area. An outdoor kindergarten is run there, so I was able to observe these children climb, build, play and explore in the woods, as part of their everyday early learning experiences. Rain, shine or deep snow, they’re always out there. What powerful learning. Whilst in Chicago, I visited four elementary schools, each providing a different perspective on the teaching and learning of science across a diverse range of students, areas and needs. I learned a great deal about the American education system, with teachers lamenting the huge amount of standardised testing that is taking over the scene, and how that is impacting their teaching. Schools are also subject to change from so many different factors: the school board, the school district, the mayor, the state, and finally, at federal level. Uncertainty is definitely something that these teachers are used to. Despite all this, the teachers I met had a real drive and determination to continue to do the best for their students.
Partnerships with science organisations help show real-world applications for the subject, writes primary teacher MARIA GALBRAITH, who travelled to the United States on a Fulbright New Zealand award.
Enter the python
I don’t think I’d ever consider having a python as a class pet, even if it were possible in New Zealand. But the knowledgeable and talented Sushma Lohitsa, science teacher at STEM Magnet Academy, does have one. In fact, she’s started a class zoo. Almost every class of animal is represented and her students are the zookeepers, responsible for feeding, cleaning and caring for the creatures over the school holidays. The zoo is highly engaging and no doubt extremely useful when tackling biology and the natural world, with the added benefits of encouraging compassion and care of all life. “Hi astronauts! Hi geologists!” was how Sushma addressed her students, depending on the kind of work they were doing in class. In this way, she was encouraging them to think of themselves as scientists. From Chicago I moved on to the capital, Washington, D.C. Here I squeezed in another three schools, plus three of the Smithsonian museums, in four days. Two of these schools had science teachers who were state finalists in the Presidential Awards for Math and Science Teaching, so I was in esteemed company. At Brent Elementary, I spent the day with Mike Mangiaracina, observing his comprehensive and engaging science teaching. I found in Mike a kindred birder spirit, and we talked about all things ornithological for a long time (even over dinner with his family, we were still talking birds and birding). My last visit was to Maury Elementary, with the incredible Vanessa Ford. Vanessa’s irrepressible enthusiasm and
Maria Galbraith is a classroom teacher and team leader at Summerland Primary in Henderson, Auckland. Bringing a love of science, particularly the natural world, to her classroom, Maria showcases her collection of animal skulls and bones, shells, rocks, seed pods, taxidermy and assorted other items within the classroom to encourage observations and wonderings. In 2013 Maria implemented a science academy at Summerland, taking small groups of targeted children from across the school for specialist science instruction.
passion for science was clearly evident and her classroom vividly brought science to life, and my visit here rounded off the trip in the best way possible. So, after a whirlwind three weeks in the United States, what had I learned about the teaching and learning of science in a primary and elementary setting? Firstly, passion and enthusiasm from the teacher is far more important in engaging students than whether or not they have a formal qualification in the sciences. Secondly, encouraging students to view themselves as scientists empowers them in their learning and promotes engagement. If the teaching of science is approached with enthusiasm, then students respond with equal or even more enthusiasm. It’s a win-win situation. Will there be pythons or pig hearts in my classroom anytime soon? No. But science curios and artefacts? Yes. My slowly growing animal skull collection will continue to fascinate, hook and enthuse my little scientists.
Top: Vacuum-sealed specimens ready for shipping to schools, at NSTA national conference, Chicago. Middle: Maria with a selection of pigs’ hearts, Kids in Medicine, Seattle. Bottom: Maria with paleontologist Neil Shubin, holding a cast of a Tiktaalik skull, at NSTA national conference, Chicago. New Zealand Science Teacher >> 45
CURRICULUM & LITERACY The Material World
outside the box
Nelson teacher Sterling Cathman has put together a range of simple and fun handson science activity kits. From ECE to secondary school, these Super Science Boxes are sparking the curiosity of young scientists across the country.
hat happens when you combine guar gum, green colouring and glitter? How does drag affect a homemade rocket? What exactly is a rhombohedron? These are just three of the mysteries explained by activities in Sterling’s Super Science Boxes. Sterling Cathman is a specialist science teacher in the Nelson region. Through his work delivering hands-on activities to primary classrooms, he was inspired to create a series of science boxes for fellow teachers. “I want to reproduce what I do in the classroom, in my specialist science teacher role, but to let other teachers at different schools deliver the same activities,” says Sterling.
With the purpose of increasing student engagement in and excitement for science, the boxes contain everything a teacher needs to conduct simple hands-on activities for at least 28 students. “I started making up the kits for other teachers, because I wanted to make it really easy for them to do these experiments in their classroom.” At first, Sterling shared the kits with teacher friends and connections made through the Royal Society of New Zealand Primary Teacher Fellowship programme he undertook last year.
“All primary teachers are so busy; there are so many things they’re expected to provide for their students. These kits make it easy and fun to incorporate some hands-on science activities too,” he says. “As well as being a way for students to really enjoy learning science, the kits also help teachers become more confident in delivering the science curriculum.” Currently, the Super Science Boxes are being cracked open in classrooms all around New Zealand. Each kit is focused on a different scientific concept, ranging from chemistry to forces, earth science to crystals. Included inside is a teacher sheet with helpful information, such as a lesson objective, tips for carrying out the activity in a large class, and clear links to The New Zealand Curriculum. In many cases, the activities are cross-curricular, and literacy and numeracy links are also outlined. The kits also contain a student leaflet with instructions, questions, and ideas for recording data. YouTube video clips for both students (featuring children carrying out the experiments) and teachers (featuring Sterling discussing the curriculum links and further learning) are included for each individual activity.
Primary-aged students try the science boxes.
Depending on the year level, some students will be able to watch the video and proceed with the activity, while some will need more input and supervision. Follow-up writing tasks can be completed to demonstrate learning. “I’m trying to make it simple and accessible for the primary teacher. I’m a teacher too, and I know how hard it is to get everything done in the classroom in one day. There are many demands on our time. So with these kits, I’m hoping to make it simpler to bring some science activities into the classroom.” Sterling had been funding them himself, including the postage. But now, he says, the teachers are buying the packs from a website and schools are paying for them, and he’s starting to get some sponsors on board. “I would love them to be free of cost for all schools,” he says. “They can really go anywhere in the country; they’re easy and simple for teachers to use. I want the students to be able to take charge of doing the experiments themselves. They can open the kits and follow the instructions, write up reports and ask questions.” As well as the cross-curricular learning links inherent in each experiment, the kits can also spark further learning ideas and inquiry into new areas of science. “They make teachers really popular, because the students enjoy them so much. Parents are also reporting that the students are talking about them at home, so that’s exciting.”
Schoolwide science at Waikanae
Waikanae School teacher Regina Castle has used all the science kits in her classroom, and says they’ve got the whole school enthused with hands-on science experiences. 46 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
They make teachers really popular, because the students enjoy them so much. Parents are also reporting that the students are talking about them at home, so that’s exciting.” “This term at the school we have 13 classes using the boxes, from new entrants to year 6. The whole school is buzzing with science,” she says. While the students enjoy building their ‘library of experiences’ through hands-on science activities, Regina finds the crosscurricular nature of the boxes especially useful in planning class work. She believes memories of the hands-on science experiences stay with her young students long after the activity. “The activities are really fun, and doing is understanding. They’re asking me nearly every morning: ‘Are we doing science today?’”
Hands-on at Hampton Hill
Carol Brieseman teaches at Tawa’s Hampton Hill School, and took part in an early trial of the Super Science Boxes. “After that, we tried all the kits,” she says. In particular, Carol’s students find the handson nature of the kits fun and engaging. “Hands-on science activities allow kids to experience things for themselves,” says Carol. “It allows them to participate, investigate and communicate – exploring the nature of science. “They can make connections between what they learn and do in the classroom and reallife situations – for example, experimenting with making a balance toy and seeing how actual structures are built and balanced.”
Find out more about Sterling’s work at www.mrscience.co.nz
Year 6 children making ‘slime’.
Slime time kit: polymerisation
Sterling’s first kit is the ‘slime time’ box. The cardboard box arrives complete with all equipment, including a student booklet, a class set of recycled plastic cups and the materials (borax, guar gum, pipette, stirring sticks, glitter and food colouring). There is a video for students to watch, with step-by-step demonstration of the experiment: bit.ly/1fd0e20 There’s also one for teachers to watch, with tips for conducting the experiment in the classroom, and curriculum links: bit.ly/1PdXKNa The slime itself is created by mixing borax with water, which is added with a pipette to a solution of water and guar gum. Students can adjust the measurements of gum powder and water, and observe the results. The kit also includes glitter and food colouring, for extra fun. The following is an example of the teaching resources inside the ‘slime time’ kit.
Observations: solids, liquids, and gases
By the end of this lesson the students will be able to: »» Follow directions to complete an experiment »» Make observations using sight, smell and touch »» Describe slime using key words
»» Science: Material World – Observations : Investigate the properties of materials »» Nature of Science – Communicating in science »» Science Capability – Gather and Interpret Data: bit.ly/1HMHZqX »» Maths: Level 2/3 – Create and use appropriate units and devices to measure volume and capacity (students measure guar gum and water, then make a bar graph of describing words) »» Writing: Level 2/3 – Write in order to think about, record, and communicate experiences and information (students draw diagrams with labels, and describe their observations).
Questions to ask in class:
What do scientists do? What are our observati ons? Is slime a solid or a liquid? Ho w do you know? Why are careful observ ations and descriptions import ant in science?
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 47
in science education Our world is made up of unique individuals and therefore it is crucial that our classrooms provide an environment where everyone is safe, supported and welcomed, writes STEVEN SEXTON. Background
New Zealand is a multicultural society representing over 200 ethnicities (Manning, 2013). However, nearly 73 per cent of all teachers are Pākehā/European, of which in primary education 85 per cent are female with an average age of 50 (Education Counts, 2015; Ministry of Education, 2005). As a result, New Zealand has seen concerns raised over the ‘feminisation’ of primary education and how this may be impacting on boys (Cushman, 2010; Jones, 2014; Moir, 2014). In 2006, Morwenna Griffiths highlighted that the feminisation of teaching is not quite what it seems. She noted the most common understanding of feminisation concerned the numeric majority of women in teaching; however, she believes it should not be about the numbers but should be seen as “a response to perceived injustice. Power relations and power structures constrain who may belong in any social sphere” (Griffiths, 2006, p. 395). For the present article, the social sphere includes student teachers, their teaching placement classrooms, and a primary science initial teacher education (ITE) course. As a social critical theorist, I agree with Griffiths that feminisation should not focus 48 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
on the numeric majority of female teachers. The feminisation of initial teacher education should focus on making explicit the examination of assumptions and values and their implications for others. Keith Ballard (2012) highlighted that “our beliefs and values, derived from our cultural and social contexts, provide us with assumptions about what is important and what is not, forming ideas and theories that determine what it is we see in areas such as gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality and disability” (p. 67). Ballard also noted that when those in education come from the dominant group, they often do not accept issues of gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality and disability as being a concern. This article presents four student teachers who examined their assumptions and values and their implications for their teaching practice.
The student teachers voluntarily participated in this study, are all over the age of 18, and are from an undergraduate primary education programme at a large New Zealand university. Table 1 (below) includes examples of course topics used to challenge what these student teachers thought they knew about science and science education as a means to promote science education. The four student teachers presented not only accepted the course’s explicit challenge to what they thought they knew about science, but also then challenged the gender and ethnicity normative attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of their classroom, school culture and science. Barbara (all names are pseudonyms) and Harry identify as Māori. Both bring strong tikanga Māori and te reo Māori and see the social justice of mainstream education as paramount for indigenous Māori. Jenny came to this ITE programme as a 51-year-old after raising her own family, and is now working towards a new career. Luke was a semi-professional club rugby player. While rugby is a personal passion, he does not want to be the school’s rugby coach. He wants to be a primary teacher who brings his skills in rugby to the school as an asset.
Challenging the normative attitudes, beliefs and behaviours Barbara and Harry
The science tutorials in the programme were designed to challenge the student teachers’ everyday knowledge, experience and culture (Plonczak, 2008). According to Plonczak, such an approach allows student teachers an understanding of not only the scientific knowledge but also the social, economic, political and cultural issues affecting students. For Barbara and Harry, these issues are important. For them, science education cannot be an abstract entity removed from
Table 1: Course Content A
Planet Earth: Volcanoes, tornados, weather – the way our planet behaves
Explosions: How and why you can set students on fire
Gardening: What do we think we know about plants, fruit and vegetables
their or their students’ reality that focuses on readymade concepts. Education through the context of science should stimulate students’ thinking as a way of explaining how and why their world does weird and wonderful things. For Barbara and Harry, cultural beliefs and ways of being Māori are part of who they are and what they bring to the classroom. Barbara experienced a culturally marginalising school system. According to Barbara, “I was put in the back of the class and told if I did not speak English then I should not be here. I was five.” For her, schooling did not improve as she saw it a constant challenge to who she was and what her culture meant to her. Harry attended kura kaupapa Māori, where his educational experience was embedded in te reo Māori and tikanga Māori. He believes more mainstream students should have positive experiences of and with Māori. Both Barbara and Harry want to teach their students about how the planet behaves (see A, Table 1) through Te Ao Māori. In the tutorial, we explored ways to challenge what they, as student teachers, know about earthquakes, volcanoes and tornadoes and how to bring this topic effectively into a primary classroom. As with every tutorial topic, the discussions covered how these activities could be used with all primary ages and across cultural boundaries. As Harry noted, “For Māori, Rūaumoko is more than just the cause of earthquakes; you have to understand his whakapapa and his familial ties to Papatūānuku and Ranginui.” This topic was an opportunity for Barbara and Harry to prepare three-week units of integrated curriculum, which focused on Te Ao Māori as the means to explore natural disasters. It should be noted that while Barbara and Harry collaboratively planned their units, they were in different schools and different year groups. Their units of work integrated not only literacy, numeracy and science but also social science, technology, the arts (to include drama, dance, music and visual arts) and health (see Ministry of Education, 2007) Most importantly for Barbara and Harry, literacy included both English and te reo Māori. The language for their units needed both the appropriate English words as well as te reo Māori in order to investigate how Māori made sense of their environment. As they explained: “Our goal was to be able to plan lessons that promote holistic learning, engagement and all students’ general wellbeing. E ai A Kingi Pōtatau te Wherowhero, ‘Ki te kāhore te whakakitenga, ka ngaro te iwi’“. [Māori whakataukī, which translates as “King Pōtatau te Wherowhero once said, ‘Without vision and foresight, the Māori people will be lost’“. For Barbara and Harry, education is the opportunity for them to challenge the beliefs, values and conceptions students have about the significance of the cultural heritage of Māori and their unique place in New Zealand. ‘Kaua e mate wheke, mate ururoa’, which they translated as, ‘don’t die like an octopus, die like a hammerhead shark’ – is a Māori whakataukī that implies with effort one is able to overcome barriers and obstacles so don’t quit just because the going is hard.
Jenny and Luke As stated, gendered practices in school are a complex mixture of formal and informal educational, cultural, social and political discourses about male and female identifications. Jenny and Luke challenged perceptions of how females and males are identified. When talking about participating in this article, Jenny and Luke said that when they walk into a room they expect most students to form opinions about who they are based solely on their physical appearance. Jenny has medium-length greying hair and several more lines on her face than the average university student does. Luke is a tall, large-framed man with a nose that has been broken more than once and has what is commonly called ‘cauliflower ears’ after years of playing rugby. He stands just under 190 centimetres and weighs approximately 90 kilograms. Both of these student teachers challenge formal and informal educational, cultural, social and political discourses about male and female identifications. For both, challenging gendered stereotypes based on how they physically present themselves has been an issue throughout their ITE programme. Jenny came to teacher training at a later stage in her life than most of her cohort. She knows she looks like a grandmother because she is one. She brings to her ITE programme a much more diverse and extensive set of life experiences than the typical student teacher does. For Jenny, the essential elements that shape motivation, development and learning are the fundamental needs of emotional and physical safety, being in close and supportive relationships, and being connected and belonging to a community. As a teacher, Jenny sees her role as building students’ cognitive development in an intentional and systematic manner by engaging them in challenging and meaningful activities. Jenny saw ‘Explosions: How and why you can set students on fire’ (see B, Table 1) as the perfect opportunity to blend how to meet the fundamental needs of children in meaningful activities. Through a science unit titled ‘How amazing is water!’ Jenny challenged her students to develop their self-esteem and willingness to step outside their comfort zone.
Education is the opportunity for them to challenge the beliefs, values and conceptions students have about the significance of the cultural heritage of Maori and their unique place in New Zealand.“
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 49
Teachers who embrace diversity in the classroom and do not see it as a hindrance are able to build the responsive, reciprocal and corroborative relationships needed to enrich each individual’s education. Teachers should be encouraging difference as a means to learn from one another.”
Students investigated the heat absorption capabilities of water. The activity started by placing one finger of one hand in cold water, and one finger in warm water for one minute, then both in the same tepid water. This then led to water balloons half-full of water and using matches to see how many were needed to pop the balloons, compared with balloons filled only with air. Finally, students soaked one arm (hand up to elbow) in water before taking a handful of LPG-filled bubbles in their hands and having the bubbles set alight. Jenny does not see her age as a barrier from being able to teach the curriculum in a way that resonates socially, culturally, and emotionally with her students. Luke takes up space when he is in a room. He is physically large and looks like a rugby player because he is one. When he interviewed for admission into this ITE programme he was told he would have no trouble getting a job as a primary teacher as schools are looking for strong male teachers. For his placement in his first year of the programme, he was assigned a year 6 class. He admitted this was not what he wanted and this almost resulted in him pulling out of the programme. He reported that his mentor teacher treated him like a ‘big child’ who could not teach the real subjects like literacy and numeracy. He was given the physical education classes as then he could take the boys for rugby. He did not want to be a rugby coach; he wanted to be a teacher. In his second year, he was assigned a lower primary class and knew that teaching the lower primary classes is what he wants to do. He requested a year 1 placement for his final year. Year 1 is where he feels he is best at building supportive inter-personal relationships with students and creating a classroom environment that promotes positive academic attitude, values and beliefs. Luke used the topic of gardens (see C, Table 1) to challenge what his students think they are able to do.
Specifically, he used an activity of growing ‘wheat grass heads’ (students put a photo of an animal on a cup, and as the wheat grass grew, it became the hair of the animal) to show his students how care and attention and thinking about one’s actions lead to better results. Over the week, Luke and his students tended to their wheat grass heads while discussing sunlight, when/how much to water, temperature and handling. Central to how Luke sees his role as the teacher is through reciprocal imitation (Zhou, 2012). In this year 1 class, Luke knew it was his actions and behaviour as a caring, responsible and effective teacher that his students imitated. This imitation offered Luke the opportunity to express his concept of ‘self’ as a teacher through his actions, experiences and emotions (Zhou, 2012) instead of what ‘others’ may expect from a rugby player.
Our world is full of diverse individuals and therefore it is crucial that our classrooms provide an environment where everyone is safe, supported and welcomed. This is for the benefit of both students and their teachers. Teachers who embrace diversity in the classroom and do not see it as a hindrance are able to build the responsive, reciprocal and corroborative relationships needed to enrich each individual’s education. Teachers should be encouraging difference as a means to learn from one another. We are all unique individuals and should focus on the normalisation of difference. As such, teachers need a more sophisticated notion of normality, knowledge and learning. They should question the taken-for-granted assumptions about what girls and boys should do. We have the ability to go against these messages.
Steven Sexton is a senior lecturer in science education at the University of Otago’s College of Education.
References »» Ballard, K. (2012). Inclusion and social justice: Teachers as agents of change. In S. Carrington & J. Macarthur (Eds.), Teaching in inclusive school communities (pp. 65-87). Milton, Australia: John Wiley & Sons Australia. »» Cushman, P. (2010). Male primary school teachers: Helping or hindering a move to gender equity? Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(5), 1211-1218. doi: DOI: 10.1016/j.tate.2010.01.002 »» Education Counts. (2015). Teaching Staff. Retrieved 17 June 2015, from www.educationcounts.govt.nz/statistics/schooling/teaching_staff »» Griffiths, M. (2006). The feminisation of teaching and the practice of teaching: Threat or opportunity? Educational Theory, 56(4), 387-405. »» Jones, N. (2014). Lack of male teachers ‘affecting boys’ New Zealand Herald (Vol. Monday 17th November). Auckland, New Zealand: APN. »» Manning, B. (2013, 11 December). Census2013: More ethnicities than the world’s countries, New Zealand Herald. Retrieved from www.nzherald.co.nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11170288 »» Ministry of Education. (2005). Education counts - teacher census. Retrieved from www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/schooling/teacher_census. »» Moir, J. (2014). Efforts to get more male teachers failing. Retrieved from www.stuff.co.nz/national.education/64375435/efforts-to-get-more-male-teachers-failing »» Plonczak, I. (2008). Science for all: Empowering elementary school teachers. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 3(2), 167-181. doi: 10.1177/1746197908090081 »» Zhou, J. (2012). The effects of reciprocal imitation on teacher-student relationships and student learning outcomes. Minds, Brain, and Education, 6(2), 66-73.
50 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
Looking up close
LEARNING IN SCIENCE Innovative science education
Middle school students are meeting up in their lunch break for hands-on science experiences.
hat do old X-rays and homemade yoghurt have in common? How about rock pools and fish guts? These are all ideas put forward for investigation by Wellesley College teacher Jo Hawthorne and her lunchtime science club. In 2014, Jo launched a science club at the boys only school. During one lunch break each week, students from the middle school (years 4, 5 and 6) meet up for some hands-on science activities. Currently, the club meetings are attended by four or five students from each class, and so each week it can be a different group. Class teachers choose boys who are keen, and all students are given the chance to attend. Jo enlists the help of two volunteer parents for each session, and hopes that it will become more of a parent-led initiative in the future. “I want boys to see that anyone can be a scientist, that scientists are real, and can be our parents and family members,” she says. Since its inception, the science club has inspected the hairiness of insect legs using a microscope, monitored a local stream, and dissected cow eyes.
Jo explains the club in her own words
How do you fit in all of the fun experiments and activities you see on the internet and in books, guest speakers who are passionate about a subject and topics you just don’t get time to look at in class? This was my dilemma, so I decided to start up a lunchtime science club at my school. I really wanted to have some experts come in and share their passion and knowledge with the students, and I also wanted an opportunity to do all the fun things I just never get to do during class time.
Rather than being teacher-focused, this science club is run by either parents or specialists. My role is just to do the organising and logistics. The club runs whenever we have a guest booked in, and the emphasis is on having fun
I love hearing the sound of footsteps on the path as the students come running to science club.” and asking questions. After all, it is the kids’ lunch break. At this stage, it’s been mainly for the year 4–6 students but we have had sessions that have included older students too. What sorts of things have we done? One of the highlights was the session when one of our parents came in and took the boys through dissecting a cow’s eyeball. This led to much discussion about how we see and what our eyes are like. We’ve had a number of parents offer a range of sessions, including bringing in a portable ultrasound machine so that the boys could learn about their blood flow and how an ultrasound machine works.
Another parent brought in a chicken; a dentist came and shared some pretty gross stories (which I’m sure encouraged the boys to clean their teeth more); a firefighting parent who loves volcanoes shared footage of volcanoes he’s filmed; a former student came and made a crystal radio, and someone else talked about sugar in our foods. We’ve also had experts in from the Greater Wellington Regional Council to show us how to monitor the stream that runs through our school. The science educator from the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) came and shared his cool rock collection, and a representative from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) came out to our school to talk about climate change. I’ve also run the odd informal session, such as just getting the microscopes out and the students just having a really good play with the prepared slides, which naturally led to checking out their own hair and spit! I believe the key to the science club’s success has been to keep it casual and get parents to spread the word and encourage others to come forward to participate in the learning. This has been the hardest part, but it is slowly becoming easier as word spreads. The benefits are obvious. I love hearing the sound of footsteps on the path as the students come running to science club. Parents have commented on how positive it is. Our students are exposed to a wider range of science ideas in a fun and casual way. And they’re also introduced to the possibility of different science-based careers. Most importantly, we all have fun and the opportunity to be curious and wonder.
Jo Hawthorne is a science and technology teacher at Wellesley College in Wellington. The science club has a blog: http://bit.ly/1hsomQ7
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 51
CURRICULUM & LITERACY The Physical World
Giant maps and electric playdough:
auth entic scie nce in actio n Visiting teachers watch the dam spillway gates open.
Central Otago students are learning about the science and engineering feats behind their local dam, the Clyde.
undreds of Central Otago children are and fun resource that distils the wealth of information becoming experts on the Clyde dam behind the Clyde dam into lessons and activities that and hydroelectricity in a pilot education engage children.” programme delivered by Contact Energy. Image-rich and packed with activities, the resource engages children in learning through activities such as In late July of this year, nearly 30 teachers from 13 participating schools visited the Clyde dam as part of the ‘Behind the Plug’ education initiative. The education Behind the Plug science resource has been developed by Contact Energy, which teaching resources owns and operates the dam, in collaboration with education consultancy group School Kit. This new, curriculum-aligned resource helps Teachers visiting the dam got an inside look at the teachers investigate the link between hydro energy dam, to inspire them in their science teaching. creation and their region. The resource was partly inspired by insights from The Behind the Plug resources are aimed at local business and stakeholders who Contact consulted students in year 5 through to year 10, and link with last year as part of an ecosystem services review, strongly with the Clyde dam. Concepts introduced seeking diverse perspectives on water use in the region. include the production of electricity, the idea One of the insights from the process was that locals of potential energy and energy transformation, wanted to see more educational opportunities offered catchments, careers, community mapping, the around the dam. national grid, environmental responsibility and Boyd Brinsdon, Contact’s head of hydro generation, sustainable practice. says the goal with Behind the Plug is to give students School kit’s Kylie Power believes the teaching a fun but comprehensive understanding of the Clyde resources should be stimulating for both teachers dam, which is a central part of their local community and students alike. and history. “It’s a pretty cool resource. The teachers “These children have grown up with this dam in their involved are really excited about the chance to get back yards. Many drive past it every day, their families to the dam and see the science in real life.” have stories and connections to it and they know The Behind the Plug resources are all available people who work in our team here.” on iTunes, for easy access. “While a lot of Behind the Plug is about us helping “We are the only New Zealand local children understand the mechanics and physics provider of content on this of the dam, there’s a very strong focus on the platform that isn’t a school Visit wider social, cultural, environmental and – so it’s another great the online economic impacts – including the history way for teachers to resource page , behind the construction of the dam,” he says. which includes source new ideas,” School Kit’s Emma Bettle says there has links, maps, vide says Kylie. been strong interest from regional schools and sound clips o , with an enthusiastic response to the well as a tool as Find the iTunes to offer of participating in the two-term pilot ask questions resources here: in programme. real time, here http://apple. : “Schools are very keen to learn more about co/1hBTRYl www.behindtheplug. the dam in the classroom and use the flexible tumblr.com
52 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
Standing near the intake gate ram, Contact Energy production engineer Neil McTaggart talks about the intake gate, where water enters the penstock before flowing into the turbines.
Contact Energy manages two hydroelectric power stations in the Central Otago region: Clyde dam, commissioned in 1992 and Roxburgh dam, commissioned in 1956. Built on the Clutha River, the Clyde dam is New Zealand’s third largest hydroelectric dam and was constructed between 1982 and 1993, and used 1 million cubic tons of concrete. The decision to build the dam was controversial, and saw houses and orchards removed from the Cromwell Gorge to allow the flooding of the river valley. The lake formed by the dam, Lake Dunstan, is 26.4 square kilometres in size. The proposal of the Clyde dam was met with vehement opposition, a court case, and a law change by the Muldoon government of its day.
creating large maps to work out how everybody in the region is connected by the dam. They get to make electric play dough to understand how electricity is created – and then link that back to the Clyde dam. “Contact wants children to understand the full context. And that’s the magic. As well as being a really edgy science and social resource, it relates back to the community these children live in. That’s rare and really valuable in an education setting.” ‘Behind the Plug, Clyde dam’ is the second of Contact’s education resource packages, with the first created around geothermal generation at the Te Mihi power station near Taupo. While created for local schools, the resource has also had significant global uptake, with thousands of
There is a real hunger for this type of resource, not only for the science value but because they are about communities, social and cultural history and the wider economic and environmental impacts.” downloads via the iTunes U app – a large percentage of which come from Asia. “There is a real hunger for this type of resource, not only for the science value but because they are about communities, social and cultural history and the wider economic and environmental impacts.” All parties involved hoped that the resource kits could be rolled out to schools all over New Zealand in the near future.
SECONDARY TEACHING UNITS SECONDARY TEACHING UNITS Science, Social Studies, English (Level 5) • Unit 1: Circulatory system and blood function. • Unit 2: History of blood, health care and blood donation. Science, Health and Phys Ed (Level 6) • My Blood. Keeping healthy and helping others
Science (Level 7) • Analysing information for biological validity.
Social Studies (Level 7) • Unit 1: Social sustainability and social responsibility. • Unit 2: Taking social action
Units for Level 5 – 7 (Yr 9 - 13). Social Studies, Health and Phys Ed, Science and English based teaching units to allow teachers to develop their students’ knowledge and understanding of blood and blood donations. They provide students with opportunities for personal development and social interactions and to contribute to their community as an active member of society. u
All units are supported with graphic organisers, worksheets, fact sheets, question sheets and challenges. All units are supported with engaging digital resources and come with teaching notes and suggestions for learning experiences. An extensive web-based links section includes video clips, teaching resources, slide shows, images, lesson plans, graphic organisers, posters, charts, information sheets, articles and brochures.
PRIMARY TEACHING UNITS Level 3 – 4 teaching units allowing teachers to develop student knowledge and understanding of the circulatory system, how to keep their body and blood healthy, and how blood donations contribute to their community. The units are strongly related to the Social Studies, Science, English and Health Learning Areas.
DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE RESOURCES AT: www.nzblood.co.nz/Education New Zealand Science Teacher >> 53
EDUCATION & SOCIETY
, va n cefor in a dtips rd erother Oand science teachers Are you frustrated by a lack of useful information for better utilising science technicians in your school? ARWEN HEYWORTH offers some useful tips.
colleague recently gave me a copy of an article about using support staff effectively, but unfortunately science technicians were only mentioned briefly. Initially I was excited about reading the article, hopeful there would be some useful hints I could pass onto my department about working with science technicians. To my disappointment, there was only a brief mention of our role. I found that quite disturbing as I couldn’t think of any other support staff role in the school (besides RTLBs and teacher aides) who work so closely with their department and students.
As science technicians, our role has an effect on every student taking any science subject and affects their achievement, especially in practical assessments. Our role is often devalued and underutilised by schools, as seen by the low number of technician’s hours per student in a large portion of New Zealand schools. I prefer to think that this is out of ignorance rather than any other, more negative reason. To that effect, I have compiled a list of tips for science teachers, all of them based on my own experience.
Be organised: The more organised you are, the more prepared your science technician will be. It is particularly helpful to receive your Year Planners, schemes and assessment plans at the start of the year. Be pleasant: If you spend some time getting to know your technician, you may discover things about them that could be useful to you. Things such as useful hobbies (e.g. electronics, woodworking and botany), qualifications or areas of specialisation, or even just a healthy dose of common sense. Hint: Chocolate works wonders! It just pays to be polite and to abide by any guidelines that your technician sets (e.g. orders for the next day close at noon each day). These timeframes are normally set for a good reason. Meet regularly: Even if it is only 15 minutes, this is still time enough to update them on any news, or changes to topics or assessments. I meet with my head of department once a week. During this meeting, we discuss the current topics, upcoming topics or assessments, review topics that have just finished, and assess my workload. This is also where I receive copies of assessments that are coming up and a timeline for practices, etc. I also attend the regular science department meetings. Order in advance: The more notice you give your technician, the better the practical. With advance notice, they will be able to run a practice first to make sure that everything works so you don’t have to discover that it doesn’t in front of 30-odd students. They will also be more relaxed as they will be able to plan their day better. Provide feedback: If something doesn’t work, or doesn’t work as well as it should, let your technician know! There may be a fault with the chemicals or other equipment involved, or perhaps you are not doing the practical properly. If it doesn’t work, the technician needs to know before they make the practical available to other teachers, and if no one informs them that there is a problem, they will not know. 54 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
Include them: If you are thinking of changing a practical assessment or topic and you are having a meeting about it, try and include the technician. You will be pleasantly surprised. They will be able to provide practical input that could save you time and money. Invite them to department social events. Many technicians feel isolated from their colleagues in the Science Department, particularly if they are on part-time hours. Technicians are a valuable resource that is not used effectively in many schools. Share information: The better informed your technician is, the more helpful they can be. If they know exactly what it is that you are assessing the students on, they can research and contact other technicians for advice or new practicals that will help you deliver your content more effectively. Be flexible: Remember that technicians deal with every teacher in the department, not just you. They are wonderful, creative, clever people but they are not miracle workers and cannot produce wonders at the drop of a hat (mostly, there is the odd exception!) The more flexible you can be, the less stress you heap on your technician. Be considerate: All technicians need some quiet time during the day so they can catch up on paperwork, ordering, inventory, prepping, maintenance and cleaning. This is very hard to do if they constantly have people coming in and out. You have non-contact hours for catching up on your workload and this helps you to be a more effective teacher – the same is true for your science technician. See if you, as a department, can schedule that time for them. I am very lucky to have the support of a wonderful, inclusive department. We are a tight-knit bunch, and we work effectively together as a cohesive team, but I know that there are schools out there that are not making the most of this amazing, mostly untapped resource: their science technician. Hopefully, these tips will help you address this issue.
Arwen Heyworth is a science technician at Onehunga High School.
EDUCATION & SOCIETY SAFETY
safety in & science education Health
Good systems with regular reporting and review of concerns, incident, and minor injuries will go a long way to reducing the likelihood of a serious accident, writes STANZ president Terry Price.
s adding sodium to water banned? Should all dangerous experiments be banned? Definitely not, but the hazards need to be actively managed. If the significant risks are not identified and appropriate safety controls used before the experiment begins it should not be done. I was first introduced to an experiment by a teacher who took the students outside. Everyone crowded around a puddle and the sodium was thrown in. The sodium went bang, the students jumped as little bits of molten sodium sprayed around their legs. The call went out, “do it again…” I am often impressed by the British teachers who come into our school and know how to apply health and safety in science effectively. One gave out detentions to students not wearing safety glasses while doing their experiment. The class fell into line quickly continuing to wear safety glasses while at their tables writing in their books. The Safety and Science Manual for schools reflects the slow evolution of safety in education. Last revised 15 years ago, it is well overdue for an update. The Code of Practice for Exempt Laboratories covers the use of hazardous substances in education, and is a difficult document to decipher. Specific ‘safe methods of use for procedures’ have been overlooked by many schools. I have heard the comment “I have been teaching for 25 years and nothing bad has ever happened”. Great, but this is not a safety statement. Safety messages should be frequent, efficient to prepare and effective. When in a blink of an eye something goes wrong, the opportunity to record, review and learn should be instinctive.
How to make progress
There must be a general consensus to do better, and a desire to evolve towards a safer science environment. Remove the “I am too busy” or “I have always done it this way” and make a seamless, constantly improving safety culture that busy staff can buy into. Science can be safe when done properly. Safety training, and the appropriate attitude surrounding it, needs to be led from the top. It needs to be made easy and workable. Involve all science staff, and identify some of the more safety-conscious members of the department to drive a safety culture. Most science departments are in their infancy when applying health and safety requirements. There is a collective resignation that this is too hard. So in schools, the requirements are seen as a low priority, but WorkSafeNZ doesn’t see it that way. Start by assessing what safety systems are working, and what is needed to allow them to grow. Have good systems that are easy and can make a difference. Always focus on learning from any minor injuries so the serious ones can be prevented. Let’s encourage good data collection to allow evidence-based reporting on how our requirements are working. This will direct the precious time and effort and limited budgets to where they are most needed.
Australia has a system that requires all equipment entering the classroom to be risk assessed. All potential hazards must be identified and signed off by
the teacher in charge before the task begins. There is specialist software to help the Australian schools comply with this requirement. This has not come to New Zealand yet. However, we do have Specific Safe Methods of Use for Procedures. It requires a written procedure identifying the significant hazards, safety controls, emergency procedures and disposal of category A hazardous chemicals used in the classroom. It must be signed off by the teacher in charge doing the experiment. Category A chemicals include concentrated acid and ammonia, sodium, bromine and chlorine water. The new health and safety legislation will make principals and boards more accountable. Good systems with regular reporting and review of concerns, incident, and minor injuries will go a long way to reducing the likelihood of a serious accident and a visit by WorkSafeNZ.
Terry Price is STANZ president and the lab manager at St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland.
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Students can see what life is like in places like Antarctica during LEARNZ virtual field trips, and talk with scientists working in the field.
LEARNING IN SCIENCE Authentic science education
Our science students’ horizons can be greatly expanded by making meaningful connections with working scientists, writes SHELLEY HERSEY.
ost primary school students are full of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. Our job as educators is to embrace this and encourage further purposeful inquiry. Sometimes, however, we can be ill-prepared for the complexity of the questions that are thrown our way, particularly when it comes to science. Just imagine if you had a scientist that you could call upon to answer some of these curly questions, and just how much would students gain from asking this expert?
Speaking the same language
I used to think that, as a teacher of science, part of my job was simply to connect my students with scientists. But this is oversimplifying what is actually a complex interrelationship. Educators and scientists often do not speak the same language. If you were to invite a scientist into your classroom to answer your students’ questions, would the responses they give be useful? Probably not, unless you had spent time preparing both the scientist and your class to ensure you could converse in a common language. There is an increased drive for schools to connect with their science community. This requires active partnerships where both scientists and educators contribute and recognise each other’s expertise. Even with the ability to connect online it can be difficult to establish connections with the science community, especially if you are trying to contact individuals who are already busy with their normal workload. An easier way to create these connections in a meaningful way is to use an ‘interpreter’ — a person whose job it is to broker a relationship between experts and schools. I became a virtual field trip teacher with LEARNZ back in 2009, and since then I 56 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
have facilitated many connections between teachers, their students, and experts out in the field. Much time is spent talking with experts both before and during the field trip to gain an understanding of their work. I can then explain the intricacies of The New Zealand Curriculum, the prior learning of students, and how they as scientists can best share their knowledge to engage these students. In this way LEARNZ can take the hassle and hard work out of connecting your class with scientists within the meaningful and relevant context of a virtual field trip. Developing these connections between schools and scientists is also of benefit to scientists who want to foster an interest in science, encourage the next generation of scientists, and share their research. Increasingly, this partnership is also required to meet the obligations from those who allocate research grants.
I used to be a little sceptical of the ‘virtual world’ that the internet can offer. But, after delivering numerous virtual field trips and participating in webinars and the likes for professional development, I can see that rather than trying to replace reality, virtual applications offer something that would otherwise be inaccessible. Virtual field trips, for example, are not designed to replace actual class field trips, but to engage your students in a novel, yet relevant learning experience. Recently, I was lucky enough to travel to Antarctica to deliver one such field trip. I have always dreamed of going to Antarctica, and even though this was my second visit to this white wilderness, I was still really excited, as I knew I would be able to share my journey with thousands of students from around
New Zealand. Although Antarctica is a remote and inhospitable place, it still captures the imaginations of many people, and as we all contemplate a future affected by climate change, Antarctica remains highly relevant to us all. Antarctica is the perfect place for scientists, as it is largely unmodified by people and, therefore, offers scientists the ideal place to investigate natural processes. Throughout the two weeks that I spent in Antarctica I was able to follow the work of a group of scientists from the University of Otago and the American SCRIPPS Research Institute working on Antarctic marine food webs. I facilitated conversations between the scientists and students back in New Zealand. Students took part in audio conferences and a chat room using Adobe Connect. The daily action was shared through videos, photos, and diaries. Background pages and activities on the LEARNZ website allowed enough domain knowledge to be gained prior to the field trip to allow students to ask meaningful questions yet also spark further inquiry. Two hundred and thirty five classes were enrolled in the trip, and from the evaluations that we have received it seems that students not only learnt a lot, they also really enjoyed the field trip. Students appreciated being able to talk with scientists who understood how to best answer their often challenging questions and were totally engaged by the authentic context of Antarctica.
The Chief Science Advisor’s 2011 report Looking Ahead: Science Education for the Twenty-First Century raised questions about how to ‘engage and enthuse’ more young New Zealanders in science, and whether the science we teach is addressing the ‘serious
questions we will face in the future’. If we are able to connect schools and scientists, we can ensure that up-to-date scientific knowledge is provided, students’ horizons are expanded, and students can be inspired by role models within the science community. Real-life authentic science can be shared, which allows students to apply their scientific knowledge and knowledge from other domains to address real-world challenges. LEARNZ and other initiatives can help create these connections and ultimately help foster and focus the intrinsic curiosity and capabilities of our students.
During the LEARNZ Antarctica field trip, students met a few local residents as well as scientists.
LEARNING IN SCIENCE E-Learning
and the future of science What opportunities do digital technologies provide for education science education, asks SHELLEY HERSEY.
’ve been thinking recently about how science education has changed since I was at primary school in the eighties. With the high speed pace of technological change, are we as teachers keeping up or are we making do with what we’ve always done? What opportunities do digital technologies provide? Do we need to change the way we teach science?
Shelley, along with ambassadors from a variety of New Zealand schools, shares the work of Sven Uthicke, a marine biologist, as he works in Antarctica during the LEARNZ Ocean Acidification field trip.
How do we teach science effectively?
According to Prime Minister John Key, “International studies show that we are not keeping pace with achievement in other countries, particularly in maths and science. In fact, we have been on a gradual downward slide since the early 2000s”. This is a strong mandate to change the way we are teaching science. To teach science effectively, we need to understand the fundamental principles on which science is based – the nature of science. It’s not about being a scientist as such, but about “ensuring that young New Zealanders are enthused by science and able to participate fully in a smart country where knowledge and innovation are at the heart of economic growth and social development.” According to Pulitzer Prize winner, Carl Sagan, in his final interview, “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge”. So, as teachers, we don’t have to have a huge bank of scientific knowledge to teach science well. This is particularly true in the context of the modern, connected classroom where information and, indeed, scientists are just a mouse click away. What can be more challenging is to make science relevant to the individual students we teach, and give science a human face. We need to recapture the awe and wonder of science and be innovative in the way we approach science.
We don’t have to be experts
I’ve always been interested in science, and as a science graduate it is not a subject I struggle to grasp. I willingly admit, however, that my most memorable and successful moments of science teaching have been those where I have not played the role of an expert; moments where I have allowed my students to follow their own inquiries and connect with people outside the classroom. Technology and social media not only allows these connections, it encourages them. Since joining the LEARNZ team I have been lucky enough to facilitate many such connections between experts and students. Field trips take students virtually to places they may never otherwise get to go, and introduces them to experts they are not likely to ever meet.
Shelley Hersey is a LEARNZ field trip teacher, working for Core Education. Thank you to Core Education and LEA RNZ for permission to reprin t this article. It originally appeared on the CORE blog page.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 57
It was a little more challenging explaining this to parents who were concerned that their child did not have flippers and a snorkel, and why had they not seen a permission slip. But parents too can be a part of field trips, as students can log in to the site from home and share their learning.
Virtual field trips engender personal science inquiry
My most rewarding moments as a LEARNZ field trip teacher haven’t just come from exploring amazing places, but also from hearing how students take what they have learnt to equip themselves that they might embark on their own science inquiries. Often classes get involved in their own local investigations and community projects as a result of their involvement in a virtual field trip.
The future of science education lies beyond the four walls of a classroom
Seeing science in action: This is a humpback whale skin biopsy collected during the LEARNZ Wandering Whales field trip. Students were able to see scientists shoot a dart at a whale from a boat out on Cook Strait and then watch as the sample was processed. The scientist also explained how the DNA analysis of the sample fitted into a bigger picture – contributing to a global database of whale migration that all scientists can use.
The value of virtual fieldtrips
It always amazes me just how much I learn within the three days of a field trip. Being fully immersed in a topic, on location, and in the presence of a variety of experts is incredibly engaging. Feedback from teachers using LEARNZ has also reflected this with comments such as, “my students learnt a huge amount during the trip and were able to teach their peers about what they have learned”. The power of LEARNZ is that it covers relevant topics by utilising different media in real-life contexts. Students can talk directly to scientists and ask them questions during audioconferences, then watch videos that follow their work. To see an example of this, watch the video Life of a scientist recorded during the Wandering Whales field trip. Students can learn about the nature of science through the virtual reality of a field trip; seeing scientists in action in awe-inspiring environments including Antarctica, offshore island sanctuaries, wetlands, or on board a boat involved in the Cook Strait Whale Project. They can see how science comes alive in a variety of New Zealand contexts, and use the language of science in an authentic way as they navigate their way through a field trip website.
The readiness of young minds to suspend reality for the virtual When I was teaching, it always impressed me just how readily students suspended reality and excitedly took part in field trips. Comments like “I’m going snorkelling tomorrow on the marine reserves field trip” were common.
Future-focused science education resources LEARNZ and other digital technologies allow students to connect globally, share their voice, and act locally. You may like to check out these resources to support future-oriented science education: »» The new TKI Science Online resources: http://bit.ly/1NoOnvW »» Fun Science and Technology for Kids: www.sciencekids.co.nz »» Subscribe to the Heads Up newsletters from the Royal Society of New Zealand to find out about new science resources and events by visiting: http://bit.ly/1Ksfb9g »» LEARNZ – free virtual field trips for New Zealand schools: www.learnz.org.nz
58 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
LEARNZ virtual field trips are just one of the vehicles by which we can engage students in effective and innovative science learning. Experiences such as those offered by LEARNZ are changing the way we are able to access and learn science. I believe the future of science education lies in our ability to utilise digital technology to go beyond the four walls of our classroom, and allow our students to access the wealth of global knowledge now freely available. So, rather than needing to be experts in science, we need to teach our students how to find, interpret, and productively engage with online networks and digital resources. For students to be successful in this digital environment they need a teacher’s wisdom and high level of literacy skills to guide them. To develop the skills and attitudes that make up the nature of science, we need to remember that science is more than test tubes, white coats, and Bunsen burners. Students need to see the reality of science, and LEARNZ field trips show this because they involve real people doing real science in their daily work.
Help create a future generation of scientists
It is all about inspiring awe and wonder, and getting our students to look at their world with a questioning mind, arm them with the strategies to test their own theories, and further their learning. Luckily, technology is making this both possible and free to access. As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. LEARNZ and other online initiatives can capture our students’ imaginations, inspire a greater interest in science, and help create a future generation of scientists.
Further reading »» LEARNZ www.learnz.org.nz and the Antarctica field trip: www.learnz.org.nz/scienceonice144 »» NZCER: Digital technologies and future-oriented science education http://bit.ly/1NBE8Cb »» Chief Science Advisor’s 2011 report: http://bit.ly/1hjUiGs »» Science online (TKI) resources: http://bit.ly/1NoOnvW »» The Liggins Institute: Effective science partnerships http://bit.ly/1DZ38DO
EDUCATION & SOCIETY Science education & values
rom the West Coast to Spain and back again, science has taken Zoë Hilton all over the globe. In 2012, she was named a L’OréalUNESCO For Women in Science International Fellow for her work in marine biology; specifically, the captive breeding of New Zealand’s native flat oyster. This year, the awards programme has introduced a new prize: $25,000 to support a post-doctoral early-career female scientist in New Zealand. Zoë’s 2012 International Fellowship saw her travel to Paris to attend the awards ceremony at the UNESCO headquarters. Then, in early 2013, she spent six months in Catalonia, to work alongside Spanish scientists at the Institute for Food and Agricultural Research and Technology. There, she teamed up with scientists researching the European flat oyster, particularly the ways in which these unique shellfish grow their larvae. “These particular oysters are very unusual in that they brood their larvae inside their shell, almost like the marsupials of the shellfish world,” she says. “I was working alongside those researchers and looking for new techniques I could bring back to apply to our native oyster.” The International Fellowships encourage intercultural exchange, and cover travel and accommodation during an overseas research project, as well as a trip to Paris. But even more valuable, says Zoë, was access to the network of female scientists from around the world. She found the week in Paris especially inspiring. “The non-monetary benefits are even more valuable than the monetary ones, in a way. The 15 of us who were awarded International Fellowships went to Paris for a week where we had workshops, media training, and trips to scientific landmarks like the Pasteur Institute, which were amazing. “In this way, we got to meet each other, as well as the Laureates [five female scientists at the top of their fields who have made
The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme announced a new award this year, specifically for New Zealand scientists. MELISSA WASTNEY talks to marine biologist Dr Zoë Hilton, who was awarded an International Fellowship in 2012.
significant contributions to science, also awarded by L’Oréal-UNESCO]. That was really motivating.” The new fellowships, designed especially for post-PhD female scientists, are an important addition to L’Oréal’s scholarship offerings, says Zoë. “Plenty of girls get into science, but a lot of women leave science post-PhD, or fail to get higher positions and that is where the inequality between the sexes is most apparent. One of the biggest challenges is that if a woman stops working for a while – to have children, for example – she’s then faced with a gap in her publication record and is no longer competitive. People want to be able to balance their family commitments with their work. But a lot of academic fellowships don’t take into account any of these things. “The L’Oreal-UNESCO fellowships recognise the unique challenges for women in science and take into account time spent away from publication for family reasons or part-time work. And so, the fact that this award recognises the differences for women in science is a huge step forward. The fellowships are demonstrating a good model for how scientific funding can be more equitable.”
A fascination for the natural world
Zoë says a motivating factor in her career has been a fascination for, and love of, the natural world. Home-schooled in Karamea, on the West Coast, the natural sciences formed an important part of her early education, and she remembers carefully pressing wildflowers then identifying them with the aid of a botanical book. “I once got my Dad’s dissection kit out and dissected a whitebait, and I had my own garden from as soon as I was big enough to dig a hole,” she says, “but it had never occurred to me that I would have a career as a scientist.”
L’Oreal expands renowned science scholarships The L’Oréal Australia & New Zealand For Women in Science Fellowship programme expanded in 2015 for the benefit of New Zealand women in science; comprising four $25,000 awards: three for Australian scientists and one dedicated to a Kiwi. In mid-September, Dr Christina Riesselman from the University of Otago was awarded $25,000 to assist her research into rapid climate change since the last ice age.
Despite growing up in gumboots on a farm with a ‘pet one of everything’ and adventuring in the bush, until the age of 21, Zoë had dreams of a music career. “I wanted to be a musician,” she laughs. “I hadn’t even thought about studying science at a tertiary level, but then I fell in love with marine biology.” A year-long student exchange in Costa Rica saw a young Zoë snorkelling along the tropical reefs. Upon her return to New Zealand, she completed a BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies, in addition to a BSc in Marine and Biological Sciences at Auckland University. In 2010 she completed her PhD, also at Auckland University. “In hindsight, I realise I was really into science as a child, and trying to find out how things worked. I used to find radios at the rubbish dump and pull them apart and look at all the bits inside.” She now works at Nelson’s Cawthron Institute, based at the Glenhaven Aquaculture Centre, where she investigates ecophysiology and shellfish selective breeding, among other things. Zoë says she’s been lucky to have strong support from mentors in the science community, and one in particular who encouraged her to apply for the award in the first instance. “I encourage anyone interested to apply for a fellowship,” says Zoë. “It’s been an amazing opportunity for me. I think that it’s possible that women do underestimate themselves and what they’re capable of. And perhaps New Zealand women are especially prone to doing that.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 59
CURRICULUM & LITERACY Nature of science
F inding authenticity:
schoolwide perspectives on the nature of science
Anzac Gallate and Saoirse Hill-Shearman investigating how a stent works while performing a heart dissection.
The nature of science provides authentic contexts for both teachers and students at Cashmere High School, writes MELISSA WASTNEY.
he nature of science is described in the curriculum as being the overarching strand of the science learning area. Sometimes described as a ‘way of knowing’, it encourages a focus on the acquisition of capabilities above the memorisation of science facts. The science faculty at Cashmere High School has recorded a 56 per cent increase in student participation in classes over the past four years, and teacher Leith Cooper believes this is reflection of the school’s commitment to teaching through this lens. “I think the increased student numbers is a good sign we’re on the right track, although it’s not so much us, but rather the nature of science and the way we deliver the curriculum,” says Leith. Based in southern Christchurch, Cashmere is a coeducational state secondary school of 1,700 students. Its science faculty comprises 15 full-time teachers, from a wide variety of career backgrounds. Cashmere’s head of science faculty David Paterson is currently completing his PhD on the links between the nature of science and student engagement. In 2014, he took a 12-month sabbatical to complete his research, for which he focused on teaching and learning science at Cashmere High School. Leith Cooper teaches junior science classes, year 11 science and senior physics. He says that under David’s leadership, the faculty is thriving. “David has encouraged us as a department to undertake a lot of professional development on the nature of science, and his enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm, and that naturally extends to our students, I think. “In his role as head of science faculty, David has provided inspirational leadership on the nature of
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science, with a view to improving student engagement. Our aim is to make science relevant, fascinating, and fun,” he says. Leith is currently in his fifth year teaching science and physics at Cashmere High School. Prior to this he completed a PhD in particle physics and then worked for 10 years as an investment banking research analyst. He’s often asked about the connection between physics, investment banking and teaching. The answer, he says, lies in the nature of science. “I view it simply as a way of critical thinking – applying the scientific method holistically to seek answers to specific questions,” he says. “Those questions could come from any discipline, whether it is physics or investment banking.” When it comes to his classroom practice, Leith says he uses the scientific method to guide his teaching. “I’m continually experimenting with ways to engage students and improve their learning.”
Harnessing the nature of science to spark interest
Leith says that focusing on human diseases in his junior science class has seen a great level of student engagement and interest. “It’s relevant to students and their own health – as well as the health of their families because we’ve been covering genetics as well. When the students look at recurring health issues in their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, they start to see patterns and it all becomes much more relevant to them.” The research project extends into a piece of science communication. Students are encouraged to consider how best to write and present their work. “With this comes a lot of student choice; for example, they could consider design, video, writing a play. Their work must include some key criteria, such as symptoms, causes, and possible treatments. But we believe that good science communication is an important element of the nature of science.” Leith believes that many students find the project “a real hook” – and the result is high levels of engagement. Authenticity is the ever-present thread running through the work, and each student is encouraged to keep a real audience in mind when writing up the work.
What’s the point?
Leith says his junior science students are good at asking, “What’s the point?” “Actually, it’s a very fair question. I think it’s our job to really address that: what exactly is the point? How can we make it meaningful?” Showcasing careers that incorporate science is another way in which the department is increasing engagement among its students. A recent eye check-up saw Leith inviting the optician into the classroom to talk
about their work. In the past a hairdresser talked to the students about the chemistry of hair dye. “Introducing these ideas always generates a lot of discussion and interest among our students. It’s all science – there is science behind everything. “We’re showing our students that we can apply the scientific method to everything we do, whether it’s research in a lab, or making things, or running a business.”
Strategies for engagement
Some of the strategies for improving science engagement at Cashmere have included: »» Rewriting the junior science curriculum to focus explicitly on the NoS »» Organising science career modules and visits so that students can see how widely science is used in a variety of careers… not just in the lab! »» Sharing topical video clips and news articles on exciting science news as it happens around the world »» Hiring teachers with real-life science work experience they can bring into the classroom (e.g. a precious metal geologist, a specialist in kiwi conservation, an electrical engineer, a particle physicist and former investment banker) »» Providing teachers with regular professional development on NoS and encouraging them to explore and use the NoS in their own classroom, in their own way »» Promoting national and international science competitions, clubs and activities (such as science club, electronics club, astronomy club, etc.) »» Organising overseas science trips (e.g. to NASA Space Camp, Queensland’s reef and rainforest habitats, and the faculty is currently organising a trip to South Africa to be part of a conservation research project).
Head of faculty David Paterson New Zealand Science Teacher asked David Paterson
some questions about his research into teaching nature of science at Cashmere High School.
science in class, and the effect of this on the students. I interviewed both the teachers and selected students about the lessons and information about what works was fed back to all science staff. Finally, a large-scale survey was done with all year 9 classes over two years to see whether their attitudes towards science had changed as a result of our teaching programme. The results indicate that teaching with a nature of science approach does engage students, but that this is not always easy for teachers to do. It requires support, training and the provision of new materials, as well as the willingness to try something new. However, when done well, the teachers can see the difference in students’ behaviour and participation, with increased levels of enjoyment for both students and teacher. Why do you think the nature of science is so important in science education? Teaching with this perspective gives students the skills and attitudes that will enable them to succeed in the modern world. Information, facts, or traditional knowledge are more accessible than ever due to the internet, and the pace of science and technological change is increasing. Content knowledge is still very important, but students need to be able to use that knowledge, ask probing questions, and make good decisions based on the available evidence. Left: Year 10 students Lily Williams, Saoirse Hill-Shearman and Anzac Gallate investigating heart bypass surgery and how a stent works while performing a heart dissection. Bottom: Year 10 students Lily Williams, Anzac Gallate and Saoirse Hill-Shearman performing a heart dissection.
You are writing your PhD thesis about teaching the nature of science. Can you explain a bit about your research and results so far? My research is aimed at answering the question, “Does teaching with a nature of science approach increase the engagement of students in class?” To do this, I have first surveyed and interviewed the teachers to find out what they know about the nature of science. This proved to be a very interesting and worthwhile task in itself, and one I recommend to every department head. It provided an opportunity for professional conversations on what I believe is at the heart of science teaching: What is science? What are the most important things we are trying to convey to our students? I also learned more about the backgrounds of my staff and discovered they did have good nature of science knowledge from a whole range of life and work experiences. Then I observed many lessons and provided in-depth feedback to the teachers on their use of the nature of New Zealand Science Teacher >> 61
Lily Williams and Anzac Gallate collaborating on their research project using online resources compiled by school librarian Saskia Hill.
Governments around the world are including NoS in science curricula in order to produce informed citizens, and to encourage the flexible creative thinking that is needed to cope with a rapidly changing world. There are considerable efforts being made to increase the numbers of students taking science subjects as many governments also see science and technology as key drivers of their economies. I also believe that if our students leave school with open minds that are constantly questioning and challenging, searching for the answers with the available evidence, then we do them and our planet a great service. We need citizens who can resist the waves of extremism that trouble our world, and who have the flexibility and creativity to solve the enormous environmental problems that affect all life on earth. How are you incorporating this into the curriculum at your school? What has been the result? We have rewritten or refocused our junior topics to be more contextual and relevant to the students, which has often meant combining the different curriculum strands. For example, the old unit ‘Light’ was very much traditional physics, but is now taught as part of radiation and the body, which incorporates not only light rays and vision but also other aspects of the electromagnetic spectrum and their effects on humans. The results have been very positive, with high levels of enjoyment being reported by the students in surveys and high pass rates in topic tests. This has translated into the senior school where the number of students opting for science subjects has increased by 56 per cent over the past four years. What is your vision for science teaching at Cashmere High? Our vision for science has always been that it should be ‘fascinating and fun’, and teaching with a nature of science perspective is a great way to achieve this. We include as much practical activity in lessons as possible and increasingly these are ‘minds-on’ as well as ‘handson’, with NoS providing a questioning structure and rationale to increase the depth of thinking, or fascination, to go with the wonder of exploring new ideas and the fun of doing experiments.
Saskia Hill, Cashmere High School librarian Saskia Hill is school librarian at Cashmere High and her speciality is information fluency. She works closely with teachers to help find students relevant print and digital media for research projects. For example, when a teacher is embarking on a new project, he or 62 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
she will email Saskia with the research task prior to assigning it to students. Saskia then sources relevant information from both print and digital media, collating the resources on a dedicated internet page to help get students started. Saskia also provides students and teachers with targeted seminars on how to perform effective research on the internet: from getting started, to using clustered search engines such as Carrot2, rather than relying on a ‘JGI’ (just Google it) mindset. She helps students to critically evaluate websites using the CRAP test (Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Purpose), and using online referencing tools such as BibMe and RefMe to help students properly reference their work. New Zealand Science Teacher asked Saskia about her work, and information fluency in particular: How do you use the information fluency programme to support students and staff at Cashmere High School? Information fluency is, I believe, one of the most vital skills a student can have in order to help them negotiate the masses of information in our modern world. It is the intersection of traditional information literacy (the ability to determine the extent of, effectively and efficiently assess, critically evaluate, incorporate, and use ethically sourced information ) with computer skills and critical thinking. When students are faced with a need for information – any information, whether it is for school, hobbies, or personal interest – the process is the same. Almost all of them reach for their mobiles or for their nearest device to check Google, invariably eliciting results and considering their search successful. But is it really? We may call them ‘digital natives’ but in reality students need the skills to discover whether or not the site they have selected contains quality ethical information that they can then access and transform into knowledge, rather than simply transfer it from page to page. Students have little knowledge or understanding of the loaded algorithms the search engines such as Google use and don’t realise that what gets pushed to the top of the search list is not necessarily aligned to their agenda, but is aligned instead to Google’s. At Cashmere High School we provide a library service whereby assessment tasks are sent by the teaching staff to our team and we create a webpage tailored to that task. It includes a step-by-step linked plan for students’ tasks, a link to a reading list of relevant books, and live links to databases and online encyclopaedias, site assessment tools, clustering search engines, useful websites, and our school-adopted online referencing tool. Each class then gets a preliminary information fluency session and we go through the page identifying and highlighting places to go, tailored tools to use and strategies for successful searching. The physical books are showcased and the students then begin their research. Library staff work alongside teaching staff with each student to make sure they know how to access each aspect of the library’s resources. This programme has been hugely successful and whilst it takes time for students to fully build the skills to assess websites quickly and efficiently, the quality of information accessed has improved immensely.
We suggest that sites such as Wikipedia are an excellent place to go in order to get a great overview if you are truly mystified about a topic, but there is a caveat. Go there and get the key events, dates, people but then takes those details and search more reliable sources, one where students can identify the authors and creators and check their credentials. By providing an externally accessible webpage as a curation point, we hope to provide a ‘library without walls’ that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. Yes, the physical books remain in the library and for some subjects they are the most vital resources. For others, they provide a base upon which students layer up-to-the-minute web resources. It is about using the right tool for the right job, and information fluency teaches them that. How important do you think it is for students to have authentic research tasks and communicate their research to authentic audiences? I believe it is vital for students to learn these skills in authentic contexts. I am a huge fan of ‘just in time versus just in case’ resource provision and learning. There is little to no point in our schools providing learning experiences or opportunities that are isolated and disconnected from students and the world. By providing authentic, inquiry driven, personalised tasks, students can engage with their chosen topic in ways that are not necessarily open to them when others choose the topic for them and it is done simply to get marks rather than for a wider purpose. For example, Saoirse’s article [following] was the product of a teacher inviting students to create a piece of work for a specific purpose with real world application on a topic that was of interest or relevant to her. It not only kept the purpose of her writing in her head at all times but it gave her an opportunity to explore something real and authentic in her life and create an end product that could potentially help others. When these authentic opportunities are given by teachers, the students often don’t even realise the skills they are learning or refining, as they are absorbed by the actual purposeful and meaningful task.  Definition adapted from the American Library Association, 2015
Saoirse Hill-Shearman, year 10 student
A student in Leith’s year 10 class, Saoirse HillShearman, explored a disease that had great relevance to her whānau. Retinitis pigmentosa is a degenerative eye disease that both her aunt Zoe and her mother suffer from. New Zealand Science Teacher asked Saoirse about the process of investigating the genetic disease.
Who was your intended audience? I knew from the start of the project that I wanted to inform and advise the readers, but not in a way that it was a long list of facts about RP. I mean, I might as well have copied and pasted a link and handed it in. So I decided to write it like a magazine article, like one of those ‘real life’ stories in Woman’s Day for example. I guess my target audience was the readers of those kinds of magazines. How did you do your research? My school librarian really helped me out a lot. She provided me with a wide range of reputable sites, via digital and print mechanisms, all via the school library website which is available at all times to all students. Having such a large spectrum of information made it easy for me to pick the best and most useful information for my project. I also used primary sources from the retinitis pigmentosa agencies in New Zealand that my aunt Zoe (the subject of the interview) suggested, so that I could direct people there also and therefore make the article more useful. How did you choose what information to include? My target audience heavily influenced what information I wanted to include. I wanted to give the readers a basic overview of the disease, show the impact it has on sufferers, and provide places where people could go to gain different perspectives on the disease. I was essentially going for a lightly scientific, easyread piece; a clear way of communicating the science. Why do you think science communication is important? I believe it’s important because it allows us to gain a better understanding of the world around us, through the work others have done. For example, climate change. If it is established that a few small lifestyle changes could delay by hundreds of years the progress of the Earth becoming too hot to sustain human life, then science communication becomes vital. It’s a bit off-topic but it sums up what I think. On another note, I had my preliminary tests for retinitis pigmentosa recently, and I showed no signs of it, which is good news. I still have to go for a definitive test, which will show me whether or You can not I will ever have it in my lifetime. find Saoi Saoirse Hill-Shearman embarking on her research project using online resources compiled by school librarian Saskia Hill.
rse’s article published on New Zealand Science Teache r here: http://bit.ly/1NeFDYH
How did you go about choosing the topic for your research project? My science teacher Mr Cooper asked my class to carry out a research project on a human disease. It could be circulatory, respiratory, or genetic. He also suggested we choose something that was of interest to us, and because I’m at risk of developing retinitis pigmentosa, based on my genetic history, I felt it was a topic of interest and relevance to me. New Zealand Science Teacher >> 63
LEARNING IN SCIENCE Innovative science education
to isolated students A special academy in Otago is nurturing the science education of year 13 students from small, rural schools, writes MELISSA WASTNEY. “Science is the key to the world – it is the key to humanity and to how we sustain life on earth.” So wrote Buller High School student Heather Shearer, a participant in Otago University’s Advanced School Sciences Academy, in 2012. Everyone would agree that we need to ensure our young minds from all parts of New Zealand have the opportunity to work on solutions for a sustainable future. This is the philosophy behind Otago University’s Advanced School Sciences Academy (OUASSA), an exciting programme aimed at year 13 students from lower decile, small, rural schools across the country. Established in 2010, OUASSA was originally the idea of then Minister of Education Anne Tolley, who had been inspired by visiting similar programmes overseas. The University of Otago was identified as an ideal host organisation, due to its experience with such offerings as Brain Bee, Bioethics Roadshow, and the long-running Hands-on Science camp. The academy is now going from strength to strength, inspiring young scientists from small schools and rural areas across the country. 2015 marks the largest intake to date, with a total of 60 students taking part. Held annually, the programme is designed to support those students with a passion for science, and the potential and commitment to excel in their work. Participants attend two-week-long ‘science camps’ in January and July of each year.
EDUC465: A new master’s paper in science education In conjunction with the OUASSA teacher professional development and learning workshops, the University of Otago is offering a new paper, ‘EDUC465: Science education for teachers’. The paper examines and critiques science education in New Zealand, and explores learning theories and key documents that have shaped it. Teachers undertaking the paper will engage in rigorous analysis of their own professional development, and learn to critically apply and evaluate theories of teaching to the curriculum. Find more information by visiting: bit.ly/1KC9Qgi
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January 2014 teacher professional development group.
For the rest of the year, the students are enrolled in a ‘virtual academy’ where they have access to digital extension material to keep them inspired, as well as the opportunity to network with fellow participants. At these camps, students take part in full-time science learning, with a focus on two major projects, each spanning two days at each camp. Students also attend extra classes such as pharmacology, psychology, design science, anatomy and surveying to explore other types of science not normally covered by school science curriculums. Mid-week field trips are also included. In the summer, these trips involve an expedition to the Otago Peninsula, and in the winter, students enjoy indoor games and visit the International Science Festival events held in Dunedin.
What particular challenges might low-decile, rural students face in their science education? The answer is likely to be facilities and isolation, says OUASSA director Steve Broni. “Often, rural schools are unable to provide good laboratory facilities simply because of their size and scope,” he says. “And they don’t have easy access to the types of science centres, museums and other facilities found in larger metropolitan areas.”
In addition, says Steve, small, isolated schools are unlikely to have a full suite of science teachers across every NCEA subject. “So you might have one science teacher who is expected to teach outside their specialist area.” “We know that retention of students in science subjects past year 11 is a challenge for many small schools.” The OUASSA students particularly enjoy the sense of camaraderie of their like-minded peers. “It’s about connecting with other students who are into science in the same way they are,” he says.
Building familiarity with tertiary science
Emily Hall is OUASSA’s science teaching coordinator. She says the programme is exciting because it brings university on to the radar of students for whom it might not otherwise feature. “One of the reasons we have postgraduate students help out with OUASSA is because they act as great role models for the younger students. They tend to look out for them and become mentors.” While the overarching aim of OUASSA is to enhance achievement in the final year of secondary science, there are other meaningful ways in which students grow and develop through participating.
The exposure to leading researchers and postgraduate students is invaluable for these budding scientists. They also gain a wider perspective on where the subject can take them, and get inspired to investigate new and different science strands. Another focus is on building familiarity with the university environment, says director Steve Broni. “Sometimes they don’t appreciate the range of science subjects and career opportunities on offer, especially if they’re the first in their family to study at a university. “An important element of the academy is getting to understand how university ‘works’ and that it is an achievable destination, even if no-one in their family has undertaken university study before.”
Teacher professional development component
It’s not just students who benefit from OUASSA. “Enhancing the effectiveness of teaching at our target schools is a key focus for us,” says Steve, “and we’re in a strong position to provide advice, resources and support for teachers. OUASSA also encompasses teacher professional development workshops run in conjunction with the student camps. So far, eight teacher workshops have been held, involving 158 attendees. Each teacher workshop runs for three days and involves a mixture of lab and seminar sessions. The labs focus on practical science easily transported back to the classroom, while the seminars cover various topics relevant to the secondary science curriculum. The teacher workshops and seminars have so far focused on the following topics: »» Earth and space science: Potential for the future »» Using ICT to improve investigation outcomes and students’ explanations »» Physics on a shoestring, with a shoestring (and other everyday items)
Josh Richards from Collingwood Area School (front) and fellow OUASSA students in the chemistry lab, 2015.
OUASSA students in the zoology lab, July 2015.
»» New Level 1 science standards: What do they mean? »» Science education for gifted and talented students »» Supporting critical thinking »» Science and matauranga: Raising achievement for Māori »» NCEA level standards: Changes, challenges and opportunities »» IPAD chemistry lab resource »» Using dialogue for opening up science ideas »» Approaching bioethics in secondary science »» Ways of knowing: A Māori perspective »» Critical literacies »» Citizen science on our shores: The New Zealand Seashore Transect Survey »» Education Perfect What it can offer science teachers and students »» Internal programme planning »» Enhancing Pasifika success in the science classroom »» Knowledge Forum as a tool for classroom learning »» Meet the researchers: A snapshot of some current science research at Otago.
»» NZQA science moderators forum: An opportunity for teachers to ask questions about moderation and the moderation process Hands-on laboratory sessions for teachers have focused on: »» Senior physics »» Senior maths »» Senior chemistry »» Biochemistry and genetics »» Marine science (Level 3 and Scholarship biology focus) »» Physical sciences café lab: Demonstrations of experiments »» Resin casting lab: A cheap, useful resource for biology teachers (this was expanded from a seminar demonstration session to a hands-on lab session in 2015 after requests from teachers) »» The Year of Light: Classroom activities held at the Beverly-Begg Observatory
Strength in commitment
Steve believes the year-long commitment that OUASSA demands is one of its greatest strengths. “I think the fact that it’s not just a one-off science holiday camp, but a full year-long commitment for the students involved, works really well,” he says. A goal for the next years is to increase Māori and Pasifika student participation in the programme. Both Steve and Emily are excited about OUASSA’s future, and Steve reminds us that amazing science happens in small places. “I keep remembering New Zealand’s most famous scientist, Ernest Rutherford, who was from the tiny village of Foxhill, near Nelson,” says Steve. “How many other Rutherfords might be waiting out there in the heartland of New Zealand?” New Zealand Science Teacher >> 65
LEARNING IN SCIENCE authentic science education
Personal inquiries into
pra ct ica l scie n ce
What if an NCEA science course focused on pure enjoyment of the subject, and the relationship between teacher and students? MATT NICOLL reflects on his year teaching a new practical science course for year 11 students.
hat a year it has been so far with my year 11 practical science course. This class has become the absolute highlight of my day. I even enjoy them when they are completely off the wall, like they were last Friday. Why do I love teaching these guys so much?
I made it very clear from the start that I wanted to get to know these students really well. I wanted to know why they did or did not enjoy learning science. I wanted to know what they enjoyed learning about and what they enjoyed doing in their spare time. I wanted to know what mattered the most to them about learning – NCEA credits, or enjoyment. Then I assured them that I cared, and that we could achieve credits and enjoy the science course.
We had a frank chat about this after recently completing an internal assessment, just before starting to plan and design our personal inquiries. Yes, I gave up an entire lesson to ask my students about their thoughts, opinions and to seek their ry ist Matt Nicoll is a chem advice. These at and science teacher are boys who h. urc tch ris Ch St. Andrew’s College in have been cal cti pra ing Find more about teach (in the past) al gic go da er pe science, as well as oth pigeonholed ideas, on his blog: as ‘trouble’, tt. ‘reluctant www.classroomma learners’, or nz o. .c ot sp og bl ‘real battlers’, for example. Never have they been labelled as 66 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
‘academics’ and only a few are your classic definition of a ‘leader’. All but two passed this difficult internal assessment (AS 90935 – find more information about it here: http://bit.ly/1IoWeGm), and there was a fair distribution of merits and a single excellence awarded as well. I was very proud of them. They were proud of themselves. “So, from here on, do we want to focus more on credits, or on learning more about things you care about?” “Both, sir.” I agreed that was a fair call. They assured me that they were enjoying the course as much as I was and, while they wanted credits, they didn’t want to focus on getting excellence at the expense of enjoyment... so long as they got credits at achievement or merit level.
We are now focusing on personal inquiries (the class begged me not to call them ‘passion projects’ because ‘primary school kids do those’). Having been through units to develop scientific literacy, fair testing, and design thinking, we are in the ‘fun’ part of the course (in my opinion). The structure behind these inquiries has come from here: http://bit.ly/1JOTLHi. Students were asked to identify a topic they were really interested in, then brainstorm some key aspects of that topic that might be interesting to them: From this initial ‘scanning’, they started to focus their inquiry. Once they had a few possible focus questions, I helped them (along with another teacher who team-teaches with me on a Monday with this class) to develop a hunch (or possible answer) to investigate.
These inquiries have mostly focused on a couple of key ideas: their chosen sport of interest; their favourite hobby; or astronomy. The investigation between tyre pressure, soil type and acceleration for MotoX bikes has been impressive. One student is becoming a real expert in fishing – casting styles; rod types; best times for fishing; and the relationship between the moon and tides. Two students have been looking at factors that affect the swing of a cricket ball, while another two are exploring the use of a choke on the spread of a shotgun shot. Getting the students interested and engaged in their respective inquiries was, therefore, very easy. Matching these interests to science has been the fun part, and not always successful. One student wanted to look at ergonomic rowing and, other than the mechanics of a rowing machine, we really struggled. Ultimately, we adjusted his inquiry to focus more on the technique of rowing, which ergonomic rowing reinforces, and the biomechanics and physics of ‘good technique’. Most students have done their research in class, and their experimenting in their own time. They are learning more about something they already care about, so they are actually keen to try out what their research suggests and see if it is correct. The students are now in the phase where they are researching, experimenting, collecting data. They are doing anything and everything they can to explore whether their hunches are correct or not. My job is a dream. I get to talk with the students about what they have learned in the past 24 hours.
As the focus is on student learning, not preparing for an assessment, it takes a lot longer to ensure the students are carefully directed to provide enough evidence to satisfy the assessments we plan to use to measure their learning. For example, in the Conspiracy! unit, very few students provided enough evidence of research and critique of resources to earn credits. The learning was good, but not able to be rewarded with NCEA credits. From this, we have developed better ways to guide the students, specifically check lists to be submitted with research portfolios that must be submitted with the final report. There is also a real time management issue with matching assessments to the learning as we go. It makes it nearly impossible to
use assessment tasks found on TKI. Even minor adaptations to these tasks have not matched the learning very well. Therefore, we have been forced to create assessment tasks ourselves, based on the contexts of the students’ learning. TKI is very helpful as a starting point for this, but it means spending more time getting very familiar with each achievement standard.
The potentially time-consuming part of this has been finding ways to reward the learning with NCEA credits. After all, this is what the students want as a tangible reward for their hard work. Most students are doing some work on a sport or machine, so assigning a Level 1 NCEA achievement standard was easier than I expected: AS 90936. I have also become very familiar
Practical science at St Andrew’s College
with the Level 1 and Level 2 internal assessments in science, biology, physics, chemistry and planet Earth and beyond. Once we all agreed that we could start by having our work assessed by AS 90936, we unpacked the achievement standard and an example from TKI to come up with our own task. Students were given manila folders to keep a portfolio in, along with a checklist of things that needed to be in the portfolio to complement the final report, video, PowerPoint... Now, I stressed above that this is the achievement standard these boys are just starting with. This is only two to three weeks of work. After this is finished, we will go through the process again; again matching what each student is focusing his learning on with an achievement standard. Some students will do new topics, while others will just have new focus questions for the same topic. I just get to go along on the learning journey with them... and, trust me, it’s a real rush!
Most students have done their research in class, and their experimenting in their own time. They are learning more about something they already care about, so they are actually keen to try out what their research suggests and see if it is correct.”
This completely internally assessed course was specially designed for students who have a track record of underperforming in exam and teststyle assessments. At the school, this course is offered to approximately 35 students and is spread across two classes. It is not for students deemed to be simply apathetic or disengaged, but rather for those for whom an internally assessed course would increase the chance of academic success that matches their efforts, despite any learning difficulties they struggle with. By chance, the make-up of the students identified for this course in 2015 was very male-dominated. The school had the choice to either spread the few girls across the two classes, or to create a truly co-educational class and a boys-only class and chose the latter. Matt says he was selected to teach the boys class because of his prior experience teaching at a boys’ school. There has been a ‘trade-off’ between targeting excellence grades for focusing on developing a passion for learning about science. “The learning in this class has been at a slower pace, but at the same curriculum level as our other year 11 (Level 1) science courses,” he says. “However, there has been more scaffolding of tasks and assessments, and the contexts are more student-driven. These students entered the course just hoping to get credits, not aiming for merit or excellence. As it works out, they now target merit as their measure of success (not simply getting achievement). New Zealand Science Teacher >> 67
CURRICULUM & LITERACY Planet Earth and beyond
Space exploration on home soil
New Zealand features some of the best sites in the world to study astrobiology-related extreme environments.”
The Spaceward Bound team stop for a photo on their expedition. Photo: Haritina Mogosanu.
Spaceward Bound expeditions have previously taken place in the US, Canada, Namibia, and Australia. The 2015 trip was the first to be undertaken in New Zealand.
What happened when a group of teachers embarked on a summer road trip with NASA scientists?
Right: Recently drained hot spring pool at Waimangu Geothermal Valley, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Photo: Haritina Mogosanu. Coloured surface features are drying microbial mats that built up the knobby walls and floor when the pool was full, forming stromatolites, layered microbial-sedimentary structures that may be related to the earliest life on Earth. The white areas are dried silica that has deposited from hot-spring discharge of vent areas, preserving the microbial remains and indicative of a hydrothermal origin for this fossilised life. Hot spring ’extreme environment‘ analogues such as these are relevant to studies of interpreted Martian siliceous hot spring deposits at the Home Plate site, Gusev Crater, explored by the Spirit rover. 68 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
ix days of field trips last summer revealed New Zealand to be a worldclass site for astrobiology research. Spaceward Bound 2015 was organised by the New Zealand Astrobiology Initiative (NZAI) and focused on exploration of ‘extreme environments’, as related to astrobiology research. The Spaceward Bound concept originated at NASA Ames Research Centre in 2006, with the primary aim of training the next generation of space explorers by using Earth as an analogue for Mars, our moon, and other planets.
NZAI’s Haritina Mogosanu writes about the experience: In January 2015, the New Zealand Astrobiology Initiative organised an engaging, six-day expedition for Kiwi educators and researchers, introducing them to the wonders of the Taupo Volcanic Zone in the central North Island. Partnering with NASA, and incorporating speakers from all around the globe, Spaceward Bound New Zealand 2015 exposed its 50 participants to astrobiology research through a series of hands-on field trips and promoted New Zealand as a world-class site for astrobiology research. New Zealand features some of the best sites in the world to study astrobiology-related extreme environments. The geographical set-up, dynamic and active geological setting, and the science capability of New Zealand all support the study of astrobiology. Within its Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand has unique extremophiles in the hot springs and recent and current explosive volcanism. Other regions in the country include access to the K-Pg Boundary
Small spouter geyser emitting a jet of boiling water from a hot spring vent along Hot Water Creek, Waimangu Thermal Valley, Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ). Photo: Haritina Mogosanu. Luxurious green microbial mats grow in the cooler areas bathed by the warm geothermal waters. Locations such as this in the TVZ serve as analogue extreme environments for early life on Earth (>3 billion years ago) and for the search for past life on Mars.
(Marlborough region) and the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. New Zealand is also a world leader in biosecurity (essential to planetary protection) and has a rich cultural heritage derived from exploration, as Polynesian and Europeans arrived here guided by the stars. New Zealand’s scientists encompass most of the required fields in astrobiology: microbiology, ecology, biosecurity, physics, astronomy, radio astronomy and geology. This represents an accessible, yet rich, knowledge base of local expertise. Spaceward Bound New Zealand consisted of six days of field trips, talks, and keynote presentations by New Zealand university staff and graduate students and NASA scientists. It included inquiry-based field work, supported by local universities and local and international experts. Fifty scientists, educators, teachers and students attended Spaceward Bound New Zealand 2015. Visitors and locals also participated in various activities at the headquarters and at field sites at geothermal locations, the Tongariro volcanic crossing and the active volcano at White Island. A public event using a drone and rover attracted about 200 people in Rotorua, a present-day geothermal field upon which a modern city has been built. The expedition, besides being an excellent networking opportunity, promoted New Zealand as a significant astrobiology field research location, supporting the development of the New Zealand secondary schools education curriculum, but also encouraging university-level uptake of science related to astrobiology. Although astrobiologyrelated knowledge is taught in places as part of the Earth and Space Science (ESS) curriculum, until Spaceward Bound New Zealand 2015, there had been no national effort to integrate this field at educational and scientific research levels. We want to hold Spaceward Bound every second year – the next in 2017 will be at the summer camp for the New Zealand Astrobiology Institute so teachers can come and dive into astrobiology hand in hand with scientists.
Talks in the field
During the expedition, talks were given by participating scientists, with the local ecology and geology as visual aids: »» Carol Stoker: Mission approaches to search for life on Mars »» Eldar Noe: Water on Mars »» David Willson: Spacesuit adventures »» Haritina Mogoșanu: Biases and mindsets: what I learned from stargazing »» Jen Blank: Results from the Mars Science Laboratory »» Julian Thomson: Age-appropriate science education »» Kathy Campbell: Hydrothermal systems and early life on Earth (and Mars?)
»» Ken Silburn: The history of science: effects on the past on science invention »» Lucinda Offer: Mars analog research opportunities with the Mars Society »» Rosalba Bonaccorsi: Science, outreach, and conservation in Death Valley/Timbisha National Park: a journey into a crater »» Mark Gee: Astrophotography »» Ron Fisher: Cosmodome stargazing »» Shanan Tana: Māori lore »» Steve Pointing: Microbiology research in Antarctica
What are extremophiles?
What is astrobiology?
The term ‘extremophile’ is used to describe an organism that is able to survive in extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth. These extreme environments can include highly acidic conditions, intense temperatures – both hot and cold – and extreme pressure. Most of the known extremophiles are microbes. During the 1980s and 90s, scientists discovered that microbial life had the ability to survive in extreme environments – places that would be inhospitable to complex organisms. Extremophiles have adapted to thrive in such environments. There are many classes of extremophiles. Thermophiles can survive in very hot temperatures. The heat-resistant bacterium thermus aquaticus, for example, thrives at 70 degrees Celcius, and can still survive at 80 degrees. In the 1960s, it was discovered in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. Psychrophiles are organisms capable of survival, growth or reproduction at temperatures of -15 degrees Celcius or lower, for example in deep ocean water.
»» How does life begin and evolve? »» Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? »» What will our future on Earth look like? These are the questions that astrobiology explores. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, and history of life on Earth. It also explores the potential for extraterrestrial life. It’s especially interesting because it combines many scientific disciplines, such as physics, chemistry and geology, in order to study life on Earth and potential life in space. Astrobiologists are particularly interested in studying extremophiles, as many of these organisms are capable of surviving in environments we know exist on other planets. In 2014, a new division of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) was formed to foster this discipline. The New Zealand Astrobiology Group aims to inspire interest in the field, through newsletters, educational programmes, and outreach events.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 69
LEARNING IN SCIENCE e-learning
What is a Raspberry Pi? Interest in teaching computer science at an earlier age is growing in New Zealand schools. Whether you are teaching a broad understanding of computer science, making an environmental monitoring system, or building a robot army, a Raspberry Pi is a small device that could help you do just that, writes ALLISTER SHEPPARD.
What is a Raspberry Pi, exactly?
It is a small, smartphone-sized, integrated computer that plugs into a screen or TV via HDMI and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. That’s if you want to use it as a computer; otherwise, you can put it on some wheels, plug in a webcam and with a bit of code turn it into an autonomous vehicle/robot that can identify and collect plastic bottles for recycling, for instance. The seeds at the Pi were planted in 2006, as lecturers of the University of Cambridge pondered a way to combat the yearly decline in the skills and experience of students who were applying for their computer science programme. By 2008 technology had become fast enough that their idea looked viable, and in 2012 the first Raspberry Pi was released, providing the world with an easily transportable, cost effective and accessible computer for children and hobbyists alike. The Raspberry Pi has excellent and diverse educational resources available for it, not
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My girls who are learning programming get a more tangible result from their work, plus they get a ‘real’ use for their new skills.” least because the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s goal is to advance the computer and computer-related education of children and adults, and with the advent of the ‘Internet of things’, nearly any object can involve a computer.
So why would you choose a Raspberry Pi?
The low cost of these devices is changing the way computer science is taught. “The cost implications that come with finding yourself able to buy a computer for US$25
are significant for all of us, but they can make a real difference to the way cash-strapped researchers do things,” states a Pi in scientific research article . To quote one teacher: “They are cheap devices which can be used for a variety of purposes from talking about hardware to discussing complex programming in python, and networking concepts.” A number of schools have ended up using them through the involvement of their students in the Codeworx Challenge . The low cost of a Raspberry Pi device and the variety of ways it can be used was a common theme in the feedback from the (mostly secondary school) teachers who responded to a survey conducted while researching this article. But don’t stop reading if you’re a primary teacher: it’s never too early to start learning computer science, as evidenced by a YouTube video of a nine-year-old girl hacking into her dad’s iMac from her Raspberry Pi computer. Age is irrelevant and it’s only imagination and inspiration that will impact on how your class embrace the possibilities of a Raspberry Pi. Secondary schools are using them in extracurricular roles within Code Club Aoteoroa, the Codeworx Challenge and for science fairs, as well as in class as part of structured projects through to self-directed, year-long projects of the students’ choosing. A few Raspberry Pis have even made it onto the international space station, so why wouldn’t you want one? In the realm of scientific research, these little devices are finding themselves in all sorts of places and roles, from chemistry studies with projects looking at fiddler crabs’ melanin pigment production, and the effect of certain chemical agents on everyone’s favourite pest, the cockroach, through to being used by the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive in psychological experiments, which itself is part of a cross-platform experiment builder project. If DNA is more your interest, then the Centre for Biological Diversity in Scotland has a programme where students can look at the relationship between phylogeny and evolution on a Raspberry Pi.
What do students and teachers enjoy about using a Raspberry Pi? Students enjoy the tangible, visible and real-time feedback of the device. They enjoy experimenting and problem-solving all aspects of a project via both hardware and software debugging, and then extending what they’ve created. Some of the more hazardous science experiments you wish to conduct at school can be safely recorded with a Pi and its camera to be inspected by the class later, as one British-based science teacher has been doing . Even if the experiment goes horribly wrong, you’ve only lost one Raspberry Pi and camera (and hopefully not too much hair).
One teacher summarised its value with this statement: “Having the opportunity to talk about what can be done, and where (the devices) can be used and placed. Having the general purpose I/O (GPIO) pins to connect up other equipment. Students have built their own Morse code translator using the Raspberry Pi. We have another group doing pest monitoring, using the camera, Raspberry Pi and motion detection software in a rat trap to see what’s happening in our community.”
How do students benefit? “My girls who are learning programming get a more tangible result from their work, plus they get a ‘real’ use for their new skills. They get a very good understanding of
input/output devices and digital signals. Also, there are so many online resources that this is a good context for finding solutions,” said one teacher. The Pi provides a more tangible experience than a tablet. You can hold up the Pi and point at the brain (processor/CPU), at the storage (micro-SD card slot) and the various I/O (USB, GPIO, HDMI, etc) that the computer has. Maybe other schools have iPads in their e-learning classes – that’s great, but for the cost of a tablet you can get a dozen Pi devices and build your own basic tablets (or games arcade ) and that experience will inspire and teach your students more.
The Pi provides a great platform for teaching about the components of a computer. Connecting LEDs to the Pi’s GPIO allows the creation of a shift register, for example, and is only limited by you and your students’ creativity when breaking down the functions of a computer into components you can place on a breadboard. And if that’s not enough, you could always follow a guy in Cambridge, UK, who is building a computer processor using 14,000 individual transistors and 3,500 LEDs – all by hand, piece by piece – and build a life-size 16-bit computer processor as a teaching aid. One aspect of teaching computing is teaching its history, which was wonderfully illustrated at a recent Liverpool MakeFest where one project involved children creating punch cards (with a mallet and steel pin) and reading them in to the Pi to create content in the Minecraft universe. To quote its creator Gemma, “Housed in a laser cut plywood box, and built using a Pro Micro Arduino, IR LEDs and phototransistors, the reader is set New Zealand Science Teacher >> 71
up to read rows of holes with an additional registration hole at the end for patterns where a row has no punched hole. The reader is then attached to a Raspberry Pi via the USB port allowing for the input of designs into Minecraft Pi via Python.” The Pi is also used comprehensively in teaching digital media and digital infrastructure projects, providing an understanding of the layers and protocols that run the internet, for example. The constraints imposed by using a Pi, rather than a desktop computer, force a creativity in students that will otherwise be lost for those programming in environments with practically limitless RAM and processor speed. The Pi’s ability to be overclocked by changing a simple setting is also a handy teaching aid to demonstrate the impact of CPU and RAM speeds on programs and projects. As the Raspberry Pi was created as a teaching device, there is a wealth of teaching material out there provided by the Raspberry Pi organisation itself, as well as many third party suppliers/resellers hosting forums and guides of their own, and of course an active community generating how-to guides and inspired projects. So as a teaching tool it is very accessible, as even on a bad day when you haven’t had time to prepare, you can simply find a good project online and walk through it with the students and still build something by the end of the class.
The Pi runs from a micro-/SD card by default. A noobs SD card, which provides a selection of Linux operating systems (OS) and can be cheaper than buying the equivalent 8GB SD card, is also available. Being SD-card-based allows entirely different environments to be experienced with the simple swap of a card, from media centre to desktop word processing to driving a radio-controlled tank from your phone. Running from an SD card means it’s viable to have a classroom worth of Pi’s and a school’s worth of SD cards with each student allocated their own SD card. So if a student corrupts or deletes the wrong thing on their SD card, then it can just be swapped or rewritten from a backup.
But what if I’m scared of Linux?
With the wealth of guidance, how-to’s and community projects, you and the students can learn together; the Raspberry Pi Foundation has a teaching section especially for you and there’s even RasPi. TV. That said, a core version of Windows 10 came out in 2015, so while you can’t boot the Pi into your friendly Windows desktop, you can write apps for the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) which can run on 72 >> New Zealand Science Teacher
They are cheap devices which can be used for a variety of purposes from talking about hardware to discussing complex programming in python, and networking concepts.” a Raspberry Pi (or Windows phone, Xbox, tablet, etc). This variety of operating system options is matched by the number of programming languages you can teach using the Pi, with Python and Scratch being the most popular.
One thing voiced by some of the teachers surveyed was the lack of analogue I/O support on the Raspberry Pi. Any of the projects you see for weather stations (using light, temperature sensors or wind gauges) will include analogue to digital converters. So if you’ve been excited by an idea, double check what other components you’ll need to make it happen, as the Pi is often the brain and network connectivity of a project, with additional components being provided on breadboards, circuit boards and shields to let it interface with the real world.
If you are teaching an understanding of computing a Pi is the leading bit of hardware available today to do that. If you’re planning to build a network of environmental monitoring stations, the Pi can do that too. You’ll just need to buy some auxiliary components. I’ll leave you with some resources I’ve become aware of while researching this article. The New Zealand Association of Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers is an association
“with the goal of advocating for our subjects. The aim of the association is to create a community of teachers where we can share resources, communicate and speak with one voice to get our subject area recognised and supported”. There is the CodeWorx Challenge (codeworx.co.nz), providing students with the opportunity to solve a real-world problem with a Raspberry Pi, and win their school some Raspberry Pi kit too. Code Club Aotearoa is another British creation that has been adopted and adapted for Kiwi consumption and provides resources and assistance to those interested in running or helping out at local after-school code clubs. For the budding physicists in the room, the University of Cambridge has a Raspberry Pi project just for you with its aim to “expose the flexibility and power of using computers in science experiments and hopefully help students realise that computing is very accessible from a young age.” As for where to buy Raspberry Pi devices, there is Element14 which was one of the original supporters and suppliers of the Raspberry Pi, but numerous other avenues have become available as the Raspberry Pi’s popularity has increased. And if you still need inspiration, watch some raspi.tv, browse microsoft.hackster.io, or be amazed by tutorials on computer vision using the Raspberry Pi on www.intorobotics.com
Allister Sheppard is a husband, father and geek. He’s also a mobile application developer and maker.
CURRICULUM & LITERACY Planet Earth & beyond
Pluto rediscovered Left: Pluto by Lorri and Ralph, 13 July 2015. Image: NASA/ JHUAPL/SWRI
Pluto has been brought back into the spotlight this year, as the New Horizons mission gathers more and more valuable data from the previously unexplored world of this dwarf planet. Auckland’s Stardome Observatory shares their Pluto resource for teaching.
luto was first identified as the ninth planet by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. It has remained a fuzzy, starry blur ever since, despite huge improvements in telescope size and technology. Its large moon Charon was discovered in 1978, followed by the much smaller moons Nix and Hydra in 2005, Kerberos in 2011 and Styx in 2012. It was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, along with Ceres, Haumea, and Eris. Pluto can be regarded as a binary object, because its closest moon Charon is so large compared with Pluto itself. While our moon is 1/81 the mass of the Earth, Charon is proportionally 10 times larger, at nearly 1/8 the mass of Pluto. Where the Earth holds the same face of the moon towards us, so we never see the far side of the moon (it is tidally locked), Pluto and Charon always face each other, so neither sees the far side of the other (they are both tidally locked to each other). Pluto is the largest of the five dwarf planets. It has only gone a third around its orbit since discovery in 1930. A day on Pluto is 6.4 Earth days long. Standing on the side facing Charon, the moon would stay in the same position in the sky, unchanging, neither rising nor setting, as the stars and Sun rise and set in the background. Pluto’s orbit around the Sun is tilted and not at all circular. It spends 20 years of its 248year orbit closer to the Sun than Neptune. Observations made with the EWB Zeiss Telescope at Auckland Observatory in 1988 contributed to the discovery of an atmosphere at Pluto.
By David Britten, Stardome Observatory.
Right: Charon by New Horizons on 13 July 2015. Image: NASA
Further resources Seeking out New Horizons
New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe (sometimes described as ‘piano-sized’) and the result of many years of work on missions to send a spacecraft to Pluto. First launched from Cape Canaveral in 2006, it began its approach phase to Pluto in January 2015. By July 14, New Horizons became the first spacecraft to explore Pluto, when it flew 12,500 km above the surface of the dwarf planet. Thirteen hours later, NASA received the first communication from the probe, following a flyby at the expected time. This ‘phone home’ reported that the spacecraft was healthy and its flight path was within the expected margins. After passing Pluto, the spacecraft will continue on through the Kuiper Belt, a region of the solar system beyond the planets, mostly populated with small bodies, remnants from the formation of the solar system. The latest news and photos from New Horizons are posted on NASA’s mission website.
Find more information about the New Horizons mission to Pluto: www.pluto.jhuapl.edu Stardome’ Introduction to Dawn and Ceres resource sheet can be found here: http://bit.ly/1hDsop1 Learn more about the far side of the moon (teacher resource sheet) here: http://bit.ly/1MJPuWn
Classroom discussion points »» A Pluto day and month are the same length. How can this be? »» Is Pluto bigger than our moon? »» What is the very special cargo on board New Horizons?
Happy birthday, Clyde Tombaugh
”Clyde Tombaugh was a great American, and New Horizons is a grand American adventure,“ says Dr Alan Stern, the spacecraft’s principal investigator. Born in 1906, Tombaugh was just 24 and working at Lowell Observatory in Arizona when he discovered Pluto in 1930. After thousands of hours spent examining millions of star images, the discovery eventually led to that of the Kuiper Belt, a huge ‘third zone’ in our solar system, largely made up of small, icy dwarf planets. Onboard the New Horizons spacecraft is a small aluminium container holding some of Tombaugh’s ashes.
Science content/curriculum link Investigate the conditions on the planets and their moons, and the factors affecting them. Use a wider range of science vocabulary, symbols, and conventions.
The surface of Pluto, as captured by spacecraft New Horizons. Image: NASA.
New Zealand Science Teacher >> 73
LEARNING IN SCIENCE innovative science education
learning in science S tudents at St. Andrew’s College have been involved in a project that encourages mentoring, collaboration and curiosity. A coeducational, independent school, St Andrew’s students range in age from preschool to year 13. Initiated by senior school head of science Brent Cummack, and supported by his fellow teachers, the project involves various student groups visiting the senior school science lab to perform simple experiments. “The philosophy underpinning the project is one of whole-school collaboration,” says Brent. “To this end, our younger students are being mentored by older students throughout the school.” Students visiting the lab explore physics concepts, and carry out experiments that link with the International Year of Light. One recent student group included preschool students, some of whom were as young as two years old. Year 10 students worked with the preschoolers to explore mirrors, lenses and prisms. Incidentally, the older students later reported the project was the highlight of their school term. “As a secondary teacher, I’m gaining a greater appreciation of what students at the junior levels are expected to be able to do,” says Brent. “In many years of teaching, I’d never seen the need to look at Te Whāriki
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in my work, but it has been really interesting to see how the science experiments we worked on could be linked with this curriculum.” In particular, says Brent, the learning dispositions identified in the curriculum (curiosity, playfulness and perseverance) align beautifully with science learning. Groups of year 1–3 students also visited the senior science lab earlier this year, where they enjoyed working with ‘mentors’ from the senior school. Year 9 and 10 students took their junior counterparts through a number of exercises with mirrors and lenses, where observation was the key learning intention. Middle school students performed an investigation around aspects of sports science; specifically, this year’s Rugby World Cup. “Year 9 students explored scientific modelling using this context, by investigating the relationship between inflation, kicking and distance,” says Brent. This experiment was then shared with year 7 students, and after working on it separately, the two groups got back together to discuss their findings and the limitations of using this kind of scientific modelling. “This fits nicely into the year 11 investigation on Physics 1.1 where students start to talk about mathematical modelling,” says Brent.
Structured around the International Year of Light, an initiative being developed by teachers and students at St Andrew’s College is promoting science learning to students of all ages.
… the learning dispositions identified in the curriculum (curiosity, playfulness and perseverance) align beautifully with science learning.” The science-sharing project doesn’t stop there, though. When one of the students told their grandmother about the work they had been doing in science class, it was decided that everyone should invite their grandmothers into class. This resulted in an interesting intergenerational afternoon spent discussing how science had moved away from the learning of facts to the nature of science and what that might mean for the future of science education.
EDUCATION & SOCIETY Science education & the environment
The opportunity to be part of an expedition to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands to study climate change was one he could not pass up, writes Auckland science teacher NICK KINGSTON.
fter having my gear thoroughly inspected by the Department of Conservation quarantine crew, my adventure on board Polaris II began. The boat is a 21-metre converted fishing trawler and is now a research vessel owned and operated by the University of Otago. As the winner of the 2015 Sir Peter Blake Trust Environmental Educator Award, I was given the opportunity to visit the Auckland Islands, which lie approximately 350km south of Stewart Island, and work alongside a team from the University of Otago and GNS Science, who are endeavouring to reconstruct the climate here over the last 15,000 years. At a top speed just over 10 knots and with swells several metres high, the trip from Port Chalmers, Dunedin to Carnley Harbour, Auckland Islands is not for the fainthearted. I armed myself with a healthy supply of Paihia Bombs, the legendary seasickness medication, and thankfully they lived up to their hype. Unfortunately, those on board who opted for the cheaper alternatives endured a grim 48 hours hunched over plastic buckets. On arrival, we were greeted with an unusually clear sky that made the scarlet hue of rata blossoms along the lower shores even more impressive. This weather, however, did not last. Days later we were hauling up long mud cores from the deep inlets and processing them with frozen fingers as the rain, hail and, at times, snow came down on us as we worked on the open deck. At least we could look forward to hot food, hot showers and a hot engine room to dry our clothes at the end of the day. New Zealand’s Subantarctic is a bleak, hostile environment but one that is special in its own way. With sea lions, penguins and, at the right time of year, whales, a daily sight, it should be on the bucket list of any wildlife enthusiast. Birdlife, too, will surely flourish here again, once the destructive feral pigs – currently in the cross hairs of the Department of Conservation – are eradicated. The location of the Auckland Islands, at 50o south, is in the peak of the westerly wind belt, which drives CO2 into the ocean and brings carbon-rich deep water upwelling to the surface. This places the islands at a critical location for studying Southern Ocean carbon cycling and climate patterns that not only affect New Zealand but also have a major influence on global weather systems. Changes we see in the rainfall of southern New Zealand
A trio of curious sea lions come to investigate the unusual visitors, Smith’s Harbour, Auckland Island.
can be attributed to a southerly shift in the wind belt and it is likely to be causing increased outgassing of CO2 from the ocean. As a follow-up to the trip, I have also spent a term working with the Sir Peter Blake Trust creating resources to be used in schools based on my experiences in the Subantarctic. The main project is a poster with illustrations of the wildlife and environment of the Auckland Islands, which is available free A sample of finely stratified sediment recovered from McLennan Inlet, Auckland Island.
to New Zealand secondary schools. The supporting text has links to NCEA science concepts. Supplementary resources are available from the Sir Peter Blake Trust website. I am extremely thankful to the Sir Peter Blake Trust for giving me this opportunity and encourage other secondary school teachers to consider applying for this award in the future. I am also thankful to the crew of Polaris II and the team from the University of Otago for having me on their expedition, particularly professor Chris Moy who included me in all aspects of field work and took the time to enlighten me on why the Auckland Islands are such a critical piece of the climate change puzzle.
Nick Kingston is a science teacher at Birkenhead College, Auckland, and is always looking for his next outdoor adventure.
Environmental Educator Award
The Sir Peter Blake Environmental Educator Award is a partnership between the Sir Peter Blake Trust and the Ministry of Education. The award provides a unique opportunity to one secondary school teacher each year to join a Young Blake Expedition and spend a term working with the Trust developing science teaching resources. The award’s overarching aim is to promote science and to connect New Zealand schools and classrooms with working scientists. Find more information about the award, including links to the teaching resources here: http://bit.ly/1mZFNq5
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CURRICULUM & LITERACY the material world
Why were ‘hatters’ indeed often mad? And why are egg whites better off in a copper bowl? Auckland chemistry teacher Ian Torrie enjoys addressing these questions, and more, in his classroom.
teacher at St Cuthbert’s College, Ian was honoured at the National Excellence in Teaching Awards in October 2014, where he was the only Auckland recipient of an ASG Excellence in Teaching Award for secondary education. What are some of the specific things you do in your classes to really bring chemistry alive? I tell a lot of anecdotes about the history, the people and the importance of chemistry in our everyday lives. I’m currently collating a resource of many hundreds of short snippets about how chemistry impacts on our lives. These vary from the mundane, such as why egg whites whip better in a copper bowl, or why ice cubes always crack in the interior, to the more serious, such as the thalidomide story. Often these have a historical perspective (e.g. why Napoleon III used aluminium plates for his most important guests and why hatters were indeed often mad); sometimes involve serendipity (e.g. most artificial sweeteners were discovered by accident through bad
workplace practices) and often the people behind the stories (e.g. the unfortunate Thomas Midgely, who was not only responsible for the development of lead additives for petrol but also for the introduction of CFCs). Our corridors and walls are also filled from top to bottom with chemistry cartoons, different periodic tables, such as Middle Earth and fantasy character versions, plus one that is floor to ceiling high. There are also series of
visually appealing posters about the chemicals in our lives (take a look at www.compoundchem.com). I like to use a lot of humour and short multimedia experiences to break up lessons. Sometimes I feature musical videos (such as the YouTube series from Mr Parr or Rosengarten) and of course, no lesson would be complete without the use of a high-quality Flash interactive animation.
If you could ask for three things from the fairy godmother of science education, what would they be?
We need to recognise there is no single teaching approach that will ever meet the needs of all of our varied and diverse students so the key to successful learning in the future has to be personalised learning. And by that I mean a classroom that incorporates the full gamut of learning methodologies from teacher directed through to student centred as and when appropriate. We should not be throwing out existing methodologies until new alternatives have been proven to be fundamentally better. For some concepts ICT may well be better
than simply talking, reading or watching – but for other outcomes a formal lesson may be more appropriate. Some students might benefit from a flipped classroom experience before a lesson, others may be better off using their own time to follow up a more formal classroom lesson. And so on – flexibility and a variety of learning strategies and resources are the key but ICT at least does offer us the potential capability of delivering this sort of learning approach. But it does not mean that teacher centred or directed learning does not also have an important role to play in the future.
Review the continuing need for a Level 1 NCEA qualification and question whether year 11 should focus more on core learning outcomes that match our curriculum objectives. We are the only country in the world that I am aware of, that has a formal assessment system involving external assessment for each of the
final three years of schooling. Three successive years of continuous internal and assessment requirements takes up a considerable proportion of precious learning and teaching time. The senior school year is now largely driven by the needs of our assessment model and we need to put the emphasis back into the learning process.
Re-introduce expert curriculum panels at the national level to develop quality learning and assessment resources. When I first started teaching, any new curriculum was introduced with a set of quality learning materials that a panel of teaching experts had prepared using their combined pedagogical content knowledge and experience. These were always adapted by different schools to meet their specific needs, but ensured that all schools started with a common base of pedagogical expertise.
Today, every school has to develop their own resources and while the specific contexts used in each school will vary, most of the underpinning concepts do not. Similarly with assessment, every school prepares their own assessment tasks which are often very similar from school to school but the quality is quite variable depending on their experience, ability and available time. This seems an inefficient use of valuable teacher time, when such resources are already in short supply.
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Standing committees 2015 REPORTs
Why is it so important that students have a good grounding in chemistry? Many of your students go on to careers in chemistry, but what role does the subject play in the life of a non-scientist? All students need to be aware that we eat, breathe, sleep, and work in a world of chemicals and that nothing in this world is “chemical free”. They should have enough understanding to be able to make informed decisions about their lives, for example, whether we should fluoridate our drinking water, and be able to evaluate the validity of information they will find on the internet about important issues such as global warming and use of pesticides. (Have a look at this spoof site: (www.dhmo.org ) They need to be aware that any chemical such as Vitamin C has exactly the same properties and effect on us regardless of whether it was assembled inside a green plant or inside a factory and that ‘organic’ does not necessarily mean better or safer. They need to appreciate that all chemicals (whether natural or human-made) are potentially toxic, but that “the dose makes the poison” e.g. even water and oxygen, which we consider essential for life, will kill us if consumed in large amounts. Finally, we need to emphasise the vast array of chemicals that we use every day to make our lives better e.g. cancer drugs, nanomaterials, high temperature superconductors, antibiotics, biodegradable and conducting polymers.
Do you use visiting teacher experts in your classes? What are your thoughts on this practice? Finding appropriate, quality role models who are available at the local level is difficult. So instead I rely on short video clips of inspiring scientists. Brian Cox for physics, Carl Sagan for astronomy, and Lord Robert Winston for biology are, (or were) all brilliant inspiring communicators, but unfortunately there aren’t many comparable equivalents for chemistry. The other difficulty that teachers face is finding appropriate industries to visit where students can actually experience some recognisable chemistry occurring, as opposed to just seeing a mass of pipes and tanks. Vineyards with basic analytical facilities are good but often restricted in how many students they can cope with.
Earth and Space
arth and Space Science Educators (ESSE) is the standing committee of the relatively new subject of Earth and Space Science (ESS). The emphasis of the members of ESSE initially has been to make sure that teachers and students have good resources and secure assessments to teach and learn with; and secondly, to be part of the writing of textbooks. This has been largely achieved, and teachers have access to a Google group for resources and assessments and to good textbooks. At SciCon this year, ESSE held its first ESS day in which delegates went on marine science, astronomy, and geology field trips. We are hoping to make this a biennial event. Our plans for the future are to keep on providing guidance for new teachers to ESS, develop effective professional development, and to make new and secure assessments available each year. One of the best aspects of teaching ESS is that teachers now have the opportunities to go on exciting field trips with in-depth learning opportunities, knowing that there are good achievement standards that can be used for assessment. New Zealand is a natural laboratory for earth sciences and astronomy. Our unique geology has been formed as a result of straddling two major tectonic plates and our country is in the middle of vast, restless oceans, through which major currents that control the world’s climate flow. The southern hemisphere sky allows us to study our solar system and the Milky Way galaxy, as well as enabling us to continue exploring other parts of the universe through unpolluted skies. For those of you unfamiliar with Earth and Space Science, it is a subject derived from levels 7 and 8 of the Planet Earth and Beyond (PEB) contextual strand of the Science Learning Area. Achievement
Students with polystyrene cups that they have decorated so that they can be used in a deep-sea density experiment. These cups went into a bag attached to some deep-sea instrumentation going over the side of the NIWA vessel Tangaroa, and were taken down to 1,000 metres on the Chatham Rise.
standards are available at Level 1 as part of science, and at Levels 2 and 3 as part of ESS or a science course. Students do not need Level 1 ESS standards to take Levels 2 and 3 ESS, although courses assessed by these standards would give valuable background. Many of the new ESS standards have considerable flexibility and are being used to assess not only Earth and Space Science but courses with the emphasis on geology, astronomy, marine science, environmental science, and Antarctic studies. Many science courses are using ESS standards in them. ESS aims not only to prepare students for possible careers in the earth, marine, and environmental sciences but also to ensure that students are scientifically literate with regards to our planet and the problems it faces. This is essential because humans face many challenges, such as dwindling energy and mineral resources, changing climates, ocean acidification, water shortages, and waste disposal. These are all problems that can be tackled by people having current and accurate scientific understanding of earthbased sciences. Earth is the only known planet with abundant and complex life. The Earth’s interlocking spheres (geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere) are dynamically balanced. Understanding how these interact, how they affect us, and how we affect them is vital to human survival. Changes, even small ones, can profoundly influence all life and affect the course of human civilization. New Zealand Science Teacher >> 77
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An enlightening year
Various web-based teaching and administrative programs and laser safety were just two of the topics under discussion at the recent NZIP conference.
he most significant event on the physics teachers’ calendar in 2015 was the biennial New Zealand Institute of Physics (NZIP) conference held in early July at the University of Waikato. 140 assorted researchers, professors and teachers gathered in wet, mid-winter Hamilton to celebrate the International Year of Light. Physics can be somewhat preoccupied with electromagnetic radiation in all its manifestations so most of the keynote speakers had no difficulty in organising their presentations around the theme. Those who could find no obvious connection to light (e.g. Inga Smith, University of Otago, who asked: “Why do so few women do physics?”) could always fall back on the hope that their contribution at least supplied illumination! On the Sunday before the conference, Richard Easther (The University of Auckland) opened proceedings with an enlightening public lecture outlining the history of our measurement of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Eugenia Etkina (Rutgers University) spoke on the Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE) system. This is an
Stewart Findlay’s entrancing homemade excitements.
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[A sharing forum] has to be an idea whose time has come, since the Government has abdicated all responsibility for course content in the schools it funds, leaving many to ask whether the NZIP should act as a clearing house of course options and advisor for the schools wallowing alone in a pic-‘n’-mix morass of competing objectives.” attempt to engage students in the processes by which natural sciences are advanced while delivering the knowledge content needed for further progress. Eugenia (assisted by Gorazd Planinsic from the University of Ljubljana) ran
an ISLE simulated lab session demonstrating the key principles of ISLE. The remaining contributions from the education sector were less obviously revolutionary while being more immediately applicable. Denis Burchill (The University of Auckland), Steve Chrystall (University of Waikato and Hamilton Boys’ High School), Tony Henderson (Whangarei Girls’ High), Jason Morgan (Morrinsville College) and Anna Yang (The University of Auckland) all demonstrated examples of basic physics incorporated in modern technology and suitable for inclusion as teaching material. Geoff Willmott (The University of Auckland), Steven Matheson (NZ International College), Marc Mack (Elim Christian School), Dave Thrasher (Takapuna Grammar School) and Darcy Fawcett (Gisborne Boys’ High School) passed on their experiences with a variety of web-based teaching and administrative programs that are likely to increase in popularity. Dave Corner (Pakuranga College), while reporting on the experimental organisation of his department, asked for and offered a ‘sharing forum’. This has to be an idea whose time has come, since the Government has abdicated all responsibility for course content in the schools it funds, leaving many to ask whether the NZIP should act as a clearing house of course options and advisor for the schools wallowing alone in a pic-‘n’-mix morass of competing objectives. Arguably the most important presentation of the conference was from Rainer Kunnermeyer (Waikato University) with his ‘Introduction to laser safety’. Laced with disturbing images of damaged retinas and backed up with simple power density calculations, Rainer not only convinced everyone to take extreme care (and precautions) when using lasers but also presented us with a great teaching opportunity. The final keynote address came from Ken Gledhill (GNS) who explained the need for and the importance of GeoNet, the 600+ sensors that provide the continuous data stream fuelling intensive earthquake research.
David Housden and Paul King, New Zealand Institute of Physics.
Standing committees 2015 REPORTs
N ew prog ra m m es fo r
school science technicians An experienced tertiary education provider, together with science technicians, has produced a new NZQA-registered programme to train others in the field. Real World Education’s DR PAUL DEMCHICK explains.
wo new programmes are being offered for technicians working in schools. These are: »» School Science Laboratory Technician Programme »» School Laboratory Manager Programme
As they have done in all learning areas, NZQA recently reviewed the non-degree science qualifications. It was clear that the qualifications as they existed would not serve the needs of school laboratory technicians or school laboratory managers. A review resulted in qualifications that are broad enough to be used in programmes serving those needs. The good news: there were suitable qualifications. The bad news: there were still no programmes focused on the technical and lab management needs of schools. At the review was a representative from my company, Real World Education Ltd. We are a specialist tertiary education provider that prepares laboratory technicians using a combination of highly interactive video lessons and training in partnering laboratories like Fonterra and the Cawthron Institute. Although these particular programmes do a great job of getting people ready for work in testing and
research laboratories, the needs of schools are different. However, there seemed to be enough of a match that we started investigating possibilities. Since we didn’t know enough about the school environment, a panel of talented technicians was put together to advise us. Programmes approval applications were submitted to NZQA. We now have approval for the School Science Laboratory Technician Programme, leading to the new New Zealand Certificate in Applied Science (Level 4) and the School Laboratory Manager Programme, leading to the New Zealand Diploma in Applied Science (Level 5). The science technician programme can be taken on its own or as the first part of the laboratory manager programme. Participants will have a full year (i.e. longer than a school year) to complete the science technician programme, and an additional year for the laboratory manager programme. Participants can finish the work at their own pace. Due to the nature of the course delivery, people can participate from anywhere in New Zealand.
Real World Education Ltd is a tertiary education provider.
Association of New Zealand
wo years of hard work by our conference organising committee came together to provide a wonderful experience for our members. Our conference was held in Nelson in October and it was a memorable event. We are grateful to Sheryl Fitzsimons and her Nelson team for making this possible. STANZ will have a new executive team shortly with some talented technicians putting up their hands for these leadership roles. The new executive will begin their two-year term after our AGM in October. Our constitution was updated by a panel of six members and an executive team leader. The new document was fine-tuned by the executive and registered with the Companies Office following the rules of an Incorporated Society. We increased the executive officers from seven to eight, and gave voting rights to the past president and co-opted executive committee members. Ten members including myself assisted in identifying content for two proposed courses of interest to science technicians. A basic
science technician course has been registered with NZQA, as has a more advanced lab manager qualification. STANZ is working with the provider to obtain a beneficial outcome for our members. We have redesigned our website with the focus on easy maintenance and navigation. The aim is to build a rich resource for technicians. To help us identify issues with the use of hazardous substances in education, we are conducting a survey focusing on the management of dangerous materials in science departments. The survey has been compiled by Ian deStigter and Michelle Kiernan. Executive members work together to connect with technicians newly entering the profession. Integrating new technicians into the association as early in their career as possible has benefits for them and for our organisation. Sixty new members have been registered in the past year.
Standing committees 2015 REPORTs
So many people have worked together to allow all these projects to flourish under the guidance of a very competent executive. It has been fantastic to work with so many people to create a better future for science technicians. Our subscription-based newsletter has grown in popularity over the past two years, and now has over 250 subscribers. The financial accounts are well managed and we have our first long-term investment. SciTechTalk is becoming a sought-after, problem-solving forum and is directly managed by our executive team. Communication with our 370+ membership has never been better. I know the new executive will be able to build on this success and will continue to meet the challenges for science technicians in a modern learning environment.
Terry Price, STANZ president
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Standing committees 2015 REPORTs
he Otago Science Teachers Association enjoys an active membership with regular meetings and events that span the full academic year. Monthly newsletter updates go out to all schools to keep members and non-members updated, and encourage attendance at OSTA, BEANZ and ChemEd events. The main event to report on this financial year was the successful hosting of SciCon 2014 in Dunedin, midwinter, held in conjunction with the 2014 International Science Festival. This was a tremendous success and recognition must be made of the huge job taken on by Steven Sexton, conference convener, and co-convener Pru Casey. The feedback from delegates was fabulous. All felt they got value for money and that participation was an uplifting experience and a recharge of batteries. They unanimously reported that inspiration was gained from the vast array of speakers, local and international, workshops and the university laboratory sessions on offer. Membership of the OSTA organising committee has remained stable with the University of Otago, Otago Museum, secondary school teachers, marine studies staff, and primary science teachers all active members. The contributions of Victoria Rosin, now departed to take up a teaching post in the USA, deserves mention. Victoria has long been
apital City Science Educators (CCSE) invites you to participate in SciCon2016 next winter. SciCon2016 will take place in Hutt City on 10–13 July, 2016. The theme is ‘Earth-shattering science!’ Set near Wellington in the ‘heartland of New Zealand science’, the beautiful Hutt Valley, SciCon16 is sure to be filled with interesting events and activities. Find more information on the event’s Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/1WeCnOp
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a supporter of OSTA activities, Science Fair, PD initiatives and committee tasks. Victoria put so much into our local science education community. Usual OSTA events continue to be held regularly throughout the year: our raft of quizzes and competitions continue with the addition of a year 13 senior science quiz. Thanks go to the leaders of our OSTA special projects: Science Fair, Primary Science Week and the Peter King Memorial Trophy Engage, Explore, Explain Primary Science initiative, Y10 Quiz, Y13 Quiz, Science Educators Quiz, Exam Smash and BEANZ and ChemEd ‘show and tell’ annual sessions. Members also host one-off events. This year Rachel Chisnall hosted a successful professional development evening for teachers interested in the use of social media in the science classroom. Rachel consistently extends her offer of support to anyone wanting to know more about digital learning strategies. She was fortunate to be selected to attend a Microsoft innovative educator course in Sydney, the focus of which was 21st century learning design and fostering creativity and innovation in teaching. Our regular annual professional development initiatives continue through OSTA. The ‘show and tell’ sessions for senior science teachers are successfully running for their third year, Murray Thomson LPHS,
Chem Ed/Px and Pru Casey BEANZ, OBHS. These are a popular event, as teachers of senior sciences evaluate their year’s work and share resources and experiences with colleagues from other schools. These are to be held in November. With visits from Jane Goodall and Lord Robert Winston, we can certainly be sure that Dunedin students have rubbed shoulders with some important science icons this year. Many thanks to Peter Dearden and Phil Bishop, who ensured our secondary students were included in the visit schedule of these eminent scientists. The ensuing collection of ‘selfies’ taken by students (and teachers!) are an indication of the significance of the contribution these household names have made to science. As a teachers’ association we can be sure that we are doing our best as volunteers to provide our local colleagues with networking and professional sharing opportunities. We are ready to contribute to support science initiatives, to assist in review of programmes, for example the recent review of the Marine Studies funding and programme deliveries, and the trial of online NCEA assessment. OSTA members are passionate and hard-working volunteers, and it’s a pleasure to be involved with such a collegial and positive group.
Pru Casey, OSTA
NZASE Overview East Coast (ECSTA)
Regional Branches (some areas) »» »» »» »»
Meetings, professional development Science fairs, quizzes Conference subsidies Social events
Central (CASE) Wellington (CCSE) (+$25-$30 per school)
Central Northland (CENTOS)
Auckland (ASTA) (+$20-$60 per school)
Canterbury (CSTA) (+$15-$100 per school)
New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) ($70-$240 per school)
»» »» »» »» »» »» »»
SCICON and special interest group conference sponsorship New Zealand Science Teacher journal; online articles and print edition Access to science tasks Notification of events and professional opportunities A national voice on issues affecting science teachers and technicians Representation on national Committees Access to Ministry curriculum contracts
Special Interest Groups (SIG) Ag/Hort (HATANZ) (+$25-$50 per school)
Physics (NZIP) (+$60 per teacher)
»» Website with assessments »» Resources, conferences, content
»» Advising and inspecting schools »» Website with resources (free) »» Outstanding classroom practitioner
Biology (BEANZ) (no extra cost to join)
Primary Science (NZAPSE) (no extra cost to join)
»» Assessment resources (for a fee) »» Microscopy resource (for a fee)
»» Primary Science Week »» Website with resources
Chemistry (NZIC) (no extra cost to join as a teacher)
Sustainability (NZAEE) (+$50 per school)
»» A range of free resources available »» Assessment resources (for a fee)
»» National Seaweek »» Conference, newsletter and resources
Earth & Space Science (ESSE) (no extra cost)
Technicians (STANZ) (+$20 per school)
»» Significant resource bank »» Assessment support
»» Conference »» Blog, newsletter and resources
See www.nzase.org.nz for more details and links to all the above.