Ngati Whakaue, through Te Taumata o Ngati Whakaue Trust, is calling on local businesses to help support science in Rotorua schools.
In a joint venture with Tauranga-based company House of Science, the Rotorua iwi is trialling ready-made science resource kits in Rotorua schools and if the pilot scheme is successful, is hoping to have 10 available for use by 2016.
Te Taumata’s Matakokiri project researcher Eva Tait said the iwi would seek sponsorship from Rotorua businesses to help buy the resource kits.
“We want to make Rotorua the science hub of New Zealand and this is a simple way for local businesses to get involved. We want to support teachers to incorporate science into their lessons, but many of our schools are having to work with outdated resources. The ready-made kits have everything a teacher could need,” Ms Tait said.
The House of Science kits cover themes in biology, chemistry, physics and food science, and are being trialled at Glenholme Primary, Kawaha Point School, Rotorua Intermediate and Rotorua Primary School.
Ms Tait said the scheme was an extension of the successful Matakokiri science and technology series of wananga run by Ngati Whakaue for learners aged 7 to 14. “We want to inspire our youth to study sciences and instill in them the understanding that science is all around us. The ready-made kits are an easy way of encouraging and supporting teachers to include more science in their classrooms. We augment the kits with local content and matauranga Maori (tribal knowledge),” she said.
“For example, if the children are doing a study of water, we may add in a component involving our local streams
and what’s important to us in Rotorua. Localising the knowledge and telling a story, or giving the information
about whakapapa works well and makes it relevant for our kids. We still teach the same concepts, but through a
cultural lens,” Ms Tait said.
One Rotorua business had already stepped up and was helping to develop a kit involving robotics. “They want to be a part of helping our youth become interested in those types of careers,” she said.
Te Taumata general manager Roana Bennett said the kits were a natural progression of the iwi education strategy that aims to raise educational achievement for Ngati Whakaue learners, and all learners within the tribal rohe (district). “Science is an exciting field of study and has the potential to engage kids and keep them in school for longer. It is the pathway to 60 per cent of career opportunities, if not more.”
Ms Bennett rejects the stereotyping of Maori learners as only being good with their hands and not academic. “That is a myth that was debunked decades ago. It is disappointing to still hear adults refer to this cliche. All learners should have the opportunity to go on to whatever career that inspires them. The real issue is to ensure that science is a valid option for all learners – and that includes Maori learners.
“We will do what we can to support the schools to include more science in the classroom. This is our expression
of tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) and one way we are supporting schools within our tribal boundary.”
By Matthew Martin