Whāea Emily delves into dna with Te Rangihakahaka students

Published on Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Strawberries, rubbing alcohol, salt and detergent… the ingredients for an interesting cocktail? Or a DNA experiment?

Armed with a bag of frozen strawberries, Emily Telfer, aka Whāea Emily, showed 80 tamariki from Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology how to extract DNA using common household items.

Te Rangihakahaka is the new partnership kura run by Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho-Ake (Te Taumata) in Rotorua. They’re the first ‘school’ in Aotearoa to combine a focus on science and technology with identity, language and culture in this way. Their theme for term one is whakapapa and DNA.

Te Rangihakahaka principal Renee Gilles says that students will be engaged in a hands-on style of working with people who are working in the field – like Emily.

Renee explains that DNA is a fitting place to start, “Our first term is about whakapapa. It’s all about who we are and who they (the students) are and, like Emily has explained, everything begins with DNA.”

Emily worked with their teaching team to develop the kaupapa for the term and to run the strawberry DNA extraction at the first wananga at Para te Hoata (Tunohopu) Marae in Ohinemutu, Rotorua.

After their first week at Para te Hoata (Tunohopu), students will return to their classrooms where the hands-on style of learning will continue.

Renee says, “We have practical tasks but we also want to engage with people doing science, so it becomes relevant. We want our kids to know that there are real people doing these things – that these are the jobs they can have. That we’re not doing an experiment for the sake of doing an experiment. Experiences like this can lead on to something for these children’s lives.”

Emily says, “It’s so important for the next generation to embrace science literacy and not just in a western context, I’m incredibly proud to be involved in this ground-breaking learning endeavor.”

According to Renee, Emily is a great inspiration for students, “We just found her so inspiring for our tamariki – she magnifies all that passion and love for the sciences and gets our tamariki excited about it, and that’s what we want. For them to know that they too, can be a scientist just like Emily.”

The theme for term two is Ara Ahi, focusing on the geothermal landscape around Rotorua.

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