11 August, 2017
Sometimes an idea comes along that is so successful that you want to take it to the next level. This is what happened with the MacDiarmid Institute’s Kōrero with Scientists workshops, where teachers and MacDiarmid scientists spend two hours exploring basic physical science concepts like magnets, light, and acids and bases.
“We have had such consistently great enthusiastic feedback about Kōrero from primary school teachers and early childhood educators over the past three years. And the MacDiarmid Investigators really enjoy it too,” says MacDiarmid Deputy Director Associate Professor Nicola Gaston.
She says the problem became—how to extend this popular workshop to greater numbers of teachers (and therefore students).
“We ran successful workshops again in 2016 and the question clearly was—how do we build on the resources we already have but take it to a bigger audience? How do we increase young people’s engagement and involvement in physical sciences? There’s obviously an appetite—the teachers all report that the kids really get a kick out of the experiments we teach.”
Partnering with MacDiarmid Investigator Michelle Dickinson (A.K.A. Nanogirl) was one obvious choice.
“We partnered with the Nanogirl Live Tour 2016. There is strong synergy between our efforts towards increasing engagement and involvement in physical sciences, and Michelle’s work on public science literacy and engagement. And it was a chance to get the resources we’d developed for the Kōrero workshops out to a much bigger audience.“
The Nanogirl Live Show, Little Bang, Big Bang, toured seven centres nationally, playing to a combined audience of 9,868. The MacDiarmid science sponsorship helped the Nanogirl programme include free school visits (involving 10,491 students) in which the teaching materials from the MacDiarmid Kōrero workshops were used and distributed. 55% of the children in the audiences at the shows and school visits were female, and 59% were from decile 1-5 schools.
Associate Professor Gaston said that another avenue to expand Kōrero became apparent in the House of Science, which provides science resource kits and professional development to schools and teachers. Science resource kits (colloquially known as ‘science boxes’) are designed to engage students in hands-on science activities in the classroom. The kits comprise materials and instructions for teaching at all levels throughout the primary curriculum.
“The MacDiarmid Institute will sponsor eight of these boxes to House of Science branches throughout New Zealand,” Associate Professor Gaston said. “Our scientists are involved with designing the experiments and training the teachers. It just means that the Kōrero materials science experiments and teacher training can now go out on a much wider scale—to many more parts of New Zealand.”
House of Science CEO Chris Duggan said that having more science kits will mean the programme can be extended to other regions. “We’re thrilled about making the science boxes available to other parts of New Zealand. We get such wonderful feedback from teachers and students.”
Eight ‘MacDiarmid’ physical science boxes will be developed with resources involving light, acids and bases and magnets and the other materials which have been used for the Kōrero workshops.
Associate Professor Gaston says a vibrant future New Zealand needs people who understand the physical sciences—physical chemistry and physics. “We are excited that these science boxes will hopefully get kids interested in the physical sciences in particular. And Kōrero will continue to inspire new approaches to outreach. “We’ll continue to host workshops plus we have some other exciting developments in our sights for 2017.”
In 2016 the lead investigators for the Kōrero programme were MacDiarmid Principal Investigators Associate Professor Duncan Macgillivray (University of Auckland), Professor Eric Le Ru (Victoria University of Wellington) and Professor Paul Kruger (University of Canterbury).