Know the Science

In addition to developing our own kits in collaboration with EnviroSchools Wairarapa and Pukaha Wildlife Centre, the Ruamahanga Restoration Trust also sponsors House of Science Water Analysis Kits for use by local primary schools. We recently asked House of Science Wairarapa General Manager Amanda Taylor to introduce their school science program and to explain how and where the kits are used. 

What's the role of the House of Science here in the Wairarapa?

We are a community-led provider of science education services. We provide quality hands-on bilingual (Te Reo Māori and English) science kits covering a range of topics and teacher professional learning and development to primary and intermediate schools in the Wairarapa. We manage and maintain these science kits for the schools allowing them to provide their students with an immersive science class experience.

How many science kits do you have and what's the role of the Water Analysis Kit?

House of Science Wairarapa currently has a library that contains 56 science kits that cover 35 different science themes from the Water Analysis kit to Flexi Physics, Measurement Matter, Spaced Out, and A Load of Rubbish to name a few. New science kits are developed every year and we look for funding to be able to add these to our science library. The Water Analysis kit was developed to allow students to investigate and understand that a variety of factors affect the health of a stream/waterway through on-site hands-on learning.

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What are some of the key features of the Water Analysis kit?

The Water Analysis lets schools investigate the health of their local waterway. Many schools in the Wairarapa have a body of water nearby and this kit provides all the equipment needed to test water quality from pH, turbidity, nitrate, and flow, to invertebrate (insect) guides and their use as ecological indicators of environmental health.

How and where are the kits being used? What is the level of demand for them here in the Wairarapa?

House of Science Wairarapa was started in 2019 and fast forward a few years House of Science Wairarapa now operates a library of 56 science kits with 35 different topics for 27 schools in the Wairarapa from Mauriceville down to Pirinoa. These include primary schools, intermediate schools, colleges that start at year 7, and a supported learning centre. In 2022, a science kit was at a Wairarapa school 395 times, an average of 21 science kits each fortnight. In 2022, we also expanded to include schools from the Tararua District.

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How does this help the schools and teachers, over and above what they can provide themselves?

Science is not directly funded in primary schools and many schools lack the resources, and the teachers confidence, to teach science. The science kits all align with the NZ education curriculum and aim to foster student engagement and understanding, and teacher confidence to teach science. Guided by their students’ interests, teachers order a bilingual science kit which is then delivered to their school by volunteers. Science is a resource-heavy subject and our science kits contain 5-8 hands-on experiments for Year 1-8 students with everything a teacher needs to deliver an engaging science lesson included in the kits, including consumables for 30 students and bilingual student and teacher instructions. Once the science kit is returned to us, our volunteers clean and re-stock the science kit with all the consumables required for the activities before the science kit heads back out to another school.

What are some of the key takeaways for the students themselves? What do they learn from using these kits?

The nature of the experiments in our science kits allows for hands-on learning which all students can enjoy, regardless of their learning style. Our science kits harness the natural curiosity of children, encouraging them to experiment and use their own observations to develop ideas and assumptions. It’s important that all students can access our science kits no matter their learning environment or where they live.

How important is it to have funding support for these science kits?

Science builds key skills such as critical thinking, questioning, and problem-solving. Providing hands-on learning that uses children’s natural curiosity helps to demystify science and encourages more children to participate in science-based courses throughout their schooling.  Research has shown that by the age of 10, students have decided what career they will not pursue when they leave school (ASPIRES project, UCL, UK) so starting young is essential. In 2017, the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement found that only 20% of students in Year 8 were achieving at or above science curriculum expectations. In the recent TIMSS, the science scores for both Year 5 and Year 9 New Zealand students fell from the last time the test was conducted in 2014/15. New Zealand’s Education Review Office also concluded in 2012 that most primary and intermediate schools did not have a satisfactory science programme in place. House of Science Wairarapa helps address this issue by providing teachers with the knowledge, skills, and resources to teach science. As everything is provided in the science kit, the teacher doesn’t need specialised knowledge, to research the topic, or to purchase any equipment.