Primary Science Week outreach: Inspiring a new generation of scientists

Take 5 primary schools, 3 Te Papa educators and 5 curators and combine them with a ute-full of science gear, 30 litres of liquid nitrogen and a big bowl of slime,  and what do you have?

That would be Te Papa’s Primary Science Week outreach programme! For 5 days in May we visited schools in the Wellington Region and delivered interactive science demonstrations and curator talks for the students and professional development workshops for teachers. The result was loads of students excited about science and teachers keen to get more science into their classrooms.

The five lucky schools were Postgate, Fergusson intermediate, Otari, Dyer Street and Khandallah and were chosen from over 70 applications.

At each school, the children got to watch an hour long science show as well as meet a curator and find out about all the cool things that our scientists get to do!

For all the students the science shows explored ‘what is science?’. The younger students then made observations and predictions about slime, balloons and different fluids all the while having a great time. For the older students, it was all about liquid nitrogen – freezing things, breaking things and making things go bang!

 

Educator Scott Ogilvie teaching the students of Dyer Street School about liquid nitrogen and balloons. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

Educator Scott Ogilvie teaching the students of Dyer Street School about liquid nitrogen and balloons. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

The students got right into it and embraced the idea that being a scientist is all about asking questions.

The students at Dyer Street School had lots of questions about liquid nitrogen. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

The students at Dyer Street School had lots of questions about liquid nitrogen. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

Each class at the five schools also got to meet one of curators and find out first-hand what it’s like to be a scientist. Mel Dash (Audience engagement) and Troy Murphy (Education) were on hand to help out if any of the students came in with any really curly questions – but as expected, our curators were brilliant!

On the Monday, the students at Postgate School got to meet botany curator, Leon Perrie. They learned all about ferns and one of Leon’s trips to Australia where he got attacked by leeches!

Tuesday saw researcher Lara Shepherd come with us to Fergusson Intermediate. Here she told students how she was using DNA to identify penguin heads found in the stomachs of toothfish in the Ross Sea.

Invertebrates curator Ricardo Palma came with us on Wednesday to Otari School. The students there learned all about insects through Ricardo’s amazing stories!

On Thursday we visited Dyer Street School where vertebrate curator, Alan Tennyson spent the day talking to the students about fossils.

Vertebrate curator Alan Tennyson showing students a moa bone at Dyer Street School. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

Vertebrate curator Alan Tennyson showing students a moa bone at Dyer Street School. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

Students were given the opportunity to have some hands-on experience with a variety of different bones and fossils including a Moa bone!

Students holding a moa bone at Dyer Street School. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

Students holding a moa bone at Dyer Street School. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

Finally, on Friday students from Khandallah School were graced by the presence of invertebrate curator Rick Webber. Students had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of different crabs and crustaceans including a king crab and a coconut crab.

Invertebrates curator Rick Webber telling the students of Khandallah School about crustaceans. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

Invertebrates curator Rick Webber telling the students of Khandallah School about crustaceans. Photographer: Troy Murphy © Te Papa

At the end of each day we ran a professional development workshop for the teachers. Over 60 teachers tried out over 15 hands-on science activities that could be done in the classroom with the students. These workshops saw teachers making lava lamps, launching ‘rockets’ and making musical instruments (of sorts).

Teachers at Khandallah School making lava lamps. Photographer:  Pippa Grant, Khandallah School

Teachers at Khandallah School making lava lamps. Photographer: Pippa Grant, Khandallah School

By the end of the week 1400 students and over 60 teachers had participated. The students walked away feeling more excited about science while many teachers commented they now felt more confident to teach science in their classrooms.

To sum up the week in 5 words: Fun. Challenging. Engaging. Rewarding. Successful.

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