Māori students go beyond science theory

left: Mr Stock, and Year 11 students from Hato Pāora College - Rongomau Whaanga and Jett Tumataroa (Credit: Te Tumu Paeroa).

Māori secondary school students tried their hand at analysing fruit flies, product design and future planning at Massey University’s Manawatū campus last week. 

The workshop was part of the Pūhoro STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Academy; a programme established to expand tertiary and career options for rangatahi (youth) Māori by providing opportunities for them to consider science-based study and employment opportunities.

This is the third workshop for students this year and the day saw them participating in interactive lectures and analysing the genetics of Drosophila (fruit flies).

Students were asked to identify differences in eye colour of the fruit flies, and traits that may be linked to male or female flies.

Massey senior tutor Paul Stock says relating the theory to practical experiments is key to the learning process.

“The work relates to the theory behind NCEA achievement standards, so that students may get some hands-on experience in the lab that may aid their learning in the classroom – but also to see what university labs and equipment will look like,” says Mr Stock, of the Institute of Fundamental Sciences.

Director of Academy Programmes Naomi Manu says, “We want to see rangatahi Māori engage with science in society and achieve their NCEA qualifications. Access to Massey’s learning environment, exposure to STEM-related careers and innovation, and whanaungatanga between a large group of like-minded rangatahi, whānau and Massey staff builds a community that nurtures Māori success. Facilitating that experience is key to this programme’s aim and we love seeing kids really engage.”

Along with the practical session, students also participated in an interactive lecture-style problem solving session with industry professionals. DNA Service Innovation director Chris Jackson gave an interactive design session where he took students from an idea to a completed project of their own.

Ministry of Primary Industries technical supervisor Dr Chris Rodley spoke about his career as a scientist and entertained the room with his life story. One that saw him go from a fifth form dropout to undertaking a post doctoral fellowship in Switzerland.

Dr Rodley spoke of his fondness for science and discovery. “When you discover something that nobody else has seen – it’s an amazing feeling and one that I treasured, but science is hard graft and that feeling is only 0.01 per cent of the time.”  

“Don’t muck around like I did, put your head down, get into it and learn, you’ll have fun with it.”

Year 11 from Hato Pāora College students Te Ohorere Te Teira-Taylor and Logan Simons.

Making a difference

The Academy supports students from year 11 through to university, with extra tutoring on a fortnightly basis, laboratory space for schools without their own facilities, support selecting qualification standards at school, and field trip opportunities.

The programme is funded by Massey University and Te Puni Kōkiri with support from the Palmerston North City Council, Te Tumu Paeroa and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

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