We began our project in 2014, by trialing the effectiveness of our workshop concept with Year 6 students in targeted Auckland schools. Our pilot project was funded by the Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund and Futureintech (an initiative of IPENZ).
Find out more about this initiative at www.curiousminds.nz
Working through teacher 'champions' at a number of primary schools, we invite any interested students to attend our workshops together with one caregiver each. The workshop introduces topic-specific scientific concepts, for example, for DNA and genetics they perform the extraction of kiwifruit DNA with associated interactive games and role plays, followed by an awards ceremony.
We apply an internationally-tested and robust framework (http://www.ecsite.eu/activities-and-services/projects/feast) for the delivery of science and technology concepts, in an environment which allows participants to have fun, to question, to share and gain knowledge for themselves, all while actively performing a scientific technique.
The benefits include:
High engagement with the specific science concept being delivered
Reinforced recognition of the application of science in daily lives
More confidence to engage with science and technology concepts in everyday life
Increased willingness to discuss science-related topics at home
Increased willingness to pursue a career in science and technology.
The workshop also provides a forum for practitioners from the scientific community to debunk common misconceptions about their science and to link the purpose of their own research to existing social issues that affect the average New Zealander (e.g. health and medicine, environmental protection and biosecurity, quality control of food products, and criminal justice).
With this approach, we expect to gradually raise the level of interest in science-related current affairs across multiple generations, and to make science and technology accessible to communities who want more exposure to science beyond what the student has to learn in the classroom.