Inspired by science

  In collaboration with educators from across the sector TheWaterGenie, a water management system that will allow households using rainwater tanks to better manage their use, has been working on a range of resources and projects that will further encourage an understanding of, and passion for science in the wider community. 

THE LEARNING HUB on The MacDiarmid Institute’s website serves as an evolving collection of informative links and educational resources which provide science teachers with tools to inspire their students of any age.  Recently, a video project was undertaken to address the “Nature of Science” – the overarching, unifying strand of the New Zealand science curriculum.  Scientists from across the Institute – from Professors to PhD students were asked about their life as a scientist. What made them want to become a scientist? What do they love about it? What do they actually do? Each scientist is thoroughly engaging as they bring a different perspective and unique passion to their story.

The Best 100 Science Experiments

Earlier in the year, the Institute in conjunction with (what was then) The New Zealand Teachers Council launched a competition to find The Best 100 Science Experiments for Kiwi classrooms. The judges were looking for simple, fun, fail-safe experiments that used readily available equipment.  “The Institute is committed to engendering a passion for science and innovation across New Zealand society,” says Institute Director Kate McGrath. “We want to work with teachers at all levels to identify the needs of the community and to help foster and develop a love and understanding of science. We believe that capturing the minds and imaginations of children is the best place to start laying the foundation of curiosity that is at the heart of all scientific endeavour. These experiments will help to do that”.  Primary school teachers from around the country entered their experiments, with 53 winning a place in the “Experiment Bank”. The competition will run again next year, with 100 experiments being the end goal. The Institute is now in the process of building a database of the experiments, which will be available to download from The Learning Hub over time.

Pounamu

FOR 24 HOURS in August, New Zealanders from around the world came together to play Pounamu – a free, online game set in a future world where EVERYONE in New Zealand can use science as easily as they can use a computer now. Pounamu was a collaboration between The MacDiarmid Institute, Dr Stephanie Pride of StratEDGY Strategic Foresight and Professor Shaun Hendy. The game was run with the support of the Institute for the Future on their ‘Foresight Engine.’ Pounamu was sponsored and supported by all of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence. Together, using short micro forecasts (like twitter) players explored the many innovative and exciting things we could create and pursue given the resources we already have; land, people, knowledge, and connections. They explored the darker futures and what might lead us towards or away from them.

Conversation starters included:

Network visualisation of the winning conversation “What if all science was taught in te reo Māori?” courtesy of Dion O’Neale, Callaghan Innovation.

    “What if all science was taught in te reo Māori?” “In 2023 most diseases would be prevented rather than cured” “In 2023 schools will use visualisations that will show biological, physical, chemical processes in 3D making learning fun and effective” “If everyone has access to and understanding of science in 2023, NZ will be a more secular nation” “Iwi retain IP rights to locally sourced botanical pharmaceuticals. Royalty earnings used to create world standard in education and training”          

Threads covered the gamut of health, education, climate change, knowledge transfer, food production, genetic engineering, and the science of te reo. “The most exciting thing about the Pounamu conversation, is that it’s inter- generational” says Shaun Hendy. “We had children as young as seven, university professors, bankers and librarians – New Zealanders from all walks of life thinking about future problems and solutions together, and that’s really powerful. In total, 6986 forecasts were posted by over 350 highly-engaged players – many were teams in schools and the public playing “hubs” provided by organisations like Te Papa, Otago Museum and various libraries around the country. There was also an exciting level of engagement from workplaces, for example, a team of strategic business analysts from KiwiBank lead a discussion on what banking might look like in 2023. Outside of the game the conversation continued, with #Pounamu trending on Twitter, and many carrying on the threads well after the game was over:   One girl said she “sucked at science” at 3:30, has been seriously engrossed in #Pounamu for an hour! Go team lady scientists! @toryhipster

Thanks to #Pounamu I now hold the opinion that people formally studying #Science should learn other languages. @reaverbait   Cool that #Pounamu players engage with what gives these Islands so much of our unique creative & social potential –  @EdNZ

Well done, #Pounamu! And congratulations to all the 8 year olds who beat me! @geniesa   An innovative use of social media to promote blue-sky thinking in NZ! #Pounamu   @Dr2go   Thanks to #Pounamu, I now believe that there is a huge amount to be gained from not narrowing fields of education so early @markboynz “Science no longer ‘a profession’, but part of all professions. No 1 calls themselves a scientist anymore, because EVERY1 is 1.”#Pounamu @mahelona  For more about Pounamu and to read the blogs and discussions the game generated  visit pounamu.gen.nz   Follow @MacDiarmidInsti on Twitter