“In 2012, the Education Review Office published an article saying that 73 per cent of New Zealand’s primary and intermediate schools did not have an effective science programme in place – I was horrified.”

Mrs Duggan spent a decade as the Head of Science at Tauranga Girls’ College.

She says by the time students reach secondary school – teachers are forced to scramble to get them through NCEA Level 1 – and that pressure-cooker learning can put students off the sciences.

“Students were coming to me in Year 9 saying that they’d never done science, and that it wasn’t for them because it is only for the clever kids. Science is part of our curriculum and I was thinking surely this isn’t the case…”

But Mrs Duggan is worried schools such as Tauranga Intermediate, which has a roll of nearly 1300, have only one science specialist working with students.

She understands that – on average – students at the school receive just seven hours of science-focused learning in a year.

Local Focus contacted Tauranga Intermediate School Principal Brian Diver to ask whether this average was true, but he refused to comment.

However, Board of Trustees Chairperson Kiri Diamond says the school is engaging in up-skilling for mainstream teachers through their on-site science specialist.

Though Ms Diamond wouldn’t confirm students average just seven hours of lab time per year – but she says teachers are taking their students on excursions to discuss natural science in the area.

And – she says the school is constantly seeking to proactively improve this part of its curriculum.

Mrs Duggan says students from schools across the Western Bay have engaged in after school programmes to boost their scientific learning.

She also developed a range of ‘black boxes’ and distributed these to 55 of 68 schools across the Western Bay, which teachers use as an aide to teach their students about fundamental science from a young age.

“I took the box to primary school principals and asked if something like this was available – with us looking after it, maintaining it and collecting it – would you be interested. They couldn’t get on board soon enough.”

The business has flourished, and with the support of The Wright Foundation, has been able to branch out to other parts of the country.

Source: NZ Herald

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