It was a day out of the classroom for more than 700 Bay of Plenty students from 12 schools around the region.

The aim of STEM Curiosity Day is to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics challenges.

“Our STEM Curiosity Day is the first of its kind to be done in New Zealand,” organiser Tia Lush said.

Getting kids to solve problems “from the ground up”. Made with funding from NZ On Air.

“What’s unique about it is that we’re allowing lots of different schools to take part in one day while they are still being able to participate safely in their own locations.”

Tauranga-based charity STEM Wana is behind the event, which offers opportunities in STEM subjects through community-based events like this.

“We have given our schools and locations eight different STEM activities to take part in for the morning session. And in the afternoon, they’re going to build a Rube Goldberg simple machine which allows them to use all the skills they’ve learnt in the morning to enable them to deliver on an amazing engineering, scientific, technology feat in the afternoon,” Lush said.

Tapping into their curiosity at such a young age can open doors to future careers some won’t have even considered.

“STEM is already all around us and our young people and community are already doing Stem but they just don’t realise it.

“This is a way of opening their eyes to new possibilities and opportunities, and allowing them to see themselves doing Stem in a fun way, which will hopefully encourage them to be the future scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.”

One local teacher says events like this provide valuable learning experiences.

“It’s student-orientated, so the students get to do the tasks instead of watching a teacher do the tasks,” ACG Tauranga physics teacher Brent Smith said.

“Traditionally, Year 6 and 7 students, who are about 12 years old, don’t have a lot of exposure to STEM experiences. They learn stuff from text books or they have very high literacy or numeracy development but they don’t necessarily learn to think about problems from the ground up.”

That’s where the STEM Curiosity Day comes into play.

“Some of them are being challenged to use skills that they didn’t know they had, and the beaming smiles and excitement they have when they are able to solve a challenge that other people can’t, just really lights that passion for engineering and technology,” Smith said.

The charity recently opened a “STEM HQ” in Tauranga where students of all ages can sample the world of Stem for free.

“STEM Wana’s mission is to create a new generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians through innovative and creative STEM engagement,” Lush said.

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