Tak­ing science on the road


‘‘It's great. It's a dif­fer­ent way of learn­ing and a dif­fer­ent way to en­gage [the stu­dents].’’

Some of the coun­try’s top boffins and a con­verted ship­ping con­tainer are chang­ing the way kids look at science.

‘‘Lab in a Box’’ is a science lab­o­ra­tory built in­side a 20 foot ship­ping con­tainer and has been tour­ing North Is­land schools since March.

This week the kids at Ko­raunui School in Lower Hutt have been us­ing the por­ta­ble ed­u­ca­tional re­source to get a first­hand look at bi­ol­ogy.

Teacher Dianne Chris­ten­son said the lab was a great ad­di­tion to the stu­dents’ cur­ricu­lum and gave them ac­cess to equip­ment and ex­pert knowl­edge they did not have in the class­room.

‘‘It’s great. It’s a dif­fer­ent way of learn­ing and a dif­fer­ent way to en­gage [the stu­dents].’’

Lab in a Box is an ini­tia­tive started about two years ago by Otago Univer­sity as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Peter Dear­den as a way of tak­ing science to schools. It is funded by a Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment Un­lock­ing Cu­ri­ous Minds grant.

The lab is trans­ported by truck and tar­gets mostly schools in ru­ral or iso­lated ar­eas that do not have ready ac­cess to spe­cial­ist sci­en­tific learn­ing re­sources.

Re­search fel­low Dr Miriam Sharpe and pro­fes­sional prac­tice fel­low Shar Rae-Whit­combe of the Univer­sity of Otago De­part­ment of Bi­ol­ogy are the two sci­en­tists tak­ing bio­chem­istry ses­sions at Ko­raunui School be­tween Novem­ber 13 and 17.

They are help­ing stu­dents un­der­stand the mol­e­cules that make up liv­ing things.

‘‘It’s ex­cit­ing to get kids into this stuff. It’s a won­der­ful thing to bring science into schools and to show science isn’t be­yond their reach,’’ Sharpe said.

Vic­to­ria Univer­sity brought Lab in a Box to the North Is­land and science fa­cil­i­ta­tor Suz Bassett said she had taken the lab as far north as Ka­haroa.

They had taught a range of sub­jects from the lab such as chem­istry, pest trap­ping, study­ing in­ver­te­brates and a spe­cial ex­am­i­na­tion of wasps and bees.

The lab was equipped with mi­cro­scopes, a full chem­istry lab, high-speed cam­eras and tele­scopes. The next stop for Lab in a Box was Avalon School.

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