The Northern Advocate

Hands-on science camp at marae thrills Te Hiku tamariki


A recent marae-based science wānanga was aimed to make an impact on not just students and teachers, but the wider Te Hiku community — which is expected to depend on the retention of environmen­tal expertise in order to adapt to climate change.

The week of learning at Tūhura Papatūānuk­u Geo Noho aimed to improve young Māori’s access to science resources, and to generate excitement about science, te reo Māori and Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) — all while teaching practical lessons about the environmen­t (te taiao).

The latest noho took place for the second time this year at Ngāi Takoto’s Waimanoni Marae in Awanui, with learnings based around central themes of environmen­tal change and the water and carbon cycles.

The experience was co-designed and co-delivered by Far North REAP — which delivers education opportunit­ies to rural communitie­s — and Te Aho Tū Roa — a Māori culture, language and wisdom programme for education and community settings — as well as Te Rarawa and GNS Science/Te Pū Ao.

According to Joanne Murray, of Te Aho Tū Roa, Te Hiku must work to retain its brightest minds for the sake of communitie­s’ survival, and this was an objective of the noho.

“We need scientists from here. For too long we’ve lost people to Australia and Auckland and for us it’s about keeping people home,” Murray said.

“We need them here to come up with solutions for our people, who will be impacted by climate change.

“We want to be able to put our homes up here and have someone who can find solutions we need, like finding the aquifers and keeping them healthy.

“We’ve had a fair few droughts and we need people with that speciality. “Water is blue gold up here.

“It is critical for all our iwi.” Murray also said she believed Far North tamariki shouldn’t miss out on these educationa­l experience­s because they live remotely.

“They should have some of the top scientists and geologists in front of them to help consolidat­e their learning, as well as marry it up with Mātauranga Māori.” “So that’s what we did.”

“Geo Noho is about not just Western science perspectiv­es.”

“It’s about mātauranga Māori, kōrero tuku iho (histories) and atuatanga Māori as well.

“Our tūpuna (ancestors) were scientists in their own right, and we should be sharing both bodies of knowledge at the same time.

Murray also explained the noho’s intention to encourage kaiako (teachers) to learn more about teaching the sciences.

“We want teachers to walk away with the confidence to teach this in the classrooms once they’ve left here.”

“And also to understand that our tūpuna had this valid body of knowledge and for too long, it has been undermined — and it still is.

“It’s important for us to put it out there more often.”

Eight kura (schools) sent five or six Year 7-8 students each, and their teachers, to take part.

Over the noho, tauira (students) engaged with inquiry-based, hands-on experienti­al learning through field trips, which were followed by lessons back at the marae, often looking at what they had collected during the day.

One field trip took place at Lake Ngatu and included a lake coring demonstrat­ion, showing what can be learnt from studying the layers of sediment (mud and silt) in the lakes to help protect the health of the lake.

Another at Ahipara on Te Oneroaa- Tō hē - Ninety Mile Beach asked students to construct sandcastle­s and draw contour lines onto them, dig for groundwate­r, construct their own boreholes and measure groundwate­r salinity.

According to GNS Science’s Sonja Bermudez, when the kids first arrive they are anxious and apprehensi­ve, but soon they begin to blossom.

“By the end of the week they are asking truckloads of questions and talking about science concepts with confidence,” she said.

Far North REAP’s Selena Bercic said the opportunit­y was to make these purely science-based camps into something more meaningful and conducive for Māori learners.

“I was introduced to a Geo Camp that GNS ran five and half years ago and I was amazed by the kōrero and the informatio­n they were being fed.”

“But I could also see the connection to Mātauranga Māori that wasn’t yet being explored.

“We incorporat­e mātauranga Māori, while giving them the marae experience of local histories, whakapapa, iwi history and origins, as well as the geology and significan­ce of our own areas and Kaitiakita­nga.”

Bercic explained how the programme took existing science curriculum from GNS Science and improved the te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori.

“We were also able to find and compose waiata (songs) that were pertinent to geology.”

“For some of the kids, it was their first introducti­on to a lot of bigger words.

“And learning through waiata reo makes it a bit easier for the students.

“We also bring in local kaumātua and kuia that work in the taiao in our areas, showing them the kaitiakita­nga and Kaupapa that had been in the area and not just in the large centres,” Bercic said.

GNS Science senior geologist Kyle Bland said it was truly inspiring to work with passionate community leaders who are dedicated to creating and providing opportunit­ies for their people.

“The time and effort they put in to so many different kaupapa is quite humbling.”

Bland explained that what Geo Noho has taught him will in fact benefit the community.

“Through working with the community, my perspectiv­e on many issues has changed.

“I’ve become more aware of circumstan­ces within Te Hiku, and why communitie­s approach certain issues the way they do.

“This has helped us understand the real issues within the community, which has enabled us to better guide, develop, and focus the types of science research and educationa­l kaupapa that are needed in the Far North.”

The experience was made possible by the Ministry of Education’s Whānau Engagement Fund, with support from Te Rarawa Anga Mua — a charitable trust that aims to advance the iwi’s social, environmen­tal, cultural and economic wellbeing.

 ?? PHOTO / RYAN WILLOUGHBY GNS ?? Students at the Geo Noho science camp with topography models they created by shaping real sand, which were then augmented in real time.
PHOTO / RYAN WILLOUGHBY GNS Students at the Geo Noho science camp with topography models they created by shaping real sand, which were then augmented in real time.

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