Programme underway to improve science teaching in primary schools
With the quality of science teaching in primary schools in New Zealand under the spotlight, thirteen primary school teachers are part way through a teacher fellowship programme to help develop their science teaching skills.
One of those teachers is Wendy Hogg from Kapanui School in Waikanae.
Wendy Hogg has spent the last 10 years teaching at Kapanui School across a number of different levels but mainly year 5/6. Prior to this, Wendy worked in agricultural consultancy both in New Zealand and latterly in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Two organisations are hosting Wendy during her Teacher Fellowship. They will provide support and learning opportunities on a number of levels. Dr Leon Perrie, curator of Botany at Te Papa will train Wendy to identify, GPS position, photograph and classify ferns. Bruce Benseman, manager at Nga Manu Nature Reserve will involve Wendy in the day to day activities at Nga Manu including helping to establish a fern educational resource for the centre's new classroom. She will also be seeking to find, photograph and identify ferns that are specific to the Kapiti Coast to add to the Te Papa information resources.
Wendy is looking forward to discovery and new learning. She is particularly excited by the prospect of finding out about primitive botanic plants and the possibility of discovering new species. Working in a local community will assist in taking new science learning back to the classroom later in the year and beyond. A world of wonder awaits!
The teachers are spending the first two terms of 2012 as Primary Science Teacher Fellows, under a scheme administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation..
Science education in primary schools has been under discussion after the Education Review Office released a report at the start of May that shows that only 27 per cent of schools have effective or generally effective science programmes for Years 5 to 8 students.
Around 100 teachers have been through the Primary Science Teacher Fellowship programme, since it began in 2009.. The programme was started following a report in 2008 from the National Education Monitoring Project, which highlighted a downwards trend in the attitudes of primary aged students towards science.
Under the scheme, teachers take leave from their schools to work with researchers at host organisations and learn more about science
"The goal is to make these teachers science curriculum leaders," says Richard Meylan, Manager – Education at the Royal Society of New Zealand.
"One of the conditions of the fellowships is that the principal and school must be fully behind the teachers and willing to make science a focus for the year following the fellowship.
"We hope the experiences the teachers have during their fellowships and the commitment the schools make to science will have a long-lasting positive effect on science teaching in these primary schools."
The research topics for this group of teachers include dolphin monitoring, geology and earthquake studies, onion and fern research, conservation projects, dairying and physical exercise in athletes.
Host organisations for this group of teachers include organisations such as NIWA, Lincoln University, Department of Conservation, and GNS.
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