17 Feb 2017

Eureka! Why science is good for primary kids

From Nine To Noon, 9:30 am on 17 February 2017
Two children doing a science experiment

Photo: Supplied

Fed up with primary students' poor grasp of science, Chris Duggan, a secondary school science teacher in Tauranga, took action.

She’s set up House of Science, a charity which produces and distributes science resource kits - big blue boxes (80-litre fish bins) full of hands-on science experiments.

“Each box has five experiments in it and the boxes are themed - there’s a flight box, a robot box, a food science box, a plant box.”

Duggan says as well as making science fun, it’s about raising science literacy.

“It’s shocking that three-quarters of our students can go through primary school and get to secondary school not having learnt any science whatsoever.

“I was horrified, to be honest, at the lack of science students had when they came into high school at Year 9, not only lack of knowledge but also their attitude was quite negative.”

And the science kits are working.

“We’ve only been going three years but we can quantifiably say students are changing their attitudes to science after just having a box in their class room for one week we can see a positive shift in their attitudes.

“In Tauranga alone we have over 2,000 children a week using our boxes. Multiply that by 40 weeks of the year you can see the impact this is having. The sheer number of people signing up for this is phenomenal.”

If New Zealand wants to close the innovation gap which separates us from other advanced economies we have to get young minds thinking scientifically, Duggan says.

By exposing children to science early “slowly we’re getting them to think like scientists”.

The House of Science has spread to more regions and has just picked up its first national sponsor - The MacDiarmid Institute.