Young scientists delve into natural hazards

Delving into natural hazards

Delving into natural hazards

YOUNG SCIENTISTS: Students listen intently during a field trip to the Waipaoa River at Kanakanaia Bridge.
Local students make observations of a 2000-year-old Pouawa tsunami deposit. Pictures by Julian Thomson

UNLOCKING young curious minds to learn about how natural hazards affect their environment, was the focus of science workshops held in Tairawhiti schools recently.

Facilitated by GNS Science, the first two of four Tairawhiti workshops were held at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga and Te Karaka Area School.

GNS Science - Te Pu Ao, is a national organisation that provides earth, geoscience and isotope research, and whose purpose is to understand natural earth system processes and resources, and to translate these into economic, environmental and social benefits.

Julian Thomson of GNS Science said the three-day ‘Unlocking Curious Minds’ workshops, had a hands-on approach to learning about natural hazards that have had an impact on the local region.

“Our focus is on natural hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and rockfalls.

“We’re using a hands-on way of trying to understand the way the earth can be hazardous, and the best way we can think of doing experiments to learn good ways to protect ourselves in the future.

“We experimented how to safeguard the beach from erosion. The students built walls in plastic tubs and we sloshed water against the sand dune that they were protecting to see if and how the water would damage these things. There are all sorts of mixed results.

“We went to Wainui Beach and saw the impact of erosion on the beach. The students could directly see various things that people have tried to protect the sand dunes. They were able to see whether they were successful or not.

“That was a way of seeing how an experiment can have a real life value.

“We also went to Pouawa Beach where we looked at tsunami deposits. An ancient tsunami had washed up into that area.

“The students made careful observations and measured the deposits to see what tsunamis do to the land.

“We looked into rockfall protection, to see how we could build a barrier to protect houses. The students had a go at using different materials to build a barrier in their plastic tubs and then tested them.

“We also had a drone and we flew it above a landslide. We could see much more (using the drone) than we could from the ground. They learned a little bit about technology, and the value of technology to help us make observations.”

Localised science learning was especially put to the test at the Te Karaka workshop, which had a focus on the recent flooding event of the Te Karaka area. Once again the plastic tubs were put to use and the students created stop bank models and tested them out.

The students also went on a field trip to the Waipaoa River, near the Kanakanaia Bridge, to make observations on how the flooding affected the riverbank and surrounding land.

Mr Thomson said the focus of these workshops was on rural schools, who don’t usually get the chance to have these types of experiences.

“There are four workshops in total in Tairawhiti for the intermediate age-group of 11-12 year olds.

“The remaining two workshops will be in September, at Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria.

“We’ve looked at questions of what do scientists do, how do they think, how do they experiment, how do they record results — to get them in the mind of a scientists.

“But as much as possible, to keep them engaged, we’ve made it hands on.

“For us as scientists we love to engage with young people because we see the future.

“Its valuable, even if none of these students become scientists. We think its valuable that they appreciate the purpose of science, why we need to know, why we need to do research.

“The kids have been really enthusiastic, asking good questions and have been really good at focusing.

“We also appreciate having teachers part of the workshops, because we hope that they will be able to take some of these things back into the classroom, have more experiments and spread the activity wide.”

One of the teachers who participated was Tui Vazey of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga.

She said the workshop at the local kura, saw matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) of the environment meet western science.

“Our kids already have their own matauranga, and this workshop was adding to it, not taking anything away from it. It was about gaining a deeper understanding.

“I think the name of the course, ‘Unlocking Curious Minds’, is exactly what it is.

“It’s about our kids making their own connections with their world, in their own environment with what they already know and with this new information.

“They looked at the hazards that affect us in our communities, how we can understand them, and look at how we can prevent damage to our environment and ourselves.

“We as kaiako (teachers) can help them make those connections with what they already know. The best thing too is that its hands-on, and that’s how anyone loves to learn.”

Mr Thomson acknowledged that matauranga Maori was often complimentary with science.

“We’re all after the same aim which is to understand the world around us, and a story helps you understand.

“The science process is still about finding stories, by starting fresh, measuring with our eyes, carefully observing. We’re coming up with an explanation which is a story.

“We try to ensure that we really appreciate the students stories, which have been passed down to them about how the land and hills were formed.

“We’re always interested to know about the local stories and histories of the places we visit, and we pull the two together.

“They’re really valuable because they often do have the same underlying message.

“What has been really great is the sense of respect that the students have for their own stories, matauranga Maori, as well as what they’ve been learning from us,” Mr Thomson said.

UNLOCKING young curious minds to learn about how natural hazards affect their environment, was the focus of science workshops held in Tairawhiti schools recently.

Facilitated by GNS Science, the first two of four Tairawhiti workshops were held at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga and Te Karaka Area School.

GNS Science - Te Pu Ao, is a national organisation that provides earth, geoscience and isotope research, and whose purpose is to understand natural earth system processes and resources, and to translate these into economic, environmental and social benefits.

Julian Thomson of GNS Science said the three-day ‘Unlocking Curious Minds’ workshops, had a hands-on approach to learning about natural hazards that have had an impact on the local region.

“Our focus is on natural hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and rockfalls.

“We’re using a hands-on way of trying to understand the way the earth can be hazardous, and the best way we can think of doing experiments to learn good ways to protect ourselves in the future.

“We experimented how to safeguard the beach from erosion. The students built walls in plastic tubs and we sloshed water against the sand dune that they were protecting to see if and how the water would damage these things. There are all sorts of mixed results.

“We went to Wainui Beach and saw the impact of erosion on the beach. The students could directly see various things that people have tried to protect the sand dunes. They were able to see whether they were successful or not.

“That was a way of seeing how an experiment can have a real life value.

“We also went to Pouawa Beach where we looked at tsunami deposits. An ancient tsunami had washed up into that area.

“The students made careful observations and measured the deposits to see what tsunamis do to the land.

“We looked into rockfall protection, to see how we could build a barrier to protect houses. The students had a go at using different materials to build a barrier in their plastic tubs and then tested them.

“We also had a drone and we flew it above a landslide. We could see much more (using the drone) than we could from the ground. They learned a little bit about technology, and the value of technology to help us make observations.”

Localised science learning was especially put to the test at the Te Karaka workshop, which had a focus on the recent flooding event of the Te Karaka area. Once again the plastic tubs were put to use and the students created stop bank models and tested them out.

The students also went on a field trip to the Waipaoa River, near the Kanakanaia Bridge, to make observations on how the flooding affected the riverbank and surrounding land.

Mr Thomson said the focus of these workshops was on rural schools, who don’t usually get the chance to have these types of experiences.

“There are four workshops in total in Tairawhiti for the intermediate age-group of 11-12 year olds.

“The remaining two workshops will be in September, at Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria.

“We’ve looked at questions of what do scientists do, how do they think, how do they experiment, how do they record results — to get them in the mind of a scientists.

“But as much as possible, to keep them engaged, we’ve made it hands on.

“For us as scientists we love to engage with young people because we see the future.

“Its valuable, even if none of these students become scientists. We think its valuable that they appreciate the purpose of science, why we need to know, why we need to do research.

“The kids have been really enthusiastic, asking good questions and have been really good at focusing.

“We also appreciate having teachers part of the workshops, because we hope that they will be able to take some of these things back into the classroom, have more experiments and spread the activity wide.”

One of the teachers who participated was Tui Vazey of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga.

She said the workshop at the local kura, saw matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) of the environment meet western science.

“Our kids already have their own matauranga, and this workshop was adding to it, not taking anything away from it. It was about gaining a deeper understanding.

“I think the name of the course, ‘Unlocking Curious Minds’, is exactly what it is.

“It’s about our kids making their own connections with their world, in their own environment with what they already know and with this new information.

“They looked at the hazards that affect us in our communities, how we can understand them, and look at how we can prevent damage to our environment and ourselves.

“We as kaiako (teachers) can help them make those connections with what they already know. The best thing too is that its hands-on, and that’s how anyone loves to learn.”

Mr Thomson acknowledged that matauranga Maori was often complimentary with science.

“We’re all after the same aim which is to understand the world around us, and a story helps you understand.

“The science process is still about finding stories, by starting fresh, measuring with our eyes, carefully observing. We’re coming up with an explanation which is a story.

“We try to ensure that we really appreciate the students stories, which have been passed down to them about how the land and hills were formed.

“We’re always interested to know about the local stories and histories of the places we visit, and we pull the two together.

“They’re really valuable because they often do have the same underlying message.

“What has been really great is the sense of respect that the students have for their own stories, matauranga Maori, as well as what they’ve been learning from us,” Mr Thomson said.

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