Mind Lab helping schools teach practical science and technology skills video

ROSS GIBLIN/Dominion Post

The Mind Lab helps schools put the practical back into core subjects. Hannah Stevens, 10, and Maya Elmes, 9, construct a 'wobblebot' at the site in Petone, as part of a science lesson on forms of energy

Wellington schools are outsourcing some maths and science to a "mind lab", which use everything from playdough to robots to teach.

The Mind Lab in Petone opened four months ago and has run hands-on, experiment-based classes for more than 3000 students.

Centre director Matt Richards said schools were taking students to the lab to take advantage of the expertise and resources not available in many classrooms.

"All the educators here are Jedi Masters who are highly skilled in their fields and know how to unpack something in a creative way," he said.

"Sometimes they don't have the resources or the time or expertise to do this stuff at school. "

The Mind Lab has brightly coloured walls,and is scattered with robotics, dolls houses, playdough, paper cups, computers and ping-pong balls.

Year 5 Queen Margaret College students spent Thursday at the lab, learning about energy.

Teacher Lynette Kitney said the girls would not have learnt so much about energy so fast without the trip.

"It's not a particularly simple concept unless they have a chance to experiment ... [Mind Lab] are all set up, have the expertise and the enthusiasm," she said.

The students had a short theory class before using robotics to create moving objects including boats and rollercoasters and 'wobblebots' - a paper cup contraption that uses a battery to move it across paper.

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Hannah Stevens, 10, said she enjoyed the hands on experience.

"I'm going to tell Mum that I made a robot today. I also found out about new forms of energy and I liked when we finally put [the wobblebot] together and it worked."

The Mind Lab opened in Auckland two years ago and then expanded to Gisborne, Wellington and Christchurch. It also works with Unitec to provide post-graduate courses for teachers.

Richards said the aim was to make learning more relevant for children in today's digital world.

"The historical ways that education teaches things - theoretical, sitting down and writing, chalk and talk - doesn't really meet the learning needs of today's kids or today's world."

There was a $12 per student cost, but deals were also made with low-decile schools to make sure the centre was accessible for all.

 - Stuff

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