School's discovery table proves a hit

A curiosity table laden with stones, shells and shark teeth is sparking an interest in science for a class of Manawatu school children.

Colyton School teacher Sarah Stephens said it may be a back-to-basics approach, but the simple step had encouraged children to explore more.

She was one of 14 primary school teachers selected by The Royal Society of New Zealand to do a Primary Science Teacher Fellowship.

Through the scheme Stephens took the first two terms off teaching this year to work with scientists at Landcare Research in Palmerston North where she learnt about science, its application and how it could be translated to the classroom.

Science was sometimes considered the forgotten subject in New Zealand's school curriculum, with numeracy and literacy taking precedence for primary school children.

Stephens said the first step to combating the problem was increasing the visibility of science in the classroom. She set up a table dedicated to kids discovering new things, and has noticed the difference.

"Kids will come in the morning, take the magnifying glass and stand there for 10 minutes looking at things on the table," she said.

"It's just bringing some of that passion about science back to school. Setting up something as simple as a curiosity table and getting the kids to bring in bits and pieces to look at has worked."

The enthusiasm Landcare staff had for science could be a lesson for those in the education sector, Stephens said.

"They're so passionate about what they do and they're an example that there's so many opportunities in science," she said. "If primary teachers promote it well enough and we teach it in our classes more often, then kids will become more passionate about it too." Stephens is working with Colyton's principal, Colin Martin, to develop the school's science curriculum more for next year.

"My job now is to share some of the passion and the knowledge and get the other teachers on board," Stephens said.

Royal Society of New Zealand education manager Richard Meylan said the scheme aimed to make teachers "science curriculum leaders" who would have a long-lasting positive effect on science teaching in schools.

Manawatu Standard