Maori learning programme launches with help from astronaut

Former NASA astronaut Colonel Rick Searfoss talks about his three missions to space at the science academy for Maori ...
David Unwin/Fairfax NZ.

Former NASA astronaut Colonel Rick Searfoss talks about his three missions to space at the science academy for Maori tertiary and university students.

A former astronaut and a NASA aerospace engineer are inspiring kids and helping to launch an education programme for Maori Manawatu students.

The official launch of Puhoro, the Massey Science Academy pilot programme, took place at the Convention Centre on Saturday.

About 80 Maori students studying NCEA level one will take part in Puhoro, which is designed to give additional support in science and mathematics. 

Mana Vautier, a NASA aerospace engineer, talks at a science academy which supports Maori tertiary and university students.
David Unwin/Fairfax NZ.

Mana Vautier, a NASA aerospace engineer, talks at a science academy which supports Maori tertiary and university students.

Massey University associate director of academy programmes Namoi Manu said there was a high rate of Maori students dropping science and mathematics after NCEA level one. 

"We want to make sure there is consistent support for these students, keep them in their classes and reduce that drop-off between level one and level two."

Students from Te Kura o Kauwhata, Manukura, Hato Paora, Feilding High School, Awatapu College and Palmerston North Boys' High School would participate in additional lab classes and, in their spare time, attend tutorials.

A virtual support would also be extended to Murupara Area School.

"We have an opportunity to teach these students extra skills and encourage them to choose from a number of different careers."

Former astronaut Colonel Rick Searfoss advised the students and their whanau to work hard and dream big.

Searfoss has been to space three times and commanded his own space mission.

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He said there was a need for hard working young people coming through into the workforce. 

"There are many challenges to face, but a lot of opportunities are out there and I encourage you all to take them."

NASA aerospace engineer Mana Vautier said his first employment was at McDonald's. He had worked in a number of jobs including mowing lawns, painting, and being on the back of a rubbish truck, but he never gave up on his dream to become an astronaut.

He encouraged Maori students to adopt a strong work ethic and follow their dreams. 

Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith and Massey University Vice Chancellor Steve Maharey also attended the event. 

Manu said through the Puhoro programme, the students would take part in fortnightly tutorial sessions in their own time and lab classes once a month while attending their usual school classes. 

She was excited about the pilot programme starting and hoped it would be rolled out across New Zealand in the future.

 - Stuff

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