Science-loving teacher tops NZ

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 12/12/2012
Joy Kitt
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ

SCIENCE FANS: Russell Street School teacher Joy Kitt has won a national Primary Science Teacher award valued at $30,000.

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A Palmerston North teacher has been crowned New Zealand's top science teacher, scooping a national prize worth $30,000 for translating her soft spot for science to the classroom.

Vegetable gardens, market days, and a recycled plastic bottle greenhouse are all part of Russell Street School children's days thanks to a teacher with a knack for science.

Teacher Joy Kitt has won the Royal Society's 2012 Primary Science Teacher Fellowship Alumni Award, recognising her part in the school's commitment to piquing children's interest in science.

Some of her contributions to the science programme include promotion of a "seed to table" food philosophy, where pupils are encouraged to grow vegetables and use them in the school's cooking classes.

Monitoring herbs and vegetable growth as a method of inquiry outside of the classroom setting was exciting for children, Mrs Kitt said.

"It's so they can feed themselves from scratch, now they all know about seasonality and growing patterns," she said.

"Plants are a mystery because we can't talk to them, we have to do experiments so they are quite fun for us."

Mrs Kitt was a Primary Science Teacher Fellow in the first half of 2010, based at the Plant & Food Research Institute in Palmerston North. During her fellowship she focused on developing her understanding of plant structure and growth.

She has spent the first three terms of the school year as a science facilitator at the University of Waikato and at other schools around the region, helping fellow teachers improve their science delivery.

Of the prize money she won, $20,000 will go to the school and $10,000 is for Mrs Kitt's own amusement.

She will use the money to visit a science education guru in the United States - and a lucky colleague may get the call to tag along.

An awards ceremony at the school was held yesterday and principal David Reardon said staff and students were celebrating the scoop.

"The school is proud that Joy's leadership in science has been recognised and we welcome the opportunity to put the substantial award funding towards further extending the opportunities and experiences for both staff and students. Students are very much the winners in this."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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