Unlocking Curious Minds

Local taonga as the nexus for STEM introduction

Kia ora, my name is Daniel Thomas and I am a senior lecturer at Massey University in Auckland. I am the project leader for a hands-on science activity program for all Year 9 and Year 10 students at Raglan Area School. The title of this activity program is Local taonga as the nexus for STEM introduction. 


Students participating in this activity will use a range of scientific methods to learn about nature. The goal of this project is to encourage students to recognise their own capability for enquiry based learning. We will meet this goal by bringing scientists from Massey University and the University of Auckland into the classroom to guide students through a range of science and mathematics activities.

Project team

Dr Daniel Thomas, Massey University

Dr Heather Hendrickson, Massey University

Ms Odette Howarth, Massey University

Dr Cushla McGoverin, University of Auckland

Two aims

1) To deliver hands on science activities designed by researchers from Massey University and University of Auckland into Year 9 and Year 10 science classes at Raglan Area School in Term 2 of 2019. 2) To record the attitudes that these students have about their own capacity for a career in a STEM field both before and after the science activity program, to determine if the the program influences their attitudes.


Students in regional New Zealand schools often have the exact intersection of intrinsic traits that is chronically underrepresented in STEM leadership roles (lower decile background, Maori, female). A well-recognised approach for encouraging participation in STEM careers is to enable high school students to participate in STEM activities, and for the delivery of these activities to be in a familiar and supportive environment, thereby allowing students to recognise their own capacity for discovery led learning. Students in lower decile rural schools unfortunately have reduced access to STEM activities compared with high decile schools in cities, explaining how Maori and girls in rural schools are increasingly disadvantaged with respect to STEM pathways. Raglan Area School (coed, decile 4, 55% Maori students) is one such school with reduced capacity to engage students in STEM. We have designed a hands on science program that will be integrated into the normal school curriculum with help from teaching staff at Raglan Area School. Students will discover that they have the ability to perform the types of foundational tasks that lead towards STEM careers (e.g. engineering, medicine, research).

Funding, support, ethics

Funding for this project is provided by the Unlocking Curious Minds funding scheme administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MAUX1804 Local taonga as the nexus for STEM introduction). Learn more.

This project has been reviewed and approved by the Massey University Human Ethics Committee: Northern, Application NOR 19/14.


The project is described and permitted with the following documents


Information sheets

Information sheet for parents and caregivers

Information sheet for students

Participant consent forms

Participant consent form for parents and caregivers

Participant consent form for students

Image usage consent form


Pre-study survey for parents/caregivers

Post-study survey for parents/caregivers

Pre-study survey for students

Post-study survey for students

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