He Puna Pūtaiao: field trip to Te Waihora

Students at Te Waihora. Photo courtesy of UC Science.

Students at Te Waihora. Photo courtesy of UC Science.

A University of Canterbury scheme aimed at encouraging Māori secondary school students into university science studies has been encouraging rangatahi to consider new pathways for their future since 2013.

He Puna Pūtaiao, a partnership programme between the University of Canterbury College of Science and several Canterbury secondary schools, began in 2013 with the goal of engaging Year 10 Māori students in the culture of science by involving them in scientific research.

This year the students from the He Puna Pūtaiao programme went on a field trip to 4 sites around Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere on Thursday 27 October 2016. The students, from Linwood, Lincoln, Burnside and Cashmere High Schools, took readings of pH, Dissolved Oxygen, temperature and conductivity, while also taking kick net samples and water for turbidity testing.

The partnership schools all select nine Year 10 Māori students to attend the intensive six-week programme during October and November, which includes weekly visits to the University of Canterbury and a field trip to Te Waihora.

Dr Jan Wikaira says “the big thing about it is that the students are doing real science. They come into the university, they get familiar with the equipment, they learn to use the microscopes and get out into the field and do proper sampling.”

“The information they are putting together is actually going to be used. It is used each year to add some knowledge to what is being learnt about the condition of the lake – whether it is improving or getting worse. And they go and look at ways that people are trying to improve the lake,” says Dr Wikaira.

Former University of Canterbury Science Outreach Coordinator, Joan Gladwyn has said He Puna Pūtaiao has had a very positive response from school staff and students alike.

“Many of the students who’ve done the programme talk about gaining confidence and an interest in science,” she said.

“As a result of the course, they can see that a career in science is an achievable goal for them. The programme is about exposing them to opportunities and it’s definitely working. Some of these students had never heard Māori and science talked about together before,” she said.

No agency, or agencies, can measure everything we need to know about Te Waihora so small scale community monitoring has a very important role in filling the gaps says Tim Davie, Surface Water Science Manager at Environment Canterbury.

The following video shows the students undertaking their research at Te Waihora and provides further information on the programme.