“Without the kits [from House of Science Wairarapa], I don’t think I would be teaching science to the level that I can, because I simply do not have the resources,” says Pirinoa School Senior Teacher Natalie Lagah.
Pirinoa School is a rural school with a total roll of 44 students this year, located in South Wairarapa. For the past few years, they have been benefiting from ready-made science kits delivered by local charity House of Science Wairarapa.
Lagah was one of the first to sign up for science kits when House of Science Wairarapa was founded in 2019. The organisation provides schools with ready-to-go science kits on topics such as water chemistry, pressure and electricity. Inside each kit are all the resources teachers need to deliver a comprehensive science lesson on a given topic to their class.
House of Science Wairarapa was founded four years ago by then-new-mum Amanda Taylor. While on parental leave, Taylor heard House of Science founder Chris Duggan over the radio.
“She was disillusioned with kids coming through from primary school saying they couldn’t do science, had never done science, and why would they pick it up at high school,” said Taylor.
Duggan then founded House of Science NZ, which provides resources to Primary school teachers – allowing them to teach science effectively without increasing demands placed on them.
Duggan’s story inspired Taylor to start the Wairarapa branch. A science-lover herself, with a PhD in Molecular Medicine, Taylor wanted her own children to have access to science teaching when they started school.
Since its inception, demand for the charity’s services has grown and they now provide kits to over 90 percent of schools in the region. Now, House of Science Wairarapa is in South Wairarapa, Carterton, Masterton and Tararua.
Schools who sign on pay a nominal membership fee. Taylor says it only covers around 10 percent of the charity’s costs, with the rest of the funding provided by organisations like Lottery Community, local trusts and councils.
When they first started, Taylor says they were packing the science kits on their dining room table. But that hard work is paying off.
Natalie Lagah says Pirinoa students are really engaged in science learning, and emphasises the value of science teaching in a region like the Wairarapa.
“We’ve got a lake really close by, we’ve got the rivers and streams really close by – so there’s so many opportunities right on our doorstep for us to do science in a very meaningful way,” says Lagah.
In the future, House of Science Wairarapa says they will continue to expand, seeking more sponsorship and volunteers. Taylor says they’ll be looking for a transportation van in future, as kits are currently being delivered using volunteers’ own transport.
For rural kids and parents looking to get into science, Taylor says:
“You don’t necessarily have to be the brightest kid in the world to do science – you just have to be really curious, and really like getting in there and asking questions, and be able to keep going when things don’t work.
“Every little kid is curious, and if we can keep them asking questions, then it’s only going to be better for them.”
For more about House of Science, and to find a local branch near you, visit their website at https://houseofscience.nz/.