Good science is lacking in primary and intermediate schools

This is a big problem for all New Zealand!

The issues

  • Little over a quarter of primary and intermediate schools have effective science programmes1
  • By Year 8 few students see themselves in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) based careers2
  • Few opportunities for hands-on science activities3
  • “Science is at the heart of almost everything this country must do…”4

In essence these issues are about teachers:

  • Having the confidence to plan and teach effective science —
    • pedagogical skills around the Nature of Science strand must be enhanced
    • access to networks of support that must be proactively developed and proactively maintained.
  • Keeping curiosity alive and helping to grow their students’ science capital (science-related knowledge, interest, literacy, experiences and contacts).
“You don’t need to teach a child curiosity. Curiosity is innate.
You just have to be careful not to squash it. This is the challenge for the teacher – to foster and guide that curiosity.”
(Sir Paul Callaghan)
  • Science is at the heart of almost everything this country must do...
  • Current Programme of the Roadshow: Science Roadshow
  • You don't need to teach a child curiosity...
  • Current Programme of the Roadshow: Sir Paul Callaghan Science Academy

It is through this combination of things that we will see more students staying with science for longer at school and appreciating the vocational opportunities and skills science offers. This in turn will help create many more science savvy citizens, scientists and people working in science related industries and businesses that will drive our economy forward.

While there are some high level changes needed, fundamentally much more action is needed at the “grassroots” level. This is where the educational research5 points and through our own extensive experiences we, The National Science-Technology Roadshow Trust (The Trust), concur.

Addressing these issues takes money. Raising sufficient funds to invest into grassroots programmes is The Trust’s biggest challenge.

We understand the problem and have solutions…

The National Science-Technology Roadshow Trust

For 26 years The Trust has “self-funded,” developed and nationally delivered programmes that provide effective hands-on, minds-on curricula support to schools (students and teachers) and their wider communities at grassroots level. We do this equitably, tailoring resources and experiences.

We have a significant national profile in both cities and provincial New Zealand. The Science Roadshow alone deliver to more than 640 schools (30% of all schools), 47,000 students (22% of the national cohort of Yr 6-9 students) and 20,000 public from just on 100 locations. And it does this every year! In fact more than 1.5 million New Zealanders, under the age of 40, have visited the Science Roadshow since its inception in 1988.

Across many projects and programmes, The Trust has been, and continues to be, a proactive intermediary between schools, scientist’s knowledge and science teaching pedagogy.

In their report to the Ministry of Education Strengthening engagements between schools and the science community: Final Report(2013),6 NZCER visions a whole-system approach to future engagements between the science community, schools and the wider community that includes:

  • networks of science-connected teachers
  • networks of people working in intermediary roles
  • equity of opportunity for all learners across all New Zealand schools
  • strategic leadership
  • development of high-quality resources based on key socio-scientific issues
  • well-designed longitudinal research to evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives.

How the Trust is making a difference

What the research says
we need
What The Trust is doing…
Networks of science-connected teachers The Sir Paul Callaghan Science Academy (The Academy) is a tried and proven, dynamic, four-day, hands-on, best practice, PLD workshop. All the latest ideas for teaching exciting, relevant Nature of Science oriented programmes delivered by skilled, friendly presenters. Academy staff and an alumni network provide on-going support.
Networks of people working in intermediary roles Project Management of Curious Classrooms (Todd Foundation Project involving 12 low decile Auckland schools in Otara and Mt. Roskill and 5 different Provider organisations); founding member of ASTC(NZ) and ASTEN; contracted to develop and run Joule (The Science and Technology Promotion Hub); on-going work with NZOG, GNS Science, Science New Zealand.... Support from each CRI for Academy alumni activities.
Equity of opportunity for all learners

The Science Roadshow is in more than 100 city and provincial locations every year.
It offers school children, their teachers and accompanying parents and wider public visitors a unique, informal, hands-on learning opportunity that:

  • excites and enthuses visitors;
  • nurtures curiosity and discovery;
  • explicitly supports the Nature of Science and the Science Capabilities;
  • improves motivation and attitude;
  • adds to teacher knowledge;
  • supports numeracy and literacy;
  • encourages social interaction and co-operative learning;
  • provides memorable real life contextual elements and exemplars.

Plan in the Box involves working with schools to set learning priorities and then to conjunctively create the work programme. The output is a detailed plan complete with appropriate classroom ready activities/resources and “optional” integrated service delivery from a range of “best fit” external providers or collaborators.

Develop high-quality resources based on key socio-scientific issues Examples of resources that we have produced and/or delivered, that explored particular issues that were pertinent at various times include:
Future Food Roadshow explored food from its cultural significance and impact on our health to its effects on NZ’s unique position as a primary producer, exporter and innovator.
The Telecom Information Technology Roadshow showcased communication possibilities through a wide range of hands-on experiences coupled with exciting enterprise education programmes.
The Research Roadshow provided a cross-curricula learning experience for Yr10/11 students focusing on measurement data gathering and interpretation contextualized around a non-injury car crash.
The Innovation Story: bright ideas, brilliant products celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of NZers as well as encouraging people with bright ideas to take them further.
Activities and stories linked to NZ scientists and their inventions and curricula ready resource books (science and social science) on the Square Kilometre Array.
Well-designed longitudinal research to evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives

Across all programmes we continually monitor levels of satisfaction and effectiveness.
For example:
Sir Paul Callaghan Science Academy Feedback

“The Academy promotes collaboration between teachers and I learnt so much from the sessions and other Academy members. Every aspect of an excellent science programme was covered. We were given practical ideas to implement in our classroom.”
“The Academy opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking.”

Science Roadshow Teacher Feedback

Science Roadshow Impact Stories

For Mike Shaw, a visit to the Science Roadshow in 1992 and participation as an explainer in 1994, resulted in a lifelong passion for science. “The Roadshow had such a profound effect on me at school I decided that sharing and communicating science was always going to be a part of what I do.” Mike is now a Senior Communications Advisor at Plant and Food Research.

From 1999-2007, Kerry Short was a regular student visitor in Matamata. “The variety of hands-on activities really intrigued me and made me realise that science could be exciting – you could actually do things. These experiences started my love of science.” Kerry has now completed medical school.

In 2013 Lyn Jones of Invercargill learned “All about how electricity works, how much blood the heart pumps per minute, and I GOT TO RIDE A HOVERCRAFT!!! :)” We are confident that this experience will help Lyn to remain engaged with science for the rest of her life.


In summary

  • There are major issues affecting primary and intermediate science teaching and learning which are worsening.
  • The Trust is a catalyst for improving this situation; we continue to take proactive steps at grassroots level through powerfully engaging initiatives like The Science Roadshow, Plan in a Box and The Sir Paul Callaghan Science Academy.
  • Ongoing funding to support the Trust’s work is its major challenge.
The solution does not belong to the Trust or to teachers alone. This is a community challenge. To ensure New Zealand’s future prosperity it is time to think laterally and to combine our efforts to promote positive science experiences for all students throughout the country.


1 Science in The New Zealand Curriculum:Years 5 to 8 (May 2012)
2 NEMP (2007) New Zealand’s National Education Monitoring Project (University of Otago)
3 National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement-Science 2012
4 Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Prime Ministers Chief Science Advisor (2009)
5 Seeing yourself in science – The Importance of the middle school years. Report prepared for the Royal Society of New Zealand by NZCER (2008)
6 Strengthening engagements between schools and the science community: Final Report Report prepared for the Ministry of Education (2013)