Occupying Science by Reclaiming Space and Place

Project commenced:

How can a pūtaiao ‘living laboratory’ approach that uses local learning environments help rangatahi Māori reclaim science in Te Hiku?

Our aim is to “science-up” Māori communities by exploring the untapped potential of our

local environments as living laboratories for rangatahi Māori so that they become more engaged with science at school and in their lives. The proposal responds to needed improvements in science education outcomes for Te Hiku rangatahi and will inform and contribute to new initiatives to be negotiated with education authorities and environmental strategies that strengthen Māori medium and mainstream science education for rangatahi Maori.

Levels of participation and attainment for rangatahi in science subjects, particularly at secondary school, are low when compared to non-Māori, resulting in low levels of participation in tertiary education and ultimately a dearth of Māori scientists. Our experience shows that rangatahi Māori do not have positive science experiences in schools or experiences of science concepts embedded in matauranga (knowledge) Māori.

Unsupportive learning environments and systems and a lack of learning relevant to student realities are identified as areas for necessary change. Local environments have enormous resource potential to ground rangatahi curiosity, knowledge and learning particularly for science education. In the context of post-settlement and the return of assets, capability and capacity to sustainably develop and manage land and waterways for the benefit of our people, the regional and national economy, is paramount.

We propose to optimise engagement with local environments using a ‘living laboratory’ pūtaiao approach where science concepts already embedded in matauranga Māori, te reo me ona tikanga, are enhanced by Māori pedagogies and grounded in accessible local environments - better alignment of Māori science and conventional science concepts to make education more meaningful for rangatahi. Identifying possible learning interactions within local environments in ways that are relevant to rangatahi is a starting point to lift achievement levels in pūtaiao and increase numbers of Māori pursuing careers in this area. It builds on the experiential learning kaupapa of the annual Te Rarawa Noho Taiao programme that worked from the context and culture of the tauira (student).

A literature review of living laboratory, pūtaiao and applied science approaches with attention to alignment with understandings of critical Māori educational theory will occur. Data will be gathered in collaboration with local schools and existing pūtaiao clusters through a series of hui and interviews with up to 12 key informants. A case study of a pūtaiao ‘living laboratory’ model will commence at 6 months into the project to understand the potential impacts of the approach.