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Back to the classroom with Helen Clark

9 June 2006

Back to the classroom with Helen Clark

A unique education centre at the Liggins Institute, called the Sir John Logan Campbell Classroom, will be opened by the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark on 16th June.

The facility will provide secondary school pupils with their own classroom in a successful research institute where they can learn hands-on research skills.

On the 16th, Ms Clark will go ‘back go school’ when she visits the classroom with pupils from her former school, Epsom Girls’ Grammar. Along with pupils from Tamaki College in Glen Innes, they will see demonstrations and activities that explore current trends in biology and biotechnology.

Displays will include the ‘Brain Rescue Monitor’, which gives real-time readings of brain activity, as an example of biotechnology developed by Liggins Institute scientists.

On a regular basis the classroom will give pupils experience of procedures that are commonplace in biological research yet difficult to teach in schools. They will hear from practicing scientists about how these techniques and research strategies are applied to solving problems of modern medicine.

Schools’ need for a facility of this kind was presented to the Institute by teachers working there as part of a programme that exposes science teachers to research. “The speed of advances in biology and biotechnology is such that schools sometimes struggle to keep up with the required apparatus and know-how,” says teacher Sandie MacLeod-Smith, who came to the Institute from St Cuthbert's College on the programme. “To be able to access the equipment and expertise at the Liggins Institute will be a wonderful support for teaching and learning.”

Liggins Institute Director Professor Peter Gluckman hopes that the project will switch young people on to science. "Much of the New Zealand economy is based on biology and biotechnology. We hope that pupils’ experiences in the Logan Campbell Classroom will give them an insight into the exciting world of research," he says.

Funding to set up the classroom has come from a number of sources principally the Lion Foundation, the Sir John Logan Campbell Residuary Estate, The University of Auckland and the National Research Centre for Growth and Development.

There are also plans to open the classroom for ‘Back to School’ classes for adult learners wishing to update their knowledge.


Sir John Logan Campbell Classroom at the Liggins Institute: Background

The Liggins Institute is committed to increasing understanding and awareness of science and medical research in the community, and has been actively doing so since the Institute opened in 2001.

The Sir John Logan Campbell Classroom is a major step in a programme that involves young people at school with science and research at the Liggins Institute.

Why school pupils?
In a country with an economy so dependent on agriculture and the science underpinning it, it is important to involve school pupils and share the excitement and possibilities of research with them. As a premier research organisation, the Institute frequently receives requests from schools to visit to Institute, for scientists to visit schools, and for lectures, talks, work exposure and student internships.

These desires have been met whenever possible, and there is an active programme of bringing small numbers of pupils into the Institute for research experience. In addition, the Liggins Institute Fellowship for Teachers (LIFT) programme has brought school teachers into the Institute for four to six week periods. This enables the teachers to inject enthusiasm and real-life experiences into their teaching, and updates them on scientific knowledge, which moves at such a rapid pace that it quickly outdates the knowledge of science graduates.

The teachers on this programme commented on how wonderful it would be to be able to bring their students to experience research at the Institute. The concept of the classroom was born from this.

Creating the classroom
The Institute then worked to create a facility that would provide access to some of the bright young minds working at the Institute and opportunities to see and use state of the art technology which could never be accessible in the school classroom.

Efforts have been made to ensure that the classroom experience enhances rather than replaces the school experience. It is expected to help students to see the relevance and applications of their school studies, to expose them to the excitement of research and inspire them with career possibilities in related sectors.

Enthusiastic support for the classroom has come from teachers, the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, and education and science faculties within The University of Auckland. Funds to build, equip and establish the classroom have come entirely from the charitable sector: the Lion Foundation, the Sir John Logan Campbell Residuary Estate and private individuals.

The National Research Centre for Growth and Development and The University of Auckland provide operational support. In addition, a grant from Tertiary Education Commission’s Innovation and Development Fund has allowed fast tracking of programmes and access for the full range of schools in the Auckland area. Scientific supply companies are also supporting the classroom by donating or reducing costs of some equipment and materials for experiments.

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