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For the Love of Science

For the Love of Science

By Toni Daly, NorthTec Tutor

To date, more than a thousand Northland school students have played at being a crime scene investigator with forensic science and tried their hands at DNA analysis.

At NorthTec we want to encourage this interest in science amongst our young people and create an excitement and enthusiasm for science.

And that is exactly what is happening.

In recent years NorthTec, local Rotary Clubs and some high schools have teamed up to form the ‘Science Extravaganza.’ Larger cities have been able to offer access to the kind of science that often cannot be undertaken in schools, and it seemed that by reason of geography Northland students were missing out.

In 2011 the Whangarei South Rotary Club approached us to run a three-day ‘Science Extravaganza’ for Year 11 students. That year students, tutors and Rotary members alike had a ball – playing with dry ice, blowing things up, kick sampling in the Raumanga stream, and making ice-cream using liquid nitrogen. Comments from students included, ‘Awesome 3 days – I wish I could go back a year and come back’.

Since then, the Rotary Science Extravaganza has gone from strength to strength. Two years ago, Waitemata and Northland DHBs set up science camps with Year 9 and 10 students with a Māori focus. They got the same enthusiastic feedback - ‘Everything was awesome! A life time opportunity’. The Science Extravaganza has now been extended to include a partnership with Year 7-9 students from Tikipunga High School.

To retain those keen students in Northland, NorthTec has launched the National Certificate in Science (Level 4) starting this year. This course will include small friendly classes and a practical focus.

This is the result of a gradual build up in demand for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects from the community, schools, industry and government. Rather than excite students through initiatives like the Science Extravaganza and then watch them leave Northland – we want to keep them here! We can also attract those who went away to university and found that it was not for them. They can return home and continue to study here at NorthTec.

The level 4 certificate will allow students to get a good basic grounding in chemistry, biology, environmental science and tertiary study skills, all in six months. They can then get additional qualifications leading to the National Diploma in Science (Laboratory Technician).

So we now have a local study pathway plus the links with industry to keep students here!

If you’re interested in learning more about NorthTec’s Conservation and Environmental Management programme, including the new science courses, contact us on 0800 162 100 or visit

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