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Students Scientists Combine For Bop Water Study

Students And Scientists Combine For Bop Water Quality Study

Students from Rotorua's Western Heights High School (WHHS) have joined forces with Crown Research Institute, Geological and Nuclear Sciences Ltd (GNS), in an innovative science project to monitor water quality in Lake Rotoiti and the Kaituna River.

Called the Kaituna Project, it is the brainchild of WHHS science teacher Murray Pearce who was awarded a Royal Society Teacher Fellowship for 2004 to set up the initiative.

" The project has exceeded my expectations in terms of the benefits to the students. They are absolutely thrilled to be working with professional scientists on a project that has the potential to deliver long term environmental benefits to the Bay of Plenty," says Mr Pearce.

" The Royal Society should be proud of the opportunity they have created for us. The project has opened the eyes of our students to careers in science."

The project has been designed to give students practical experience relevant to level 3 NCEA subjects of science, geography, chemistry, and biology.

A good deal of its success comes from the way it seamlessly links real-life issues with the NCEA curriculum. The large hands-on component helps to make science engaging and relevant.

As well as the sampling and analytical work, the students learn about land use, local history, geology, geography, and cultural aspects related to water use.

GNS scientists will mentor the students for the rest of this year. Last week, students and scientists collected water samples from 15 sites and analysed them at GNS's laboratory at Wairakei, near Taupo.

Sampling trips are scheduled for March, May, July, and October. Sampling sites include the Lake Rotorua outflow, the shoreline around Lake Rotoiti, a tributary of the Kaituna River that flows through Te Puke township, and the Kaituna River from Okere Falls to its mouth near Maketu.

Support for the project from Environment Bay of Plenty, landowners adjacent to the sample sites, and the general public has been tremendous, says GNS Hydrogeologist Stewart Cameron.

" It is rewarding to see the students so enthusiastic about science. We would like to see the project expanded to other areas of science and to other parts of New Zealand."

Both organisations hope the project will not only get more students enthusiastic about pursuing science careers, but also lead to greater community awareness of environmental issues and improvements in the quality of water in Bay of Plenty waterways.

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