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Extreme Science on the road


People living in hard to reach and remote communities are often excluded from experiences that urban New Zealanders take for granted; Extreme Science II is challenging this, by taking science, and scientists, to the far corners of Aotearoa.

Funded by the MBIE Unlocking Curious Minds grant scheme, Extreme Science II is a collaboration between Otago Museum and the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, themed around astronomy, photonics, and the message that science is everywhere.

Extreme Science II is about discovering the science around us, by using inspiring demonstrations, interactives models and hands-on experimentation. It is a fully participatory and very memorable educational experience that will excite New Zealanders, who have thus far had limited opportunities to be involved in science and technology.

The team takes diffraction glasses, lasers, high-powered telescopes, and StarLab, Otago Museum’s portable planetarium, on the road, to excite and inspire isolated communities.

The East Cape, Fiordland, and Stewart Island have already experienced the programme this year, with more than 600 people taking part through school visits and free public evenings.

Nathalie Wierdak, Otago Museum’s Science Engagement Manager, says, “At each of the localities, we have built a great rapport with the communities. By providing a comprehensive, family oriented and face-to-face science programme, it encourages people to think actively about science and understand its relevance to them in their daily lives. We hope this will effectively inspire these communities to pursue a passion and curiosity for science.

Extreme Science II has been well received by students, teachers and families alike, with very positive feedback and requests for return, and longer, visits. For example, Tikitiki School in East Cape, and Halfmoon Bay School in Stewart Island both commented how fantastic and engaging the programme was, and how they appreciated the chance to participate in it.”

Most teachers reported that they have not had science outreach visits to their school/rangatahi before and noted that their physical remoteness meant they were largely deprived of opportunities for science and technology engagement.

The Museum’s Science Engagement team is now preparing for the next leg of their journey, with visits to Northland from 13 to 19 October, the West Coast from 20 to 26 October, and Great Barrier Island from 5 to 8 November. This is a fantastic opportunity for these communities to experience an interactive, family-orientated science programme delivered to their door. The programme is so far scheduled into several schools in each region and will also include a community event.

The team is looking forward to working in these new communities in the coming weeks and the communities are equally excited. Ms Wierdak noted the response to their invitation to visit these areas was met with open arms. “We received an email from Haast School saying “Yes, yes please!!! This is fantastic and we would welcome you.” And at the other end of Aotearoa, Kerikeri Primary School responding with, “That is amazing! Thank you!" It just goes to show the real appetite there is for science in the community, and it’s great to be able to help fulfil this.”

Extreme Science II is one of the many education and outreach programmes that Otago Museum have created. Far From Frozen, another science programme developed by the team, focuses on climate change, and in the South Pacific, the project has been lauded by communities, and has won national awards.

Science Journeys – Our Changing Climate, also running at the moment, is a guided programme for budding science communicators, which will include access to researchers aboard the JOIDES Resolution. These initiatives promote and enable research-backed thinking in our population.

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