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Science Kids: Stoking students’ enthusiasm for science

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Science Kids was a fun, science discovery programme which ran over eight weeks of a school term. Developed by Otago Museum and delivered in partnership with the Methodist Mission, the aim was to create a hands-on and interactive programme where children could learn about a different aspect of science each week using the wealth of resources at Otago Museum. Students would be challenged to master skills in self-awareness and self-management through scientific discovery and exploration.

Every week was different, with visits to a range of Museum galleries, the Tūhura science centre and the Tropical Forest butterfly house. The programme culminated with two special visits – one to the Museum conservation lab to see what scientists are doing behind the scenes at the Museum, and the other to see what lies beneath in the Museum basement, where the students enjoyed seeing penguins, moa bones and the clear highlight: moa poo!

Examining the Museum’s collection of penguins

Image: Examining the Museum’s collection of penguins. 


Andersons Bay School heard about the Science Kids programme and decided it was an opportunity to enrich some of their “gateway” students, by throwing as much science their way as they could handle (which happened to be a lot). This meant an hour and a half of 12, highly intellectual and delightful children between the ages of 8 and 10 every week. As you can imagine, I was apprehensively excited.

As the weeks flew by I found that the students had a sponge-like ability to absorb and store knowledge. One of the weekly activities was going to the Tropical Forest where the children would observe a butterfly species and investigate their way of life. I have never seen more attentive children, or walked such a short distance without being accosted by at least two children brimming with questions. Not only were the children smart, they were also witty, funny and great to engage in interesting discussions about science. At the end of each session, they’d beg me to give them a hint of the next week’s topic, and eagerly looked forward to seeing each new gallery.

Exploring the basement of Otago Museum

Image: Exploring the basement of Otago Museum.


As an educator at Otago Museum, I see many children come and go. Their visits are fleeting and sometimes by the time you develop a connection with them, the session’s already coming to a close. Science Kids gave me and the kids a chance to connect, so I could learn about their personalities and quirks. This meant more learning and more fun.

The announcement in March that Methodist Mission South had lost its funding heralded the end of the Science Kids programme as we know it. However, the future is far from bleak. Based on the success of the Andersons Bay group, the Otago Museum's Education team is planning the new era of Science Kids – a varied and inclusive programme using the Museum as a tool for stimulating curiosity and excitement for science! Next term, we’ll begin by undertaking the Science Kids programme for special needs students from the Braithwaite Centre at Kaikorai Valley College, sharing the enthusiasm for science.

Getting an up-close look at penguin bones!

Image: Getting an up-close look at penguin bones!