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Inaugural Niue Science Festival

Inaugural Niue Science Festival
12 June 2023

Tūhura Otago Museum is preparing to deliver Niue’s first ever Science Festival over 13 – 17 June 2023.

Four staff from the Museum’s Science Outreach team, together with two members of the University of Otago’s Physics Department, will be aiming to engage every student in Niue and much of the wider public over the five-day celebration of science. One of the highlights of the festival is likely to be the Museum’s StarLab, a mobile planetarium that can take audiences from under the ice in Antarctica to a virtual flight through space. There will also be a large range of hands-on science interactives and demonstrations that will explore everything from the properties of light, nanotechnology, green energy, and climate change, through to te mātauranga o te rongoā, the science of medicines.

Tūhura’s Director, Science Engagement, Dr Craig Grant, notes, “In 2019 we took our Far from Frozen science showcase to Niue to help demystify the concepts and science behind climate change and its impact. The response we had from the whole community was amazing. The students hadn’t had such science outreach previously and were hugely curious and engaged. So, we decided to return. We’ve since been fortunate to secure support from the US Embassy and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT) to take a range of science-themed activities and turn the experience into a full Science Festival.”

“Last year we headed the Cook Island’s first Science Expo in Rarotonga. It proved so popular they asked us to return to run another for their Aitutaki community two months later. We learnt a lot too, which has really helped in the planning of Niue’s Science Festival. We’ll have school classes exploring all that the festival has to offer during the day, and then run a series of community open sessions into the early evening to enable some stargazing too.”

The team has already been working with the Niue students remotely. Niue High School is currently short a science teacher, so the Museum and the Physics Department have been running video-link tutorials each Friday over the last few months for those students studying towards their NCEA in physics. Dr Daniel Schumayer, from the University of Otago, has been leading these sessions. “The students are great and super-keen to learn. The school sends through some questions the day before and then we work through them over the video link. It can be a bit challenging with the vagaries of connections at times, but they’ve stuck with it. Over time we’ve gotten to know each other and have established a bit of a rapport with each other. I could certainly feel how they’ve opened up as they’ve worked to unpick the physics concepts and solve the problems. Seeing the glee they show when they work out the answer is really rewarding as an educator.”

Niue is the only nation on Earth to have International Dark Skies accreditation status. So, the team is taking a telescope and some solar scopes to help support students and those wishing to run astro-tourism activities to learn more about their skies. Dr Grant notes “Niue High School has kindly offered us their multipurpose hall for the festival, so we’ll have our StarLab set up in there, which means we can digitally show what they can view in the night sky and then just pop out the door and see it all in real-life through the telescope.”

The team is also supplying the school with 100 science fair display boards to help support students to pursue their interest in science, and a possible career in STEM, post-visit. The Museum and its key outreach partner, the Te Whai Ao Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, will be available to help the students with any science projects by providing them with advice and mentoring remotely.

Dr Grant added, “We’re incredibly lucky to work with science partners such as the University of Otago, the Dodd Walls Centre, and the MacDiarmid Institute, as they provide so much state-of-art content that we get to share. With the funding support from the US Embassy and the MFAT we can share their technology and science with students who are otherwise unlikely to have such opportunity. There should be absolutely no reason why a future Nobel Prize winner couldn’t be from Niue, we’ve just got to help ignite and nurture their inherent curiosity and potential”.


For more information please contact,

Kate Oktay, Tūhura Otago Museum, Marketing Manager

[email protected]

020 4197 1907