(From left) House of Science Rotorua branch manager Royston Bartholomew, resource assistant Lakshmi Balasubramaniam, and volunteer Raiwin McCain. Photo / Shawnee James
Water analysis, food science, recycling and Busy Bee’s World are just a few examples of topics a charitable trust is helping local children enjoy and connect with.
House of Science works to help improve scientific literacy in primary and secondary schools through its comprehensive, interactive and bilingual resource kit.
The aim of the kit is to connect the children with science in the classroom as well as give more confidence to the teachers to teach the subject.
Rotorua branch manager Royston Bartholomew says the kit library is accessible to primary and secondary schools in Rotorua and the Taupo area.
“We support science education in 24 schools, with more schools signing up every semester.”
He says that with more than 60 schools in the Rotorua Lake area and now establishing a local branch, House of Science can help teachers increase science literacy among thousands of young learners.
With further expansion, the local branch will need more volunteers.
“Our science kits are loaned out on a fortnightly cycle. We have a fantastic team of dedicated volunteers who donate their time to help us collect, distribute, maintain and refill our science kits .
“As our school membership grows, so does the need for additional volunteers.
“We have a vibrant volunteer center staffed by a permanent manager and resource assistant, and welcome applications from anyone who would like to join the team by donating their time four hours a week.
“Kit maintenance superstars and volunteer drivers for our dedicated vehicle are always welcome.”
Royston says that young minds are inquisitive by nature.
“Helping primary and intermediate teachers to open students’ minds to scientific discovery at an early age helps to lay the foundation for further study.
“Students entering secondary education who have increased scientific literacy will feel more confident in making science choices in high school; hopefully leading to more students considering scientific careers later in life.”
As the House of Science is a charitable trust, it receives little funding from the government and instead relies on local sponsors, charities and beneficiaries, for which it is forever grateful.
Resource assistant Lakshmi Balasubramaniam says she enjoys working with the science kit.
She says the kits provide practical, easy, and fun ways to help kids learn quickly.
Volunteer Rawin McCain says he is extremely happy to be working with the House of Science.
“Royston let me take home a kit for the school holidays and the kids loved it.”
She says the kits enable Curiosity practically.
Nongotaha Primary School principal Craig McFadden says the school joined the House of Science program in 2017 to support the science curriculum.
The ease of use and level of engagement has made it a regular part of the school’s annual budget, he says.
“Kids love kits and fun learning opportunities. Teachers enjoy the fact that all of the resources with lesson plans are included in the kit, and I enjoy them for their educational value and value for money.
“It would be nearly impossible for us to buy and then store all the resources available in the kit. This is a cost-effective way of ensuring that children have all the resources they need to teach a balanced curriculum.”
Craig says the school has used dozens of kits over the years, and the distinctive containers always get students excited when they’re delivered.
“Kids love every single kit, especially ‘Who Dunnit’ and ‘Dem Bones,’ but I always enjoy when ‘Food for Thought’ comes along and our kids learn about food science Work, protect and some really brave students eat a cricket.
“They tried many times to get me to eat, but I’m not brave enough for that.”
He says practical activities are important for many children and that kits allow this type of learning.
“We book kits that tie into our plan so that learning is integrated and authentic. It’s easy to find kits or lessons with so many to choose from.”
The nature of science, he says, is an important part of the science curriculum, which encourages children to think critically and problem-solve.
“The House of Science Kit enables us to provide lessons to encourage children to think critically about the world around them in a fun, meaningful way.”
Craig says the kit as well as the website, resources, and people on the House of Science team are extremely helpful.
“The fact that they also provide kits in Te Rey Māori is hugely beneficial to our full immersion rumaki unit.”