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Family participation raising the profile of science at Windy Ridge

Issue: Volume 97, Number 2

Posted: 09:00am, 12 Feb 2018
Reference #: 1H9hQK

Establishing strong educational connections with parents, families and whānau has a positive impact on students’ academic and social outcomes. Amanda Hurley, Science Curriculum leader at Windy Ridge School in Glenfield, Auckland aims to increase the profile of science at her school and among the community. One of the ways she did this was by introducing ‘Family Science Workshops’ to her school and engaging with parents in order to get them participating.

All images: Family Science Workshops in progress at Windy Ridge.

All images: Family Science Workshops in progress at Windy Ridge.

While attending a professional development science session mid-way through last year, Amanda learnt about an initiative called Family Science Workshops, which began in 2014 and was initially funded by Creative Minds. The workshops aim to empower adults to engage with science with their children, and are led by scientist Ashleigh Fox. Amanda recognised that some of the sessions could be held in her school as a way to begin raising the profile of science among students and whānau.

“We began in term 4,” says Amanda, “and involved 12 year 4 and 5 students. Each of the children had a parent with them, most importantly. To be selected for a spot in the workshops, and to make it fair, students filled in an application form, asking questions such as ‘why is learning about science important?’ and ‘why would you like to be selected for these workshops?’. This was also a way to build excitement and make it extra special for those students who were selected.

“We hope that through families participating in the workshops together, it will encourage science to be discussed and explored at home, as well as at school.”

The 12 selected students were divided into two groups, and each group did two sessions – ‘DNA Extraction’ and ‘Electrical Energy’. The sessions were held once a week in the evening, and began with pizza and an informal chat with the scientists, followed by the workshops, which were led by the scientists.

Participants were able to take home a kit. One student, after performing a DNA extraction using kiwifruit at the workshop, did the same experiment with her family, using a banana. These sessions supported learning about matter, complex molecules, and built their understanding of the world around them.

Both students and parents said they enjoyed working with real scientists and using equipment that they may not have experienced before. Several students have expressed an interest in becoming scientists when they grow up.

Following the workshops, students created iMovies using photos and videos taken during the sessions and shared them at school assemblies, which were also attended by many parents. Amanda says the students’ enthusiasm for science learning has been very contagious.

“The workshops have stimulated lots of professional discussion among science teachers, who were excited to see students engaging in experiences like these.”

Many students have asked about 2018 workshops, and Amanda says everybody is excited that Family Science Workshops will be coming back to Windy Ridge to do ‘Colour Chemistry’ and ‘Rocket Launch’ with a new group of students this year.

Amanda believes that the workshops have brought science right to the fore throughout the school’s learning community.

“Family Science Workshops really have been a great resource for us in terms of raising the profile of science in our school. In 2018 our science team will be looking at how we can further use the experiences of students and parents who participate in these workshops to enhance science engagement in our school and community.”


Learning outcomes

Windy Ridge School focused on using the Nature of Science strand and the sub-strands it encompasses to help students develop their understanding of science, and of the work that scientists do.

Through the workshops, students learned how scientists carry out investigations by participating in real-life science situations. They’re able to see science as part of everyday life and a potential future career pathway for themselves. They also enhanced their understanding of the Physical and Material Worlds, while the practical side of the sessions enabled them to use their current knowledge and skills for problem-solving.

Utilising the workshops gave students the opportunity to interact with scientists, engage in real-life science experiences, and discuss with scientists about their work and how it helps the local community and beyond.

See information about Family Science Workshops here - link)


Voices: Windy Ridge parents and teachers

Feedback from parents who accompanied their child to Family Science Workshop sessions:

“It’s been awesome. I highly recommend that families take part if they possibly can. Thank you for the opportunity.”

“I was impressed with the aims of the two evenings – extracting DNA from a kiwifruit the first week and building an electric motor the second! Thank you Amanda Hurley, and the scientists who gave up their evenings for us.”

“Was fun! The DNA is cooling in the fridge!”

Feedback from teachers on Family Science Workshops:

“I had a fabulous time last night and I can’t wait for next week. What an amazing group. I’m sure all those families who have had the pleasure of attending these evenings have gone home with fond memories of discovery and excitement at Windy Ridge School. Wow!”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

The Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero is produced by NZME for the Ministry of Education for teachers, leaders, and other education professionals working in New Zealand.

Posted: 09:02am, 12 February 2018

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