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It Takes a Village - Science charity inspires the next generation

A small Wairarapa charity which provides science kits to schools has steadily grown over the past four years, with 90 per cent of schools in the region now participating in the programme.



Since 2019, House of Science Wairarapa has been providing schools with custom-made lesson kits on a range of scientific topics, with all the necessary equipment and materials coming ready-to-go in a box.


There are close to 40 different kits available, on topics like water analysis, nano-chemistry, food, electricity, physics, climate change and more.


Behind the charity is a story of a new mum with a PhD in Molecular Medicine, who wanted her own kids to grow up learning science.


Amanda Taylor was on parental leave when she heard a radio interview with Chris Duggan, who had left her high school teaching job to start House of Science NZ.


“She was disillusioned with kids coming through from primary school saying they couldn't do science, had never done science, and why would they pick it up at high school,” Amanda says.


“She decided the best thing to do was to resource the primary school teachers - to allow them to do it without adding to their load.”


Amanda was inspired.


“I said to my husband, our kids are about to start school - why isn't this here?”


“My husband said ‘well, you know what you have to do about it - you need to set it up here”.


“So, long story short, we set up the charitable trust here and started in the schools in 2019 - in the South Wairarapa and Carterton.


“This year, we're in the South Wairarapa, Carterton, Masterton, and now Tararua as well.”

A pupil from Pirinoa School using equipment from a House of Science Wairarapa kit.


Building up the number of schools taking part has been a slow but steady process, involving a lot of work from Amanda, and her team of volunteers.


“When we first started out we were restocking [the kits] on the dining room table.” Amanda says.


Amanda says House of Science Wairarapa relies on grants and sponsorship from local businesses and corporates.


“The schools pay a membership fee, but it's only about 10 per cent of what it actually costs to deliver the services - especially when we've got so many rural schools,” Amanda says.


“We get funding from organisations like Lottery Community, Trust House Foundation, Masterton Trust Lands Trust, Eastern & Central and Community Trust, Nikau Foundation, and COGS, as well as our local councils. The ANZ Staff Foundation funded four science kits and all their consumables for one year .”


“Then we have other businesses like McKenzie’s Electrical in Carterton - they sponsor membership of all the Carterton schools - and organisations like the Ruamahanga Restoration Trust, who sponsor our water analysis science kits, and Thunderpants, who sponsor our Dem Bones science kit.”

A Pirinoa School pupil takes part in water testing using a House of Science Wairarapa kit.


One school that has benefitted is Pirinoa School in South Wairarapa – a rural school with just 44 pupils this year.


Pirinoa School Senior Teacher Natalie Lagah was one of the first to sign up for House of Science Wairarapa’s kits, as she understood the value of science in a region like Wairarapa.


“We've got a lake really close by, we've got the rivers and streams really close by - so there's so many opportunities right on our doorstep for us to do science in a very meaningful way,” Natalie says.


The local community and parents of her pupils have also been extremely supportive of the programme.


“When we established the science club a couple of years ago, and said we wanted to take a van load of kids on these trips, they went, great, when? What can we do to help?“


Local farm Palliser Ridge even offered to let the kids come and test waterways on their farm.


“Our community's the best - really wonderful people, and very supportive of our school,” Natalie says.


“Without the kits, I don't think I would be teaching science to the level that I can, because I simply do not have the resources.”


“Without the kits, I don't think I would be teaching science to the level that I can, because I simply do not have the resources.”

Natalie Lagah - Pirinoa School Senior Teacher


Looking to the future, Amanda says there will always be a need for more sponsorship and volunteers.


Volunteers are currently transporting the science kits using their own vehicles, and Amanda would love to buy a van to make that easier.


And for any parents of children who may be interested in science - Amanda has a message.


“You don't necessarily have to be the brightest kid in the world to do science - you just have to be really curious, and really like getting in there and asking questions, and be able to keep going when things don't work.


“Every little kid is curious, and if we can keep them asking questions, then it's only going to be better for them.”


You can find out more about House of Science at https://houseofscience.nz/branch/wairarapa-2/


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