New Zealand science teachers have welcomed the $2 million of funding from the 2017 Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund, however they are concerned that the successful projects to receive funding will not be sustainable without adequate ongoing funding and support.
Unlocking Curious Minds is a cross-agency programme of work led by MBIE, the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith yesterday announced $2 million of funding for directed for 41 projects from the 2017 contestable fund. Community projects received grants of up to $30,000 while regional or national projects received up to $150,000.
Goldsmith says the Unlocking Curious Minds fund focuses on projects that engage young New Zealanders who have fewer opportunities to be involved with science and technology.
“It’s about giving young Kiwis more choices. Taking part in science and technology keeps more career options open to young people,” he says.
Among the successful projects are the introduction of a National Biomechanics Day aimed at lower decile schools; a Maths Crafts Festival; engaging students in conservation programmes at Zealandia; and a range of other environmental and technological initiatives.
The funded projects will be led by a wide variety of organisations including primary schools, tertiary education organisations, Crown Research Institutes, museums, trusts, and companies.
Chris Duggan, president of New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) says the Unlocking Curious Minds fund is a great vehicle for engaging young people in innovative science projects and she is especially pleased to see the focus is on those who may not have these opportunities available to them.
“Science and technology are foundational to so many future career pathways and the projects funded through this initiative are uniquely Kiwi which is exciting.”
However Duggan has some concerns about the future of these projects.
“Unfortunately there is no guarantee of ongoing support to these groups through the Curious Minds fund and we are now seeing some of the earlier projects falter which is a real shame.”
Duggan says there is still a lack of quality science education happening at primary school level.
“We still have a huge problem in New Zealand with nearly three-quarters of our primary schools not offering satisfactory science programmes. Students are at their most curious at primary school and I believe our focus should be on empowering these teachers to deliver better science lessons.”