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Three Unlocking Curious Minds projects for GNS Science - 20/05/2016

GNS Science has won a total of $127,000 for three projects in the 2016 round of the government’s Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund.

The fund, which started in 2015, is aimed at supporting innovative projects that reach young people who have limited opportunities to engage with science and technology.

The three GNS Science projects will see students looking for dinosaur footprints in northwest Nelson, engaging in a series of hands-on learning sessions covering a range of earth science topics for youth with learning disabilities, and participating in a project to measure air quality in school buildings in the Hutt Valley.

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It will also encourage participants to actively explore their local environment, which will potentially lead to further opportunities to engage in fulfilling activities

Dr Chris Hollis

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The air quality project, called Sensors in Schools, aims to have sensors installed at 10 schools in the Hutt Valley.  It is believed up to 700 students will be involved in this project, which has received funding of $29,500.

The sensors will measure indoor concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, two gases associated with vehicle use that are known to have adverse health effects.

The sensors will wirelessly upload data to the internet which means students will not only be able to see readings at their own school, but they will be able to monitor sensors at other schools in the project as well.

Kids

Project leader Travis Ancelet said the initiative would give students hands-on experience in measuring air quality and expand their understanding of the role we all play in contributing to air quality.

“Ultimately this project will increase awareness of air quality, both indoors and outdoors, and promote the relevance of science in students’ daily lives,” said Dr Ancelet.

Another successful GNS Science project will help young people with learning disabilities learn about planet earth and its life.  Called Action Planet, it received funding of $67,000 and will focus on five topics: protecting our environment; the impacts of climate change; resilience to natural hazards; responsible use of natural resources; and living with microbes.

Project leader Chris Hollis said the aim was empower participants by giving them confidence that they could contribute to decision-making processes in their communities.

“It will also encourage participants to actively explore their local environment, which will potentially lead to further opportunities to engage in fulfilling activities,” Dr Hollis said.

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The project also provides opportunities for students from rural areas to discover science career pathways prior to completing high school, and to build partnerships with scientists, stakeholders and the local community

Dr Lucia Roncaglia

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GNS Science is working with IDEA Services and learning support units in Lower Hutt schools to identify a group of young adults aged 16 to 25 with moderate learning disabilities.

“We have selected this group because they are either about to or already are leading relatively independent lives, and will be able to apply the knowledge and skills gained in their homes and daily activities.”

The third successful project, called Dinosaur Footprints – an event of discovery, will involve a three-day field trip for up to 25 Year 13 students from Collingwood Area School in northwest Nelson.

It has been awarded $30,000 from the Curious Minds fund.

The students will accompany GNS Science staff to a coastal area in northwest Nelson where dinosaur footprints were discovered in 2009 to help search for new dinosaur footprints.

They will form into small teams, each with a lead scientist, to clean rocky shore exposures of their veneer of mud using shovels, brooms, brushes and water to see if any more dinosaur footprints exist in the area.

In every respect, the event will be a routine scientific investigation using fieldwork and all the normal protocols will apply. This includes safety, security, photography and the reporting of results.

The students will disseminate their findings to the community via an existing dedicated website or their own school website, and by engagement with the media.

Project leader Lucia Roncaglia said students would also be encouraged to generate increased awareness about the protection and conservation of fossil sites in the local area.

“The project also provides opportunities for students from rural areas to discover science career pathways prior to completing high school, and to build partnerships with scientists, stakeholders and the local community,” Dr Roncaglia said.

The project links to the exhibition ‘Dinosaur Footprints – A Story of Discovery’, which has been touring New Zealand for the past two years and is scheduled to be on display at the Hutt War Memorial Library in September.