GeoNoho brings science to Te Hiku tamariki

Our Science

25 August 2022

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The next generation of Aotearoa’s science minds are growing strong in Te Hiku (the Far North) through a marae-based science wānanga.

Tūhura Papatūānuku Geo Noho aims to improve the access of science resources for young Māori and help them learn about the environment (te taiao).

The four-day noho (camp) took place for the second time this year at Ngāi Takoto's Waimanoni Marae in Awanui. The week of learning aims to get the tauira (students) excited about science, te reo Māori (Māori language) and mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge). Over the week, year 7 and 8 students from local schools are challenged with hands-on experiential learning through field trips and lessons at the marae.

Tūhura Papatūānuku Geo Noho : science growing strong in Te Hiku – Tūhura Papatūānuku Geo Noho aims to improve the access of science resources for young Māori transcript

Tūhura Papatūānuku Geo Noho aims to improve the access of science resources for young Māori

Tūhura Papatūānuku Geo Noho : science growing strong in Te Hiku

Tūhura Papatūānuku Geo Noho aims to improve the access of science resources for young Māori

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Field trips were followed by analysis and discussion at Waimanoni Marae of what students had found during the day

The first field trip took place at Lake Ngatu and included a lake coring demonstration, showing how lake health can be protected through studying layers of sediment (mud and silt). Another at Ahipara on Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē (Ninety Mile Beach) asked students to draw contour lines onto sandcastles and construct their own boreholes in the sand to measure groundwater salinity.

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Jess Hillman helps students take a sediment core from Lake Ngatu

GNS Science Geological Research Labs and Collections Manager Sonja Bermudez says when the kids first arrive they are anxious and apprehensive, but soon they begin to blossom. “By the end of the week they are asking truckloads of questions and talking about science concepts with confidence. And it's not just the children doing the learning."

I have grown a lot through being exposed to Mātauranga Māori and discovering Te Tai Tokerau and its amazing people.  I feel so blessed to have been able to participate and contribute to the learning of our future leaders

Sonja Bermudez geological Research Labs and Collections Manager GNS Science

The experience is co-designed and co-delivered by Far North REAP, Te Aho Tū Roa, Te Rarawa iwi and GNS Science.

Far North REAP Kaitautoko Mātauranga Selena Bercic says the opportunity was to make these purely science-based camps into something more meaningful and conducive for Māori learners. “I was introduced to a Geo Camp that GNS ran five and half years ago. I went along and saw how it ran over eleven days. I saw our tamariki coming in every day from faraway places like Te Hapua and Panguru. I was amazed by the kōrero and the information they were being fed. But I could also see the connection to Mātauranga Māori that wasn’t yet being explored."

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GNS Science Paleontology Team Leader Joe Prebble talking about drawing contour lines on the sandcastles

There was one lesson about New Zealand being under the water 25 million years ago. It was only a sheet of rock at the top of the North and how it rose out of the water. I thought of the story of Te Ika a Māui, imagine having those stories put together with the science.

Selena Bercic Kaitautoko Mātauranga/Education Support Far North REAP
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The Augmented Reality Sandbox allows students to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time.

The long road to funding

"After trying to get it funded for two years, I said to Joe Prebble at GNS, why don’t we run it like a mixture between a Noho Taiao and a Geo Camp," Selena says. "We mix mātauranga Māori while giving them the marae experience over a week where they get local histories, whakapapa, iwi history and origins, as well as the geology and significance of our own areas and Kaitiakitanga.”

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Selena Bercic talking about the value of GeoNoho at the end of the four-days

In 2020, they were successful with funding and ran three Geo Noho across Northland. “As we created and delivered it together, we found things that worked and didn’t,” Selena says. “For example, we looked at the curriculum GNS provided and worked together to improve the te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori, like weaving in the names and histories around the water cycle and carbon cycle. We were also able to find and compose waiata that were pertinent to geology. Whakapapa o Te Wai words come from one of our mātanga and is all about water in te reo Māori.  For some of them it was their first introduction to a lot of bigger words. Learning through waiata reo makes it a bit easier in for the students.

“We also bring in local Kaumātua and kuia that work in the taiao in our areas. Showing them the kaitiakitanga and Kaupapa that had been in the area and not just in the large centres.”

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Students constructing their own bore holes at Ahipara on Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē / Ninety Mile Beach

The learnings are based around central themes of environmental change, and the water and carbon cycles. At the conclusion of each day, students are challenged to draw and reflect on what they have learned. 

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At the end of Geo Noho everyone gathers together to relfect on what they have learnt and drawing it up on a sheet for each topic

Breaking down barriers 

Te Aho Tū Roa Programme Kaiwhakapūmau / Poutautoko Joanne Murray says taitamariki in the Far North shouldn’t have to miss out on these experiences because they live remotely.

“They should be able to get some of the top scientists and top geologists in front of them to help consolidate their learning as well as marry it up with mātauranga Māori, so that’s what we did. Our tupuna were scientists in their own right and we should be sharing both body knowledge at the same time. So, a dual provision of education for our taitamariki to understand we can actually walk in both worlds. GeoNoho is about not just western science perspective but also mātauranga Māori, kōrero tuku iho (histories), Atuatanga Māori as well.

We need scientists from here. For too long we’ve lost people to Australia and Auckland and for us it’s about keeping people home, getting them employed. We need them to come up with solutions for our people who will be impacted by climate change.

Joanne Murray Kaiwhakapūmau / Poutautoko Te Aho Tū Roa Programme

"It is critical for all our iwi, we are right at the very tip and we are either side of the shore," Selena says. "We want to be able to put our homes up here and have someone who can find solutions we need, like finding the aquifers and keeping them healthy. Water is blue gold up here, we have had a fair few droughts and we need people with that speciality.”

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Whakapapa o Te Wai words come from one of our mātanga and is all about water in te reo Māori. Everyone is asked to learn these by the end of Geo Noho

Joanne explains that it is also designed to encourage Kaiako (teachers) to learn more about teaching the sciences. “We want teachers to walk away with the confidence to teach this in the classrooms once they’ve left here. And also to understand that our tupuna had this valid body of knowledge and for too long, it has been undermined, and it still is, and is important for us to put it out there more often.”

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Geo Noho is not just about student learning, but their teachers as well, so they can take learnings back to other students

Kupenga: building a net

GNS Science Senior Geologist Kyle Bland says it’s truly inspiring to work with community leaders who are so passionate and dedicated to creating and providing opportunities for their people. 

“The time and effort that they put in to so many different kaupapa is quite humbling.  By spending time together, you develop the trust, you know you can rely and depend on each other, and you can deliver some pretty powerful stuff together."

I think of our different contributions in the concept of a kupenga (net); the more threads that you weave together within your net, the stronger the net becomes and the more you can capture. This is especially true in terms of sharing benefits with the community, and also capturing mātauranga (knowledge) with the wider community in the Far North

Kyle Bland Senior Geologist GNS Science
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Kyle Bland helping students take a sediment core from Lake Ngatu

"Through working with and learning from them, I’ve found that my perspective on many issues has significantly changed," Kyle says. "I’ve become more aware of circumstances within the Te Hiku region, and why communities approach certain issues in certain ways.  This in turn has helped us to understand what the real issues within the community are, which in turn has helped to better guide, develop, and focus the types of science research and educational kaupapa that is needed in the Far North.”

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Kyle Bland Senior Geologist

I’m interested in the geological, paleogeographic, paleoenvironmental, and biogeographic evolution of the New Zealand region at multiple scales and time frames. I have extensive field experience examining sedimentary rocks across much of Aotearoa, with particular expertise in the eastern North Island and Taranaki-Whanganui regions. I am a current co-compiler of new geological and geomorphological maps within the Auckland region, and lead GNS’s multi-disciplinary ‘Integrated Coastal Dynamics’ research project. My passion for community outreach means I am a frequent proponent, participant, and leader of activities particularly targeting school children and their teachers, and iwi — especially in the Northland, eastern North Island, and Taranaki regions, including via the award-winning “GeoCamp” initiative.

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