Encouraging Māori girls through STEM

PPTA members James Lamb and Kris Watson have helped design a pilot aimed at encouraging Māori girls into STEM subjects.

A team of three teachers at Taupo’s Tauhara College are behind an innovative new pilot scheme that could see more Māori girls pursuing successful careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

solving real-world community problems

Te Waka STEM aims to increase participation and engagement from Māori girls within the school. PPTA members James Lamb and Kris Watson, along with fellow teacher Dan Piper launched the initiative with year 9 students. It sees them working in groups to solve real-world problems put together by community stakeholders. Just a few months in and it is already making an impact.

“The students are highly engaged and are actively collaborating in teams (hoe) to problem solve,” James said.

“Students with learning differences such as dyslexia are also expressing their creativity and seem well-matched to the programme.”

An award-winning project

Implementation of the pilot has been made possible thanks to The Education Hub’s Bright Spots Awards, which support teachers to trial and develop innovative new practices through funding and mentorship.

“Without this award the programme simply could not have been implemented at our school due to financial restraints,” James said.

The team has also benefited from professional learning and guidance from The Education Hub CEO Nina Hood and the opportunity to connect and share ideas with other schools who are also implementing STEM programmes.

Lack of engagement with current courses

A decile 6 school, Tauhara College has a roll of 633 and is predominantly NZ Pakeha (59%), Māori (33%) and Pacific Island (3%).

James believes poor attendance, engagement and achievement of Māori students, particularly girls, is due to a lack of engagement with current courses.
It is a major challenge with their attendance across all year levels 10 – 15% percent below that of their NZ European female classmates.

“There is little or no participation by Māori girls in our senior level STEM programmes.”

Aiming for STEM careers

The team hopes that by better engaging its year 9 Māori girls, they’ll continue on to senior STEM based courses, and eventually careers in the field.
The new learning programme builds skills and content knowledge that prepares students for a changing world.

“It is our role to allow students to develop as learners, and as citizens, to fully prepare them for all endeavours beyond high school,” Kris said.

Team teaching and café catch ups

Significant progress has been made in a number of areas since the launch of the pilot scheme.

“Team teaching has allowed us to observe different pedagogical approaches in the learning space so that we can embed them into our own practice. This has been most refreshing and has allowed us to continue to grow in our own learning journey as teachers,” Kris said.

Innovative ideas that connect whanau with their child’s learning have also been introduced, including Te Waka Café, where whanau catch up with teachers once a fortnight at a local café to discuss student progress and course design.

High hopes for an exciting future

James says the project has been a steep learning curve, and has taught them heaps, including the ability to work collaboratively as an effective team. They hope that this initiative will develop capacity within their school for other teams to plan and implement cross-curricular programmes, and perhaps even pave the way for other schools to start moving towards transdisciplinary learning.

First and foremost though they want to increase diversity in enrollment in Tauhara’s STEM courses and get more school leavers entering STEM based careers. And hopes are high.

“If the rest of the year and beyond continues as this year has started, the future of the Te Waka STEM Hub looks very exciting!”

For more information on the Bright Spots Awards visit The Education Hub's website: 

Bright Spot Awards - The Education Hub (theeducationhub.org.nz) 

Last modified on Tuesday, 25 June 2019 16:24