Science takes a front seat

The Primary Science Teacher Fellowship

The Ministry of Science Research and Technology (MoRST) is taking the lead in making Science a priority for Primary Education.

“This is not an academic exercise but a chance for teachers to get their hands dirty and live the life of a real scientist. Our Primary Science Teacher Fellows are challenged to take the creativity, excitement and innovative thinking they have experienced back to the classroom. “

Up to 30 teachers at a time undertake a Fellowship programme that provides 6 months release from the classroom.

The Royal Society oversees the programme delivered by CORE Education Ltd.

This represents a significant financial investment at raising the level of science education in New Zealand.

The pay off could be just around the corner.

'We have no shortage of people claiming business or entrepreneurial skills....what we do have is a shortage of is new products to sell. It is well known that a strong science capability leads to technological innovations and products to export.'

A number of reports, such as the National Education Monitoring (NEMP) report as well as recent research in the classroom overseen by CORE Education, indicate that New Zealand students are missing out on understanding what Science is all about.

Primary schools seem the perfect place to start revamping Science. 

Secondary school teachers readily admit that assessment drives teaching at the expense of students gaining a living knowledge of the nature of science.

And that is where Primary teachers can make a difference. 

“It’s exciting to be part of a programme that could transform the contribution New Zealand makes in a sustainable 21st Century global economy. Asking students to consider their impact on the environment, to think creatively and understand the wonders in the natural world is an awesome responsibility and something that makes the teaching profession so rewarding”.

Seeing how real scientists work has been an eye-opener for many teachers. Inquiry in the classroom is too often focused on the Scientifc Method or Fair testing. Science Fairs inadvertantly over emphasis the importance of Fair Testing in science. The Fellows reported back the types of science activities and investigations their hosts were involved with and were surprised to find the Scientific Method was not as important as they had believed;  many other strategies were used instead.

The Royal Society administers the New Zealand Primary Science Teacher Fellowship programme.

The goals of the Fellowship are to:
  • Develop both personally and professionally in order to confidently take on leadership responsibilities in Science
  • Enhance understanding of the Nature of Science
  • Enhance awareness and understanding of the applications of Science in the wider community
  • Enhance awareness and understanding of potential careers involving Science
  • Share enhanced knowledge and positive attitudes to Science with colleagues, students and others in the general community

CORE Education Ltd provides a team of facilitators to write and deliver 2-day curriculum workshops, cluster meetings and make school visits once Fellows return to the classroom.

A once in a life time opportunity

"I've got six months to work like a professional scientist. Then I'll use my skills and knowledge in the classroom and upskill other teachers. The main thrust is that it all feeds back to the kids." Steven Tait, Mt Eden Normal Primary

Never too a 10-year-old Jamie conceived of a classroom noise meter. Research indicates junior students love science...if given a chance in the crowded curriculum to experience it.

Scicon 2010 Presentation

Supporting the Primary Science Teacher Fellows; Transforming Primary Science

Michael Winter 1, Dayle Anderson2, Michael Fenton3 and Brigitte Glasson1

1 CORE Education Ltd, 151 Kilmore St, Christchurch, New Zealand

2  Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand

3  Inglewood High School, Inglewood, Taranaki, New Zealand

Abstract Text

The Primary Science Teacher Fellowship (PSTF) is funded by the Ministry of Research Science and Technology (MORST), and administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ). The National Education Monitoring Project Report (NEMP) found that primary students' attitudes towards science were in decline. This led the RSNZ to restructure the Fellowship in 2009, with the aim of reversing this trend by developing acommunity of confident science educators who will facilitate better science experiences for primary age students


The focus of the Fellowship is to develop Fellows' understanding of and confidence in teaching and leading science in their schools. Fellows spend two terms on secondment to a science-based host organisation, where they work alongside the organisation's staff, doing 'real' science. During this time, they receive six days of curriculum support, and a week long Leadership Development workshop. In the year following their secondment, Fellows receive ongoing curriculum support to help them to become science curriculum leaders in their schools.


CORE Education is contracted to provide the six days of curriculum development to the Fellows, and the subsequent in school support. We have also created an online community to complement the face-to-face curriculum support. The focus of the curriculum development is on helping teachers understand what the science curriculum, and the overarching Nature of Science strand, mean to students and teachers. This presentation describes the programme that we have developed to support the Primary Science Teacher Fellows.

"The challenge now is for the Ministry of Education to not only keep this initiative going, but to begin a long overdue revitalisation of Secondary science..."



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