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Cutting‐edge science for secondary schools

13 May 2013

Secondary school science teachers around the country have received an intensive update on the latest in biomedical science from leading New Zealand researchers, in a series of free events sponsored by the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery.

The events – in Napier, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch and Nelson – were designed to help teachers keep pace with the rapid advances in their field and to prepare for the new NCEA Level 3 curriculum. With the Maurice Wilkins Centre’s support, the events are free of charge for teachers.

Organised by Head of Biology at Epsom Girls Grammar School Rachel Heeney and Maurice Wilkins Centre principal investigator Professor Peter Shepherd – who have also written an award winning biology textbook – they followed a very successful inaugural event in Auckland late last year.

Top scientists from local Universities and Crown Research Institutions presented the latest research on how animals maintain a stable internal environment (e.g. regulating their temperature and glucose levels) and how humans can manipulate genes and what this means – topics that are part of the new Level 3 curriculum.

Professor Shepherd selected scientists whose expertise matched key topics at NCEA Level 3. Working with Ms Heeney, he has helped them present the material in a way that teachers can take straight into the classroom. Their talks provided teachers with classroom‐ready material, ideas and discussion points. The presentations will also be made freely available on the Maurice Wilkins Centre website for teachers who could not attend in person.

The events have proven popular with teachers. There were 130 registrations for the inaugural event in Auckland last year (more than triple the number anticipated) and teachers’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive: 99 per cent said events like these were essential or very valuable and all planned to use the material. Around 50 teachers each were expected in Wellington and Christchurch and 30 in each of the regional centres.

The events complement other Maurice Wilkins Centre initiatives which pair teachers with scientists, such as its biology teacher development scholarships. Outreach to schools helps Centres of Research Excellence fulfil their role in the promotion of science, and Professor Shepherd says the Maurice Wilkins Centre has sought to identify areas where its resources can really make a difference.

Following the events the presentations will be made available for download from the Maurice Wilkins Centre website.