Select here for the best view of this interactive timeline. It combines the Rongomai School healthy homes investigation with the nature of science.

Rights: © Copyright University of Waikato. All rights reserved. Published 30 June 2016 Referencing Hub media

When Rongomai School and Manurewa High School students investigated local homes for mould, they were working as scientists. Learn about their work and how it reflects the nature of science.

Note: To use this interactive timeline, move your cursor or finger over any of the labelled boxes and select to get further information.You can also scroll forwards and backwards or use the arrows in the top section.

Transcript

4 June 2015 – Poor housing

The coroner finds that cold, damp housing contributes to a local toddler’s death.

Nature of science – everyday problems

Science has applications for issues we face every day. Research indicates cold, damp, mouldy housing contributes to around 42,000 hospital admissions and 15 deaths each year (Children’s Commission data).

Science provides background knowledge to inform decisions but cannot dictate how problems such as substandard housing are solved.

Science capability

Engage with science

Acknowledgement: University of Waikato

June 2015 – Funding the investigation

Rongomai Primary School science teacher Nicholas Pattison and Landcare Research scientists obtain Unlocking Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform funding to sample local homes for mould. COMET Auckland is the project manager.

Nature of science – satisfy curiosity

Science helps satisfy our curiosity. Nick and his students are aware that cold, damp homes can make people sick. They are curious to know how local housing might be affected by this problem and the scientific processes that can help them find out.

Science capability

Engage with science

Acknowledgement: COMET Auckland

July 2015 – Collaboration

Rongomai Primary School STEM students and Manurewa High School’s Health Sciences Academy students team up with Landcare Research plant pathologist Dr Stanley Bellgard and Nirvana Healthcare.

Nature of science – sharing ideas

Most research projects require more knowledge and expertise than an individual person or group may have, so often collaboration is part of the process in scientific research. This can bring together scientists from different fields, local community members and, in this case, school students. School students, Landcare Research scientists and Nirvana Healthcare are involved in the Healthy Homes, Healthy Futures project. Each group brings its own area of expertise, curiosity and questions, working together to build, knowledge to uncover answers and solutions.

Science capability

Engage with science

Acknowledgement: Nick Pattison/Rongomai Primary School

5 September 2015 – Using equipment

Students learn how to accurately use swabs to take samples. They also learn how to use iButton sensors to measure and record indoor temperature and humidity levels.

Nature of science – gathering data

Scientists (and students) need to use the appropriate equipment and follow established protocols when collecting data. This ensures that any data collected is valid. Landcare Research and Nirvana Healthcare shared their expertise and equipment with students, and together, they developed a set of data collection protocols, ensuring measurement equipment and sample swabs are used correctly and in a manner that gathered robust data for the project. These protocols could be easily repeated by another group of researchers.

Science capabilities

Gather and interpret data

Use evidence

Acknowledgement: Rongomai Primary School

25 September 2015 –  Gathering data

Students collect data from 22 houses in the local area. The collection protocol (developed by the students with support from the scientists) requires five samples from each house. Students have to swab the living room, kitchen and bedroom but are able to choose other rooms, too. They also measure the temperature and humidity in each of the rooms.

Nature of science – data as evidence

The gathering of data is integral to scientific research. Science aims to build more accurate and powerful explanations and requires evidence to build or uphold scientific arguments. Using a standardised collection protocol helps ensure consistency and accuracy of data.

Science capability

Gather and interpret data

Acknowledgement: Rongomai Primary School

25 October 2015 – Observing the samples

Students take the mould swabs to Landcare Research. They plate the mould swabs and view them under a compound microscope, as the spores are very small.

Nature of science – observation

Scientific observations can be made directly with our own senses or we can extend and refine our basic senses with tools like microscopes. It is important to record observations when collecting and analysing samples. What may seem not important or unconnected may be a vital piece of the puzzle later in a project.

Science capabilitity

Gather and interpret data

Acknowledgement: Nick Pattison/Rongomai Primary School

20 October 2015 –Interpreting the samples

Scientists studying the samples identify 14 different kinds of mould.

Nature of science – interpreting the data

While observation and gathering data is essential to the process of science, it is only half the picture. Interpreting those observations and data is the other half. Scientists observe what’s happening and try to explain it using the evidence they have collected and also knowledge found in other scientific research.

Science capabilities

Gather and interpret data

Use evidence

Critique evidence

Acknowledgement: Rongomai Primary School

28 October 2015 – Surprising results

Scientists are surprised to find a broad range of moulds, three types of yeast that are linked to ill health and an antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the samples taken from local homes.

Nature of science – finding supportive, contradictory, surprising or inconclusive data

Data can support, contradict or be unexpected and surprising. Finding evidence in scientific research sometimes involves serendipity, where an unexpected or surprising result leads the research in a different direction.

The homes with the yeasts and bacteria will need follow-up actions to ensure that the affected rooms are thoroughly cleaned.

Science capabilities

Gather and interpret data

Use evidence

Critique evidence

Acknowledgement: Public domain

29 October 2015 – Presenting their findings

Students present their findings in many forms – via presentations at a school prizegiving ceremony, through a music video and by designing t-shirts. Local and national media also publish the results and the musical compilation.

Nature of science – publication

In order for science to progress, researchers must share their ideas and findings. Scientists often publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals or make presentations at conferences.

Student investigations are more likely to be shared with their friends and family, at science fairs and school assemblies or via media.

Communicating scientific findings is an important part of all research. In order for changes to be made to improve people’s health and lives, the important scientific messages have to be able to be understood by the people affected.

Science capability

Interpret representations

Acknowledgement: Rongomai Primary School

March 2016 – Community action

The results lead community leaders to request building warrants of fitness for rental homes in South Auckland.

Nature of science – inform policy

Research can influence government policy on a range of issues. Scientists are motivated to do research that addresses real problems.

The student-led healthy homes research is receiving a significant amount of media attention. The students hope their research will influence action for improved housing conditions for all New Zealanders.

Science capability

Engage with science

Acknowledgement: Jamie Farrant, licensed through 123RF Limited

April 2016 – Future investigations

Rongomai Primary School receives additional funding to refine their investigation regarding mould in local houses.

Nature of science – replication

Scientists’ research should be replicable, meaning that another researcher could perform a similar investigation using the described methods. The results can then be compared at two different time periods.

Science capabilities

Gather and interpret data

Use evidence

Engage with science

Acknowledgement: New Zealand Government. Crown Copyright. 2016.