Kiwrious believes science is fun, creative and social – and the Kiwrious team from University of Auckland enables students to experience this firsthand. Kiwrious is funded by Curious Minds to engage ākonga in interactive, hands-on, inquiry-based learning.
Doing science is cooler than knowing science.Kiwrious Science Experience
With the planned refresh of Aotearoa’s national curriculum, the education team at Kiwrious is excited to see an emphasis on the Nature of Science and ‘doing’ science in the classroom. They believe the Kiwrious Science Experience is a way for teachers to ignite their students’ scientific curiosity and foster ways of working like scientists do – through asking meaningful questions, gathering data, sharing results and being open to peer review.
How does Kiwrious engage the students?
The Kiwrious Science Experience consists of six sensors, which students can use to measure:
- volatile organic compounds in the air
- UV/light level
- their own heartbeat.
The sensors plug in to a computer to launch the Kiwrious Inquiry Editor, which encourages students to make multiple observations, provide descriptions of what they are doing, present their findings and share their results. They can check with their peers and comment on others’ findings through the platform. The platform is supported by teaching resources, including lesson guidelines, demonstration inquiries and videos, and a professional development community of teachers who are using Kiwrious in their schools.
Measuring the success of Kiwrious
Dr Dawn Garbett is the ‘educational queen’ of Kiwrious. Dawn was initially approached to guide the educational impact of the Kiwrious project but was inspired to become a founding director of the charitable company. Her involvement has included masterminding teacher resources, user testing, piloting the sensors and web-based platform in several schools and supporting teachers.
Dawn also leads the education research. An online version of the internationally benchmarked Views About Scientific Inquiry questionnaire (Lederman et al, 2018) has been replaced with a much simplified survey to garner students’ motivation and confidence to do science. Ensuring that this educational initiative is implemented with a robust research programme to evaluate its efficacy guides the development of the Kiwrious Science Experience. The team has responded to user feedback by developing a site where students can take continuous measurements and export data for analysis and a platform where students code using Scratch and the sensors.
Understanding how to maximise students’ learning about the Nature of Science when they use the Kiwrious Science Experience directs the team’s educational research and professional development.
Kiwrious aims to:
- create an engaging platform that encourages students to contribute their ideas in order to build a flourishing science inquiry community online
- encourage students to replicate and remix others’ inquiries and to comment on the similarities and differences that they find based on their data
- encourage peer review and critique their analyses
- build their content knowledge of science and at the same time appreciate that this is how scientists develop and verify new knowledge.
We aspire to change the way students engage with science. Doing science is not given enough focus in the content-heavy curriculum. We have identified a gap in professional development needs for teachers and a dearth of opportunities for students to do science that is relevant and authentic. A tool like Kiwrious, and the support we provide, can fill some of those gaps.Dr Dawn Garbett
Let’s hear from the teachers
Kiwrious Sensor Kits have been distributed for free to numerous high schools in New Zealand – including Kaikohe Christian School, a composite school providing both secondary and primary education in the heart of the north of New Zealand. Theresia Van Wingerden leads the years 7–8 and 9–10 classes in science and has enjoyed introducing her students to the Kiwrious science sensors. She reports, “It’s made my class ‘very cool’. It’s so much fun with the kids. They are only limited by their imagination, and we cannot think of enough ways of using them. The beauty of the kit is discovering all sorts of things!”
As an example, Theresia noted that the students placed the Kiwrious heart sensor on their fingers, thumbs, temples, earlobes and carotid arteries to see if their heart rate changed. They discovered if they thought about their ‘crush’, it made their heart race almost as much as running around the classroom.
Changing teacher thinking
Theresia has used the kits for several weeks. She says, “Kiwrious is breaking me out of my mould, getting into a new rhythm to work through the year. I am looking into more opportunities for the students by altering my thinking to inquiry-based versus content-based – moving from prescribed experiments to do it differently.”
Changing student behaviour
Theresia explains, “Students are gradually improving their approach to scientific theory. Definitely even the most reluctant students are starting to go and find a Chromebook with a friend or borrow one just so they can use the sensors. While some kids want to do more digital activities, others don’t like coding, so the Kiwrious class kit gives everyone access to a digital experience.”
Theresia has found that the students’ inquiries are improving over time. They are also becoming more aware of how important it is to carefully write up their methods and findings.
Fostering scientific capability with New Zealand students
Dawn explains, “Kiwrious aspires to foster scientific capabilities for every student in New Zealand, regardless of ethnicity, gender or socio-economic status. We want to facilitate a national community of young scientists who recognise the potential and limitations of scientific inquiry. We want to understand what is effective and valuable in a technology-enhanced science experience and to share our findings with teachers and other educators. By doing so, Kiwrious hopes to engender teachers’ confidence in evidence-based research tailored to inform practice and innovation.”
Dawn knows that, the more fully people understand how science works and what it can do for them, the more likely they are to support scientific and technological endeavour. There are also significant benefits accrued by scientifically literate individuals. Such benefits could include, for example, increased job opportunities, wiser health decisions and increased personal confidence about science and technology issues.
Nature of science
Kiwrious sensors enable students to collect real and relevant datasets and provide opportunities to analyse, interpret and critique data. These experiences are key to developing the New Zealand Curriculum’s science capabilities for citizenship.
Read about other Curious Minds initiatives.
Super sense – an introduction to artificial sensors curates resources about sensors, how they work and how some scientists use them. There are several activities that introduce students to the science of electrical circuits.
Sensing data is a level 4 Connected article with a focus on digital sensors and air pollution levels in Christchurch.
The Kiwrious Science Experience kit was created by Associate Professor Suranga Nanayakkara from the University of Auckland and his team at Augmented Human Lab in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. It was designed in collaboration with science educator Dr Dawn Garbett.
- Learn more about the kit on the website www.kiwrious.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Read additional Kiwrious stories on their blog.
- New Zealand schools can register their interest to receive the Kiwrious Sensors Kit and access to the Kiwrious Inquiry Editor here.
Curious Minds is a government initiative that encourages and supports all New Zealanders to ask questions, solve local problems and uncover innovative science and technology solutions for a brighter future.
Sponsors and supporters
The Kiwrious Science Experience is sponsored by AWS, Cloud9, MinterEllisonRuddsandWatts law firm, Toi Foundation, COMET Auckland and the University of Auckland.
Fast Company awards, Best design awards, Velocity 100k Challenge, Good Design Australia
Lederman, J., Lederman, N. Bartels, S. & Jimenez, J. (2018). An international collaborative investigation of beginning seventh grade students’ understandings of scientific inquiry: Establishing a baseline. Journal of Research on Science Teaching, 56, 486-515. DOI: 10.1002/tea.21512.
This article was written by Fiona Taimana and Dawn Garbett.