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  • As content developers for a science education website, we always operate with the nature of science hovering in the background. The Science Learning Hub was a pioneer in making the nature of science visible in online resources. We even did a deep dive into unpacking this concept well over a decade ago. It has been interesting to watch how our own thinking about the nature of science has developed and changed over the years.

    First of all, we recognise that science is just one of the knowledge systems available in Aotearoa. Mātauranga Māori has a vast repository of knowledge of te taiao. It is an honour to work with kairangahau and kaiako Māori to develop resources in this space.

    There’s also been a noticeable shift in how science is communicated. We’ve always appreciated the generosity of the scientists we’ve approached to use their research as a context to embed and illustrate key science concepts. It’s very exciting for us to be on the receiving end – for science researchers to approach us to communicate and add value to their work.

    Lakes380 – Our lakes’ health: past, present, future

    In mid 2022, we had the opportunity to meet some of the team working on Lakes380 – a research programme jointly led by the Cawthron Institute and GNS Science. Lakes380 is the largest scientific study ever undertaken on lakes in Aotearoa. The intrepid researchers journeyed around the motu sampling lakes and sometimes relying on helicopters to get them (and a lot of gear) into some very remote locations. They developed new scientific protocols to gain information from sediment cores and used environmental DNA and a host of other analyses to survey what’s living in the lakes and catchment areas. The data they’ve collected is groundbreaking, and it’s being shared widely in Aotearoa and globally. Take a look at an activity using data from Lakes380 information sheets to build understanding of the nature of science and the science capabilities.

    Incorporating mātauranga Māori and oral histories

    The science alone makes for exciting new resources but what sets this programme apart is the outreach that has accompanied all facets of the research. Lakes380 draws on both scientific and mātauranga Māori knowledge systems. Alongside the fieldwork, the team engaged with iwi and hapū to understand and learn from their mātauranga and oral histories. We’ve put links to the content they’ve created with these partnerships in the Useful links section.

    The Lakes380 team partnered with Ngāti Koata to create a virtual experience of Lake Moawhitu and its changes over the centuries. Ngāti Koata have generously allowed us to feature He reo nō te puehu – A voice from the dust and to create this activity to help educators navigate the virtual experience.

    On a much smaller scale, the activity Exploring my local lake provides an opportunity to draw on mātauranga, community stories and online resources to identify issues of local importance and consider actions the community might like to take.

    Inspiring the next generation of lake scientists

    The Lakes380 outreach also included workshops at schools in the Nelson area. Ākonga got hands-on experience using magnetic fishing rods to ‘collect’ eDNA – with reference images to interpret and match the eDNA sequences, create a data collection chart and even practise ‘peer review’ of the results! The Lakes380 team has shared this energetic activity with the Hub! Ākonga also got a taste of what happens in the lab by sampling replica sediment cores. These innovative activities were authentic examples of the nature of science and the science capabilities in action.

    Collaborating with the Hub

    The Hub team has enjoyed working with the various researchers from the Cawthron Institute and GNS Science. We get quite excited about scientific research, but seeing how the scientific data has been interwoven with mātauranga Māori and how the teams have shared their findings with iwi and lake advocates – and now with educators – is special.

    It’s provided a chance for us to pause and reflect on how the nature of science – as a way of thinking and communicating – continues to evolve and reflect the changes within the society and culture of Aotearoa. One of the tenets of the nature of science is how research priorities and how they are communicated change to reflect shifts in society and its priorities.

    Related content

    The Lakes380 resources provide rich, real-life contexts for developing students’ thinking, visioning and problem-solving skills and an array of science capabilities and competencies. Check out our context for learning – it provides curriculum information, presents some of the key concepts in science, mātauranga Māori and social sciences and has ideas on how to use the resources.

    We’ve lots more resources in our freshwater topic.

    Useful links

    Visit the Lakes380 website to find information about:

    Lakes380 partnered with iwi in four locations to examine the cultural and environmental histories of significant roto. Use the following links to see the depth of content this partnership has created:


    This resource has been developed in collaboration with Lakes380 – Our lakes’ health: past present, future (C05X1707), Cawthron Institute and GNS Science.

      Published 13 March 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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