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    Rights: Venture Taranaki
    Published 25 June 2018 Referencing Hub media

    Toko School teacher Sue Fergus tells us how her young students learned the science of distillation with the help of Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform funding and community assistance. 

    Jargon alert: Hydrosol is a liquid product made from the steam distillation of plant material.



    I’m Sue Fergus from Toko School, and I am the project leader here with the distillation project.

    First of all, we started with 20 little lavenders that we were growing on the side of the library, and we kind of got a little bit bored with that. We wanted to do something a bit more important with it. When we did a lot more of our readings, we discovered the hydrosol. The children didn’t even know what hydrosol was.

    So, we discovered Curious Minds and thought perhaps they might be able to help, guiding us with somebody who could help us in making these hydrosols. We met with Jim through Venture Taranaki, and he said to us, “Well, why narrow it to just lavender? You can make so many different hydrosols and for so many different reasons – cleaning products, nit shampoo.” You know the list went on. It was great. They also introduced us to Sue Rine. She has helped us to identify plants and the properties of different plants that we might be able to use.

    The enthusiasm of the students has been amazing. They have come back with little bits of information that they might have gleaned from Google themselves. So the project has really been well and truly run by the children, and the science information that’s coming out is incredible.

    What I would say to other schools conducting science investigations is to absolutely go for it. We have felt truly supported by Venture Taranaki in this whole process. It’s been incredible, and we just are so excited to be beginning this new journey.

    Toko School received funding through the Taranaki pilot of the Participatory Science Platform (PSP) – a programme that is part of the Curious Minds initiative and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The PSP is currently being implemented as a pilot in three areas: South Auckland, Taranaki and Otago.

    Venture Taranaki Trust is the regional development agency for Taranaki. Its role is to boost the Taranaki economy through regional business and economic development. The Taranaki Regional Council is partnering with Venture Taranaki Trust to lead the platform pilot in Taranaki.