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Churchill Park School - Elise van de Ven

2015 | Birds, bones and fishes

SchoolChurchill Park School

HostAuckland War Memorial Museum, Research Department


Elise van de Ven is a primary teacher at Churchill Park School in Glendowie. She has worked in a variety of roles; as classroom teacher, music specialist, and as an Education for Sustainability Lead Teacher. She currently teaches as a science and technology specialist at intermediate level.

She was hosted by Dr Tom Trnski, head of Natural Sciences at the Auckland Museum. During her placement, she studied morphological variation in the Eastern rosella, carrying out measurements on museum skins from a variety of museums throughout the country, and comparing these with Australian data sets. She also followed her quest to increase the sample size in the Otago region, as she found that data from this area was crucial in testing the hypothesis provided by Bergmann’s rule. Through this journey, she has developed a strong appreciation for the networking and time it takes to carry out fieldwork, particularly if this involves catching the more able avian species! She is very grateful for the support provided by Dr Matt Rayner, Curator Land Vertebrates at the Auckland Museum, who guided her through the research process.

The Museum provided a vibrant work environment, which offered very rich opportunities for learning about the nature of science, but also for networking with many scientists – e.g., marine scientists, environmental scientists, taxonomists, ornithologists, geologists and entomologists.

An opportunity arose to carry out more ornithological fieldwork on Rangitoto Island, with Unitec lecturer Mel Galbraith and a small group of students, taking samples from nests from the black backed gull colony at Flax Point. This was a very interesting experience as amongst a variety of objects, numerous butchered bones and chicken bones were found on the nests, which must have come from the main land.

She spend four days on the Coromandel, supporting a student from the University for Agriculture in s’Hertogenbosch, also hosted by the Auckland Museum, finding kelp fly pupae in the kelp that had been washed up on certain beaches. This trip provided learning and networking opportunities in the field of entomology.

Involvement in BioBlitz 2015 at Pourewa Reserve gave her insights in the organisation of a larger citizen science project, geared at collecting baseline data and educating citizens around environmental science issues and biodiversity.

Being part of a cluster of Auckland STLP teachers provided great opportunities for networking and support; visits to a variety of hosts were exchanged, lectures attended, and reading group meetings organised, during which pedagogical papers were shared and discussed.

Elise is very thankful for the generous opportunities that have been offered to her through the STLP; opportunities for personal growth, development of science teacher qualities, and leadership. She feels she is now well positioned to support her school in improving the science curriculum, and will also endeavour to encourage citizen science in her community.

She feels greatly indebted to The Auckland Museum, Dr Tom Trnski, Dr Matt Rayner, the RSNZ, MBIE, and the many others who have so generously supported her on this wonderful journey.