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Rangi Ruru Girls’ School - Nicky Voss

2015 | Biodiversity and extinction – Learning about the geological record

SchoolRangi Ruru Girls’ School

HostUniversity of Canterbury


Nicky Voss is a secondary school science teacher with a passion for developing a love and life-long interest in science in her students. She has been teaching for 16 years and is currently teacher in charge of junior science at RangiRuru Girls’ School. During this project, she was hosted by the Geology Department at University of Canterbury and worked with Kerry Swanson and Dr Catherine Reid, as well as having on-going support and interactions with many other staff and students.

Nicky has had many opportunities to interact with departmental geoscientists and has learnt how scientists make observations, gather and analyse data. Various tools and techniques are used such as core sampling and analyzing Foraminiferas, which can be used to work out the relative age of the sediment and using the electron scanning microscope for detailed images. Core sampling is imperative to understanding past events and helping to forecast future events. The role core sampling plays in understanding climate change is huge. There is a multi-science approach when core sampling and scientists from many different areas are involved which has been a fantastic example of the Nature of Science in action.

Geologists apply science to questions aimed at understanding how the Earth works as a system, such as: ‘What caused biological extinctions and evolutionary shifts recorded in the rock record?’, ‘What role do geological processes play in the possible orgins of life?’ and ‘How has New Zealand’s climate changed over time?’

In addition to her work at the Geology Department, Nicky has also had the additional opportunity to look at teaching pedagogy and the fundamentals behind leadership. She has had the opportunity to assist in modifying the Geography/Geology web-based resource that the University is working on which will be a resource for secondary science teachers.The Science Teacher Leadership Programme means she goes back to teaching at RangiRuru Girls’ School confident in sharing her experiences and knowledge of the Nature of Science.

The programme has given Nicky a diverse raft of opportunities, increasing her passion for science and knowledge of the geology in her world. She was able to develop a variety of new skills and meet a wide range of interesting people involved in scientific research, and develop a wide reaching network for like-minded people. Nicky is very grateful to both the Geology Department at the University of Canterbury and the Royal Society of New Zealand for providing the opportunities for such wonderful learning experiences.

“Science is made up of facts like a house is made of bricks, but a pile of facts does not make science nor a pile of bricks a house”.  Attributed to Henri Poincare