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Kowhai Intermediate School – Gill Robertson

2016 | Tripping the light fantastic – making science make sense

SchoolKowhai Intermediate School

HostPhoton Factory, The University of Auckland


Kowhai Intermediate School believes that science needs to help students solve problems, make decisions and relate scientific concepts to everyday life. As such, the school wants to engage students and promote scientific attitudes and inquiry. Students will require inquiring minds to develop social and scientific understandings. Gill’s involvement in the Science Teaching Leadership Programme will allow students and teachers of Kowhai Intermediate School to benefit from the development of teaching approaches that encourage critical and investigative thinking and engage students in the world of science. 

Gill  strongly believes that creating scientifically literate, scientifically curious students ready for the future is the responsibility of all schools and having completed phase one of the Science Teaching Leadership Programme, she is ready to head back to Kowhai Intermediate and continue the down the pathway of doing just that.

Gill has spent the last 6 months with Dr Cather Simpson at The Photon Factory, and although she went into the department with very limited understanding of what she would be doing,  she has come out the other side with a working knowledge of photonics and the huge opportunities it offers people. During her time in The Photon Factory, she has worked alongside various PhD students as they work through their individual research projects, and has gained an understanding of how the lasers work and the role that they play for the students with their study. 

Working amongst so many scientists has given Gill a unique understanding of the Nature of Science in a real world context, and this has been invaluable as it has helped her clarify what she needs to do for science back at Kowhai Intermediate. Having the opportunity to watch how Dr Simpson leads The Photon Factory and her students has been a huge advantage for Gill as she develops a clear leadership style for her return to school. Alongside this attending lectures led by Dr Simpson was very enjoyable and a great learning experience.  Gill attended weekly Journal Club meetings with the multi-layered student, base including first year students right through to Post-Doctoral Research Fellows, and found this a fantastic opportunity to experience how students critique the evidence presented in scientific papers from other people and how this forms new understandings of the scientific world, a practice she intends to implement in her school science programme.

In the wider context of the placement, Gill has had the opportunity to be involved with a reading cluster that has been a great opportunity to share and gain new knowledge around current scientific and leadership theory, visit many other schools to see how they are implementing science, build relationships with other scientific organisations and scientists which will help with creating opportunities for students to interact with “real life science” with science organisations and by doing so build the links between school and community.

Gill has enjoyed all of the opportunities that have been offered over the last 6 months and wants to acknowledge all the people involved in creating this amazing opportunity to grow and learn, in particular, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and employment and the Royal Society of New Zealand.