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Nelson College – Johnnie Fraser

2016 | Poisons, droves and freshwater ecology

SchoolNelson College

HostCawthron Institute


Nelson College is committed to producing scientifically literate students and as such, students need to develop a deep understanding of the Nature of Science. This can only be taught through rich authentic activities where students create new knowledge while juggling a range of perspectives.

Nelson College is planning to revise its junior science programme, using Johnnie Fraser, its participant teacher on the Science Teaching Leadership Programme, as a conduit to the latest educational research. This will see the Nature of Science returned as the rightful central theme in the school’s science curriculum.

Johnnie is HOD Biology at Nelson College and has taught biology and science there for eleven years. He is passionate about engaging students, using authentic science to explore the natural and physical world around them. He feels science education should prepare senior students for vocational science careers but just as importantly should enable all students to be scientifically literate.

Johnnie has been hosted at Cawthron Institute by Jonathon Banks and Christina Armstrong for the last six months. Cawthron Institute is New Zealand’s largest independent research organisation specialising in aquaculture research, marine and freshwater resource management, food safety and quality, algal technologies, biosecurity and analytical testing.

Johnnie’s placement has involved developing an eDNA protocol for detecting kakanui or freshwater mussels, being involved in various field trips to collect data in the field, helping with a programme for senior biology students to investigate aspects of marine mussel biology and attending lectures and talks on current research endeavours. These experiences and others, have enabled him to build a wide range of contacts at Cawthron and a basic understanding of the types of research pursued at Cawthron and in the wider region.

His interactions with the Institute and scientists allowed him to develop an understanding of the skills scientists employ in their work and also how science is organised and resourced in New Zealand.

Johnnie has also visited various schools around the country displaying best science education practice and attended a residential leadership course at Otago University. The leadership course has improved his skills in communication, time management, and goal setting. It enabled him to get a clear understanding of his leadership strengths and challenges, and how to facilitate initiatives. He has used time away from the classroom to read up on current pedagogical research which will inform his practice when he returns to the classroom.

Johnnie’s participation in the Science Teaching Leadership Programme will allow him to relate real scientific experiences back to students and staff that can be incorporated into the schools science curriculum. Nelson College hopes to further develop and maintain a relationship with Cawthron Institute so that students can experience cutting edge science with cutting edge scientists and be involved in authentic science practice, generating new knowledge.

Johnnie has found Phase One of the programme to be an extremely valuable learning experience. He would like to thank The Royal Society; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; Cawthron Institute; Jonathon Banks and Christina Armstrong for supporting him during his placement.