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Otatara School – Gillian Donnelly

2016 | Our water, our wealth

SchoolOtatara School

HostEnvironment Southland


Otatara School actively engages in professional learning with a focus on continuous improvement and innovation.  The school’s vision is to maximise learning for students by providing them with teachers who are capable and confident with their own science knowledge and understanding in order to notice, recognise and respond to science learning opportunities. Otatara School promotes ecological identity and encourages student connections with the local environment.  Participation in the Science Teaching Leadership Programme will improve outcomes for students through the provision of teachers with a deeper understanding and application of the Nature of Science. 

Gillian has 13 years primary teaching experience in Dunedin and Invercargill.  She developed a passion for science when working as an Education Officer at the Otago Museum, planning and delivering programmes to a broad range of ages.  Gillian is eager to inspire teachers to strengthen their teaching of scientific investigative skills and dispositions in 2017 when she returns to the classroom.

Gillian has been hosted by Freshwater and Marine Environmental Scientist James Dare at Environment Southland.  During Gillian’s time on Phase One of of the Science Teaching Leadership Programme, she experienced a number of learning opportunities.  These included:

  • Gathering water samples from rivers in the catchment
  • Gauging river flow
  • Gathering periphyton from rocks for analysis
  • Pest control in Mores Reserve, checking and baiting bait stations
  • Assisting with an Enviro Schools hui at Borland Lodge
  • Attending regular talks given by Environment Southland staff
  • Electric fishing to identify biodiversity in the Waituna and Otapiri Streams
  • Weighing filters to determine the amount of particles in the air
  • Visiting other schools to observe previous STLP teachers
  • Learning about the five capabilities and Nature of Science and seeing them in action through the work of Environment Southland

Gillian is excited to share her new understanding of the Nature of Science with colleagues on her return to Otatara School.  She plans to improve the experience and achievement of learning in a science context for students through providing professional learning for colleagues to increase their confidence and capability.  Gillian is particularly looking forward to working in partnership with Environment Southland to increase the sense of ecological identity for the students of Otatara School. 

Gillian would like to warmly thank the staff of Environment Southland who have been so patient, encouraging and generous with their time in sharing their knowledge so that she may learn.  She would also like to mihi her fellow participant teachers on the Science Teaching Leadership Programme for their friendship, collegiality, support and aroha.  Gillian feels very fortunate to have been a part of the Science Teaching Leadership Programme and the incredible learning experiences this has afforded her.