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Waitohu School – Nikki McLean

2016 | A natural way to no more nits

SchoolWaitohu School, Otaki

HostHebe Botanicals, Otaki


The structure of the Science Teaching Leadership Programme enables deep professional growth and, with the explicit support of the school, Nikki will lead, share and embed genuine school-wide growth over a two year period, which is hugely exciting. A thorough, well structured and ongoing professional development programme will be developed for all staff. This will have a significant impact on the quality of how Waitohu School delivers the science curriculum to students, and provide consequent gains in student achievement.

Nikki has been teaching for 21 years. During this time, she has taught in schools throughout New Zealand and London. She has taught various levels and is currently teaching a Yr 4/5 class. Nikki grew up learning to speak Te Reo Maori and has lead staff in professional development, providing fun and achievable lessons so that teachers and students feel comfortable learning Te Reo and Tikanga Maori. Nikki has a passion for Science and enjoys taking science lessons. She is motivated to learn from experts in her area and then pass on her new found knowledge to staff and students at Waitohu School.  

Nikki’s placement has been Dr Steve Humphries and Sandra Roxburgh at Hebe Botanicals in Otaki. Hebe Botanicals specialise in natural and organic products and have a mosquito repellent on the market which is the only natural repellent approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for complete protection against mosquitoes carrying the zika virus.  The next step for Hebe Botanicals was to create a ‘nit’ repellent for children. Nikki was very keen to be part of this project, especially having experienced the stress of battling ‘nits’ in her own household.

During her time at Hebe Botanicals Nikki researched products currently on the market, looking for the use of essential oils or natural ingredients. Once a list had been compiled of potential effective ingredients, Nikki had to find evidence of their repellency. She did this by looking for scientific studies published in journals and online.  Once Steve and Nikki interpreted the data that had been collected, they moved on to creating and testing a possible product. The easiest way to test the product’s effectiveness was to expose live head-lice to human hair, with and without product on it.

The collection of live head-lice proved to be a challenge. Nikki has advertised on line, handed out flyers and continues to speak ‘to anyone who will listen’ about her studies, in the hope that people will remember her pleas and donate any live lice that they may find before treating them.  So far the experiments have provided valuable data and a new product that repels head-lice is highly likely.  Over the next few weeks,  the experiment will be repeated a number of times. The methodology will be written up and then become available for the scientific community to critique.

Throughout this process, Nikki has felt immersed in the Nature of Science, what science is and how scientists work. She would like to thank Dr Steve Humphries and Sandra Roxburgh for all of their wonderful nurturing support. Nikki would also like to thank he Royal Society of New Zealand and Waitohu School for investing in her and looks forward to sharing what she has learnt with the children and staff next year.