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Wellesley College – Jo Hawthorne

2016 | Looking at the Nature of Science in nature!

SchoolWellesley College



Jo Hawthorne is a primary school teacher who loves teaching science and providing exciting and relevant experiences for students to help develop their curiosity and sense of wonder about the world.

Hosted by Raewyn Empson, Conservation and Research Manager at Zealandia, an eco-sanctuary just 10 minutes from Wellington city, Jo was fortunate to experience many aspects of the sanctuary.   A large part of her time was spent working with Latu Clark and Ellen Irwin, both masters students conducting research in the valley.   She observed North Island Robin behaviour and in particular looked at nesting, brood division and caching.  As part of the scientific research, Jo contributed to the analysis of recorded observations and furthered her understanding of collecting reliable data and the importance of gathering on-going information.  Assisting Ellen, Jo helped catch and attach transmitters to Kakariki so that their dispersal patterns could be studied.  Armed with the new skills of telemetry and how to triangulate, Jo was regularly seen walking with an aerial in one hand and a compass in the other.   

During her time at Zealandia, she also learnt about plant pest control, and had opportunities to work with rangers on their monitoring programmes.  Jo learnt much about the different species that have been translocated into the valley including the little spotted kiwi, tuatara, saddleback, hihi and bellbird.   One of her highlights was spending a day banding month old kakariki chicks and checking their nests.  Another highlight was going into the valley in the darkness and helping to conduct a count of Maud Island frogs, one of New Zealand’s four surviving native frog species.  At night, she experienced both kiwi and tuatara walking on the path next to her.  She also participated in the annual mice audit, learning how to use tracking tunnels and monitoring for predators.  This led to her working with the education team on their outreach programme introducing tracking and trapping in schools.  

While on the Science Teaching and Leadership Programme Jo also had opportunities to visit schools across New Zealand and attend a leadership course at Otago University.  It has provided her with an opportunity to experience real science and learn how to engage her students in the nature of science so that they can learn to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens.  On her return to school she is looking forward to sharing her passion for nature, getting the students actively engaged in real citizen science and working with the local community to help set up their own school sanctuaries.

Jo is very grateful to Raewyn Empson and all the people at Zealandia who made her experience so memorable.