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Ross Intermediate School - Nick Wilson

2018 | Investigations into Biophysics and Soft Matter

School: Ross Intermediate School

Host: Massey University Institute of Fundamental Sciences

Region: Palmerston North, Manawatū

Ross Intermediate School believes that science needs to be practical, taught within a meaningful context and based on the process of inquiry. By combining the skills of two Science Teaching Leadership Programme (STLP) participant teachers, the school will continue to refocus their science programme so that it is fundamentally underpinned by the Nature of Science and the Science Capabilities. The STLP participants will work with a Science Team’ to develop a robust specialisation programme, and also work together to provide practical professional development for all teachers. Ultimately, the aim is to enhance the teaching and learning of authentic science across all classrooms in the school.

Nick has had 5 years of teaching experience within single classrooms and in shared teaching spaces. He believes that positive collaborative teaching can strengthen teacher practice and provide students with a more varied and individualised learning programme. Nick is passionate about teaching using a science, technology, and engineering-based pedagogy across the curriculum as a strategy to develop critical thinking skills and a growth mindset in the young people at his school.

Throughout the first half of 2018, Nick has had the pleasure of working alongside Professor Bill Williams and the scientists of the Biophysics and Soft Matter research group in the Massey University Institute of Fundamental Sciences. Much of their research involves understanding the complex mechanical properties of living material that is soft, squishy, slimy, or any combination of those. They ask questions like what process allowed that cell to move from here to there or what happens to that particle when I apply a force to it?  They aim to answer big questions about the tiniest things that make up our world.

During his time at Massey University, Nick has had the opportunity to observe and support the research of scientists who work across biology, physics and chemistry. Through this hands-on work, Nick has developed his scientific knowledge within their specific fields of expertise, learned important concepts such as how to stay safe in the labs and processes like sample preparation, and he has been supported through discussion to understand the complex data they have gathered together.

In addition to his experience at Massey University, Nick has also taken part in three comprehensive science professional learning workshops at the Royal Society Te Aparangi and a leadership development course through Otago University. By connecting his science focused professional learning to his work alongside his Massey University colleagues, Nick has gained important insights into what it means to think and actlike a scientist. He has observed the way they respectfully question each other, probe for more information, encourage each other to look closely at data that does not fit the desired outcome, and debate the processes they are using. Nick has observed that these behaviours are direct examples of the nature of science in action and is excited about developing these behaviours within the students at his school.

Nick would like to offer enormous thanks to the Royal Society Te Aparangi, the Massey University Institute of Fundamental Sciences, and to all of the scientists in the Biophysics and Soft Matter research group. This invaluable learning experience will be of benefit to him, his school and the students there, now and in the future.

Follow Nick's journey at Stuff Like That