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Discovery School - Natalie Packer

2021 | Freshwater and Marine Conservation, Education and Restoration

School: Discovery School

Region: Wellington, Te Upoko o Te Ika a Māui

Hosts: Mountains To Sea Wellington

Discovery School has the philosophy of “Educating for Successful Living.” In our ever-changing world, their students need to be successful academically, culturally, physically and socially. Enriching the understanding of the Nature of Science will help provide effective science integration across all these important areas. The Science Teaching Leadership Programme is an opportunity to improve the leadership of science in the school. The opportunity to develop and integrate the Nature of Science within curriculum areas will ensure that Discovery provides the most effective educational environment possible for their tamariki’s success in life.

Natalie has taught in primary education for 15 years in New Zealand after training as a teacher in the United States. She has experience teaching new entrants through to year 8 students and has a strong background in science, literacy, maths, and music. Natalie has always had a passion for following her student’s inquiry pathways. Through listening and supporting student agency, she and her tamariki helped to win Project Crimson’s ‘Treemendous School Makeover’ grant, ‘Keep New Zealand Beautiful’ award for 2018 and become a Bronze/Manuka status Enviroschool for Discovery School. Natalie wants to raise the profile of science and broaden student’s understanding of what ‘science’ really is so that it can be identified in their everyday lives. She is looking forward to taking her learning back from the Science Teaching Leadership Programme to help strengthen a sustainable science programme to foster critical and inquisitive scientific learners.

Natalie has been hosted by Mountains To Sea Wellington Trust. She has been fortunate enough to work alongside staff, scientists from NIWA, and Greater Wellington Regional Council on a number of freshwater and marine conservation, monitoring, education, and restorative programmes throughout Te Upoko l Te Ika a Māui, (Greater Wellington Region). During this time, she worked with scientists in the field within the local marine and freshwater settings. This has given her a comprehensive base of knowledge in the delivery of research around human impacts to both ecosystems. Natalie assisted in the collection and recording of scientific data to assess ecological health and human impacts on biodiversity and learned how to support communities in the planning and implementation of restoration around Te Upoko I Te Ika a Māui.

A highlight for Natalie has been taking her learning of mātauranga Māori, from her week at Nga Titorangi in Ohakune, into practice, and utilising it during freshwater monitoring in  Wairarapa Moana. Working alongside local iwi and kura in a restorative and educational capacity to connect communities to their local natural aquatic moana as a taonga, has been a most rewarding journey. These experiences have helped her gain insight into the practical work of these ecological scientists, and exposed her to the rich mātauranga held about te taiao. The richness of this knowledge system provides both qualitative and quantitative research over many decades.

The Science Teacher Leadership Programme has provided Natalie with an amazing learning journey to develop professional and personal leadership skills that will support development of her school’s Science programme. She will use her more robust understanding of the Science Capabilities to develop students’ understanding of The Nature of Science. From forming a deeper connection to the freshwater and marine worlds and the interconnectedness of Mātauranga Māori with the natural world, Natalie hopes to weave that awareness into her coaching and foster critical and inquisitive thinking for successful lifelong learning at her school.

Natalie would like to thank the Royal Society Te Apārangi, the team from Mountains To Sea Wellington and Discovery School for their akoranga, support, and encouragement during her placement.