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Onehunga High School – Michelle Simpson

2017 | Sustainable pest management in horticulture and forestry

SchoolOnehunga High School

HostThe New Zealand Institute of Plant & Food Research Limited, Mt Albert


Onehunga High School is a large, multicultural school with a dynamic Science department who have a lengthy record of initiatives aimed at capturing students’ interest and improving achievement. There are many new teachers in the Science department and there is a need to continue to develop strong leadership and understanding of the Nature of Science. Current junior Science programmes are contextualised, with different Science strands being taught within each topic. The Science department would like to better incorporate the Nature of Science into their teaching in order to enhance student understanding, critical thinking and decision making.

Michelle has been a teacher at Onehunga High School for 7 years. During this time, she has taught Science, Biology and Chemistry. She has also been the Teacher in Charge of different year levels, Director of the Health Science Academy, and Acting Assistant Head of Science. She is enthusiastic about nurturing students’ curiosity about the world around them and incorporating more practical learning into her classroom practice.

Michelle has been hosted by Dr. David Logan, and the Applied Entomology team at Plant & Food Research in Mt Albert. She has been investigating the abundance of Greenhouse thrips and its parasitoid, Thripobius javae in pine trees during late summer and autumn. Greenhouse thrips are a common pest of avocado and kiwifruit and investigating their numbers in pine trees, which are commonly used in shelter belts, will allow for better understanding about possible sources of Greenhouse thrips and their biological control. In addition to this, Michelle has been involved with sampling for Guava Moth and six-spotted mites in the Auckland region. She has done some work rearing insects and has learnt to set traps to collect insects. She has learnt to pin insects and identify them by their order.

A particular highlight for Michelle was visiting the Glasshouses containing Genetically Modified plants. Michelle had to adhere to strict protocol to ensure that she did not take anything into or out of the glasshouse. She learnt about the extensive research that is done with Genetically modified plants to learn about how they will act under different circumstances and any potential threat they may pose to society. She also learnt how this technology can help farmers breed apple crops that have high levels of antioxidants.

The Science Teaching Leadership Programme has provided Michelle with time to reflect on her current teaching rationale. It has helped her to see the importance in connecting with the local community to enhance Science teaching programmes and is looking forward to applying this insight on her return to Onehunga High School. She would like to thank The Royal Society Te Apārangi, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Dr. David Logan and the Applied Entomology team at Plant & Food Research for this opportunity. 



Photo credit: Plant & Food Research 2017