Pūhoro STEM program harnessing potential in South Auckland schools

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Last year, NCEA pass rates for Puhoro STEM Academy students surpassed nationwide averages. Now that success is set to spread to South Auckland.

Providing young Māori secondary school students the chance to experience and pursue careers in science.

Participating in the program, Auckland Grammar Girls School student Heeni Blakey (Tuwharetoa) says, “There aren't many Māori kids in science and there are less girls, and I think this has opened a pathway for me to get into science.

Students from 11 South Auckland schools met at Massey's Auckland campus in Albany for an interactive field trip which explores hands on science linked to their NCEA study.

This is a new experience, I haven't learnt these things at school so it's good to come here to the institute,” says Blakey.

The field trip involved year 11 students going into biology labs with Monika Merriman from the Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences to complete DNA extraction of their own cheek cells. Merriman says it’s important that the students have, “Access to the equipment and exposure to the scientific principles that they can use and explore later on in life and the cool thing about today’s lab is that it's kind of related to forensic science.”

Also participating on the program, Auckland Girls Grammar School student Mia Broederlow (Ngāpuhi) says, “I'd like to pursue a career in forensics because I enjoy watching criminal investigations

Massey University's Pūhoro STEM Academy aims to raise Māori participation and achievement in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths by engaging with secondary school students from years 11-13.

Regional Leader of Pūhoro STEM, Te Hamua Nikora says, “By looking after them in school and encouraging them they can enjoy learning and achieve higher results in the end of year examinations.”

While STEM subjects are the focus, Māori values are the vehicle that drive the program.

Nikaroa says, “Firstly Pūhoro (STEM) is about looking after the kids so that they become accustomed to the way the university works and develop and interest to study at tertiary level. Secondly, so that they aren’t afraid or isolated when they go on to tertiary study.”

Speaking to the students on traditional Māori science, Professor Meihana Durie says, “So we're sampling examples such as Maui, Tane and Hineahuone, so that the students understand the connections to the gods and the traditional accounts handed down over time.”

The program is seeking funding as it looks to expand further up the East Coast in 2019.