He Puna Pūtaiao

High school students at the lake

He Puna Pūtaiao is a programme for Year 10 Māori students from a selection of Christchurch schools. 

Puna means to well up or to flow, so symbolically represents youth or rangatahi. Its meaning may also incorporate research because in a sense research is meant to flow out and create meaningfulness so as to fill the kete or baskets of knowledge. Pūtaiao is science, so He Puna Pūtaiao connotes research, youth and science.

He Puna Pūtaiao engages students in the culture of science by involving them in scientific research. Using the context of water quality in Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) the students are mentored in literature reviews, and collecting and analysing data in the field, before presenting their findings both in e-book format and as a research poster displayed at a Pō Whakanui at the end of the programme.

The partnership schools and the students’ whānau are heavily involved in the planning and participation throughout the programme. Each school nominates nine students to participate in the scheme.

A science teacher from each school attends with the students. Scientists and postgraduate students from the University of Canterbury science departments volunteer their time to mentor the students each week.

Feedback from students and teachers is extremely positive:

  • "It made me feel smarter, like I can actually attain a job in science."
  • "I got to work with some absolutely amazing people."
  • "It opened my eyes to what I am actually capable of doing."
  • "It’s made me realise that I do really want to go to university to get a better career."

See students in action