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Virtual volcanic field trip a model for bicultural collaboration

14 October 2022

New University of Canterbury (UC) research into a virtual volcano field trip highlights the immense value of taking a bicultural approach to science education.


University of Canterbury PhD candidate geologist Dr Sriparna Saha

The geo-education research by UC Education PhD candidate, geologist Dr Sriparna Saha, who already has a PhD in Experimental Petrology from Rice University in the United States, is in partnership with kaupapa Māori researchers Sylvia and Kelvin Tapuke.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education

The study focuses on the collaboration that developed a bicultural educational resource, the LEARNZ Our Supervolcano virtual field trip. The virtual experience includes insights from kaupapa Māori researcher iwi representatives from the Bay of Plenty, alongside geologists and educators, and was facilitated by LEARNZ kaiārahi, Shelley Hersey (Core Education) and kaupapa Māori researcher, Sylvia Tapuke.

Dr Saha says the virtual field trip can serve as a model for good practices when engaging with local iwi to develop bicultural educational resources. A virtual field trip gives people access to online video, audio feeds and activities, helping students access the often inaccessible.

“By studying the development of this resource, we can recommend how to build authentic partnerships with Indigenous communities, which, in this case for example, can enhance the collective understanding of physical processes around volcanoes. Another aspect of this collaboration is around culturally responsive teaching methods, and how teachers can use such resources to create more equitable learning opportunities.”

Dr Saha, who was intrigued by the innovative geo-education research at UC, says bicultural research is important for disaster education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Māori culture has a rich history of resource management practices and can be instrumental in improving preparedness, but it is underrepresented in Western science perspectives. By drawing understanding from mātauranga Māori and Western science, Our Supervolcano videos are powerful storytelling tools, where students can identify potential career pathways around science and its links with culture in the context of the landscape.”

To conduct the research in a culturally appropriate way, a formal kawa (protocol) was established between the lead researcher and Māori partners, and culturally acceptable ethics in accordance with the Māori partners were implemented. The He Awa Whiria (Braided Rivers) methodology was followed through the multiple stages of engagement. UC Education and Māori research expert Professor Angus Macfarlane (Ngāti Whakaue) served as a kaumātua for this collaboration, while UC volcanologist Professor Ben Kennedy and UC Science Education expert Associate Professor Sara Tolbert supervised the research study.

“The elements of successful partnerships, such as relationships, values, and space for sharing, as indicated by our study, can be instrumental in building partnerships in other contexts, such as resource management or creating curricular resources in Aotearoa New Zealand,” Dr Saha says.

“Developing resources for building an understanding of natural processes grounded in different knowledge systems can provide an Indigenous approach to disaster preparedness and create access to equitable learning opportunities for all.”

The doctoral research was funded by the ECLIPSE (Eruption or Catastrophe: Learning to Implement Preparedness for future Supervolcano Eruptions) programme. Dr Saha is moving to the United States this month to take up a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado, in Boulder.

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