Thu 20 Aug 2020

Omata School students learn new skills through science fair

Through the WITT Taranaki Science and Technology Fair, young people in Taranaki are given the opportunity to explore scientific ideas, investigate solutions to problems, and think about ways to improve their communities.

While Covid-19 restrictions meant the WITT Taranaki Science and Technology Fair had to move online this year, students at Ōmata School didn’t let the changes dampen their enthusiasm for learning something new.

Twelve-year-old Louis Hickson said that while participating in the digital fair was different to how he’d been involved in previous years, he enjoyed the opportunity. This year he entered the scientific journalism category, addressing the question: What is the best sustainable energy option for transport in Taranaki?

“I enjoyed writing an essay this year for my first time, it was a lot different to anything I had ever done before and I think it was really rewarding after I had finished everything,” he said.

Despite the lockdown, each of the 41 Year 7 and 8 students at semi-rural Ōmata School participated, with many submitting entries in a number of categories. Teacher Reece Williams said that although the fair operated a little differently this year, it is always popular with students.

“What we love about the WITT Taranaki Science and Technology Fair is the opportunity for student collaboration. They love getting to work with like-minded people,” he said. “This year we obviously had to focus on what we could do in an online environment.”

The four categories available to enter this year were Scientific Journalism, Advertising Posters, Photography and Observational Drawing, with topics like Tiaki Te Moana (caring for the ocean) and sustainable transport in Taranaki. The Science Investigation and Technology categories were cancelled as they required in-person judging.

Reece said the lockdown gave students an opportunity to demonstrate their adaptability as they moved to a completely different learning environment.  He said this year there was a focus on learning new skills and exploring categories of the fair that students might not normally have chosen.

“Through the Science and Technology Fair they’re learning really important skills such as the investigative process. This year we taught report writing with a purpose – certainly a challenge for us to do over Zoom – but the students learned to add lots of depth and detail in their writing and to justify their ideas.”

Twelve-year-old student Amelie Henderson entered both the advertising poster and journalism categories.

“The Science Fair was a great opportunity to learn a lot of cool things,” she said. “I really enjoyed getting to write my essay on a topic that is really important to our community.”

Classmate Haruna Sarito, also 12, said that she enjoyed the opportunity to work on essays that are environmentally focussed.

Reece said there is a strong emphasis on the environment at Ōmata School, with children having access to an orchard, chickens and a bush at school. They also work closely with Sustainable Taranaki and try to get students out of the classroom and into the community. 

“The Science and Technology Fair is something that resonates with our students because of the environmental topics,” he said.

“The majority of our students love the environment and are really motivated by making positive changes to the planet.”

WITT is proud to be the platinum sponsor of the Taranaki Science and Technology Fair. The Fair is important to us because it encourages our region’s young people - like the students at Ōmata School - to innovate, to put what they’re learning into practice, and work independently. And that’s a good thing for our whole community.