Creepy crawlies meet primary production: attracting kids into science and technology

  • Spray UAV - targeted spraying. Image - SCION

    Spray UAV - targeted spraying. Image - SCION

  • Gypsy Moths: female (R), male (L). Image - SCION

    Gypsy Moths: female (R), male (L). Image - SCION

  • Cyborg surveillance. Image - SCION

    Cyborg surveillance. Image - SCION

What kid doesn't love creepy crawlies and the chance to play with some high-tec science toys?

Stephen Pawson (SCION) and Chris Duggan (House of Science) are using these pathways to inspire and engage students with science.

At 20 primary schools across the Bay of Plenty the Creepy Crawlies team will introduce students to the concepts of pest management and biosecurity science with a series of activities that include trapping, electrophysiology tools to observe insect brain activity as it relates to smell and attraction to pest traps, and mobile phone reporting tools. The students will have the opportunity to test new tools designed to support future biosecurity responses including Scion’s futuristic cyborg surveillance technologies and drone spray packs.

The activities are designed to be hands-on, real and relevant, and a field trip to Trevelyans, one of the Bay of Plenty's most important horticultural firms, will demonstrate the use of these tools in a commercial environment.

Classroom activities include modules on What is a pest?, insect chemical communication systems, and pheromone monitoring of pests.

The project aims to get students to think about a career in science and technology and to increase awareness of how important science, and biosecurity science in particular is to local businesses, communities and the environment. The Creepy Crawlies team also want to embed the relevance of biosecurity and pest management science in local communities through the interaction of students and parents.

Why the Bay of Plenty?

The Bay of Plenty is one of New Zealand’s ‘fruit bowls’ and relies on pest management and biosecurity science for its horticulture, farming and forestry industries to thrive. These industries are also the main employers in the region and the students of today are the future employees of primary producers in the region.

Māori are poorly represented in science and technology careers but are strongly represented in the primary sector workforce throughout the Bay of Plenty. Across all potential schools, 58% of students identify as Māori with 13 schools having more 50% and 6 schools having more than 90% of students identifying as Māori. Engaging with students early provides an opportunity for students to aspire to greater engagement with science and technology and raise their expectations of career options within these sectors.

Funding

Creepy crawlies, a collaboration between SCION and House of Science is supported by the Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund, with cofunding from the Biological Heritage Challenge, and additional funding and in-kind support from HorticultureNZ, Kiwifruit Vine Health, Zespri, Heli-Resources, and Trevelyans.