Outdoor science for hands-on learning


The annual Prime Minister’s Science Awards recognize the best in New Zealand science research, teaching and communication, and the 2021 results are in. Congratulations to all the winners !

Bianca and the students stand in front of the school’s native garden.
Photo: RNZ

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Bianca Woyak is passionate about what she does – ‘People call me very energetic. I have so much energy. I always give 150% in everything that inspires me and that I want to do. Add in a specialist science role, a supportive principal, a large schoolyard and an enthusiastic school full of students, and you have a winning combination.

A teacher at Burnside Primary School in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Bianca received the 2021 Te Puiaki Kaiwhaaho Pūtaiao Science Teachers Award for her success in engaging students in science through a range of environmentally focused activities. These included water testing in the local stream, riparian planting, beekeeping, growing trees for planting in Ōtautahi’s red areas, and maintaining the school’s vegetable garden and fruit trees. .

Bianca Woyak stands in the school vegetable garden.

Bianca Woyak, at Burnside Primary School.
Photo: RNZ

Bianca believes in the power of hands-on approaches and student-led real-world learning whenever possible. This is how the B5 (Burnside Brings Back Boulder Butterfly) project was born. By studying the self-introduced monarch butterfly, students began to wonder about local endemic species. Working with local experts, the team decided to recreate a copper rock butterfly habitat on the school grounds and moved some of these as yet undescribed butterflies there. When a new generation hatched, they knew the project had been a success, and the students are now working with other schools and the local zoo to create copper butterfly habitats there as well.

Claire Concannon visits Burnside Elementary School to catch up with Bianca and tumuaki Matt Bateman, and to learn about some of the student science projects themselves.

Tune in to this week’s full episode to hear interviews with award winners Bianca Woyak, Carol Khor and Professor Dame Jane Harding.

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