Saturday, January 9, 2021

Summer Learning Journey partners with Nanogirl

 The Manaiakalani Summer Learning Journey, covering the summer holidays of 2020-2021, was launched on December 14th with a full six week long programme of activities, including Christmas Day and New Year's Day. This has been designed to support the young people in Manaiakalani schools over the long break, where traditionally learners who are not exposed to stimulating opportunities experience the Summer Slide ie go backwards academically.

The theme for the current SLJ is 'Celebrating Summer' - something we were all desperate to do after the events of 2020. The activities are designed to be fun, as well as providing opportunities for learning along the way.

This year the design team chose to use a blog format for the activities, rather than the website approach used in previous years. This enabled us to design fun activities in strands, with a focus on STEAM, and to schedule new activities to appear throughout the day. This 'drip-feeding' is particularly engaging for young people with time on their hands and not a lot else planned for their day.

We were very fortunate to have Dr Michelle Dickinson – a.k.a. Nanogirl- and her team offer to partner with us and enrich the Science strand of the SLJ. Nanogirl designed science activities for our learners that kept in mind the limits of available resources on hand for children in our community. These have been enormously popular.

The activities created can be viewed here. 

Examples of the responses posted by children who engaged with the science activities can be viewed here and here and here.

We were delighted to see an article appear on the Stuff website on January 7th reporting the contribution Nanogirl and team are making to celebrating science and making it accessible to all young people.

The full article as it appeared on Stuff follows:

Dr Michelle Dickinson – or Nanogirl, as she’s perhaps better known – is a pro at getting children excited about science on a shoestring budget.

But when she launched Nanogirl's Lab during lockdown, beaming experiments into children’s homes, she realised that some of them didn’t even have string.

Or paper, or tape, or scissors.

Five hundred students from 12 schools across Tāmaki, Glen Innes and Panmure are spending their summer holidays taking part in a Nanogirl programme, doing a new experiment each week at home.

Knowing that many of them might struggle to access basic tools at home, Dickinson helped pack hundreds of boxes of stationery to make sure a lack of resources didn’t stop anyone taking part.

The programme is an expansion of a 50-student pilot run earlier in the year, which gave Dickinson insight into some barriers to STEM for kids in low socio-economic areas.

Eleven-year-old Finau Fileta from Auckland’s Pt England school is one of the students who took part.

She said she liked it because all the experiments used objects she already had at home, like kitchen roll tubes, serving spoons and bowls.

“You didn’t have to buy expensive stuff.”

She said she felt more confident with science after doing lots of experiments at home.

Check out some of Finau's blogposts sharing her science experiments here 

Manaiakalani, the cluster of schools involved in the programme, already have digital access sorted, so the students upload photos and videos of their experiments to their school blogs.

One student’s reluctance to blog during the pilot made Dickinson consider the messaging for the summer programme.

He didn’t want to post his video for an experiment about weight because he had used cans of spaghetti, and he was embarrassed about people seeing what he ate at home.

So the summer programme features a video at the beginning about how everything in your house is useful, “and it’s great that you’re resourceful”, Dickinson said.

Nanogirl is a social enterprise, and the summer programme for low-decile kids is funded through a ‘buy one, give one’ model. But that doesn’t mean it's the same as the subscriptions available off the shelf.

“We never do things that are generic for high-risk groups – it’s always customised.”

A lot of the time when they’re working with low-decile students, that means going offline because families don’t have internet access.

Not having scissors at home is one challenge, but the biggest barrier to kids getting into science is that they’ve made up their mind by about age 12 – and at the same time, primary school teachers are saying they feel ill-equipped to teach science.

There’s also a lot of intergenerational fear around maths and science, she said – when a parent tells their child they were bad at maths and hated it, it gives the child permission to not try.

To tackle that attitude, they include parent cheat sheets with every programme, so parents know what to ask their kids and can answer their questions.

It’s the feedback Dickinson gets from kids that makes it worthwhile, she said. “It's enough to make you cry.

“The kids come to us and say I never thought I could – but now I realise I can.”