Two Massey projects awarded Unlocking Curious Minds funding


The Unlocking Curious Minds fund supports projects that engage more New Zealanders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

A project looking at ecological restoration approaches in the domain of Tangaroa, and one that seeks to enrich Māori and Pasifika science through Waka Ama, have both been awarded funding through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund.

The fund supports projects that aim to engage more New Zealanders in science, echnology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Thirteen projects have been awarded funding for the 2022 round, totaling $1.592 million in grants which start on 1 February 2022.

“He waka eke noa!”: Enriching Māori and Pasifika science through Waka Ama – Dr Andrew Foskett, Dr Kathryn Beck, Dr Paul Macdermid, and Dr Bevan Erueti, Taranaki, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi.

This project will engage students in their communities through real world application of science to their performance during Waka Ama. In addition to fostering the curiosity and enhancing the scientific literacy of the students the project will, in line with the aims of Vision Mātauranga, take science and technology innovations into local (largely Māori) communities whilst fostering engagement in hauora and kaitiakitanga. A (floating) platform is proposed to engage students, communities and (future) scientists through participatory science.

The target audience are 200 year nine and 10 Waka Ama paddlers from invited low decile schools in regions with large Māori and Pacific communities. Data from various New Zealand sources identify a decline in science performance in Year nine and ten students which translates into a drop-off of older students enrolling into science-related subjects. The sources report that students from richer communities perform better than those from poorer communities, and that the achievement gap for Māori and Pacific students narrows when socio-economic factors are taken into account. The data show that access to learning resources impacts on science achievement. As such, the proposed target audience are those who would most benefit from the provision of a resource-rich participatory science experience in their own communities in an activity that can build on their cultural confidence and identity. All of the above fit squarely within the strategies outlined in Vision Mātauranga, Curious Minds and National Statement for Science Investment documents.

Te Kunenga Ki Pūrehuroa’s (Massey University) vison is to foster lifelong learners and so a key performance indicator would be an elevated interest in and understanding of the applications of science in a meaningful context. The students will access their own performance metrics and participant groups will be provided with anonymised metrics that they can utilise for stair-cased learning within their school.

This project has received funding of $136,837.

Kotahi taku huata ki runga Hauruia, te mano, te mano, te mano  - David Aguirre.

This project will develop active ecological restoration approaches in the domain of Tangaroa, building an advanced understanding of restoration ecology and aquaculture through an undeniably Te Whānau-a-Apanui lens. The whakataukī that guides the approach, “Kotahi taku huata ki runga Hauruia, te mano, te mano, te mano - For every kumara I plant in my garden at Hauruia there follows a progeny of thousands,” reminds Te whānau-a-Apanui descendants of the mana and prosperity that comes from mahinga kai and taking care of te taiao.

Passive ecosystem restoration approaches (e.g. Marine Protected Areas) exclude people from the restoration process. Conversely, active ecosystem restoration approaches place the responsibility for nurturing our environment on the community. New Zealand has a long, distinguished legacy of active ecosystem restoration on land, with many national and grass-roots initiatives to remove pests and reforest disturbed areas. Why have we not applied this thinking in our moana?

This project will build on existing mātauranga and significant investment in leading research to deliver the first applied example of an active, participatory, whole-ecosystem approach to marine ecosystem restoration. Accordingly, the teachers and rangitahi involved in the project won’t simply experience science, they will be at the forefront of scientific discovery, generating and defining mātauranga that will be used in Aotearoa and the rest of the world.

The project is founded on a genuine partnership between mana whenua/mana moana and researchers, it increases science relevance for teachers, students and whānau as well as advancing scientific understanding, develops new ways of learning and empowers the community to shape the narrative underlying the development of new mātauranga.

This project has received funding of $90,662.

More information on Unlocking Curious Minds is available here.

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