To enhance engagement of the younger generation in engineering and sciences, it’s crucial to empower their mentors with the necessary tools and confidence to ignite inspiration. The Sir Angus Tait Science Teaching Enrichment Program was specifically designed to achieve this goal. After successfully concluding its inaugural year, the program has garnered positive feedback from its funders.
A Tait Foundation scheme to develop more-confident and effective primary school science teachers is completing its first year and both participants and funder are positive about its results.
The Sir Angus Tait Science Teaching Enrichment Program (SAT STEP) this year provided funding for eight Canterbury teachers to take a day a week away from their classrooms to develop scientific confidence, capability and leadership. As well as funding each school for paid teacher release, the program is led by a highly experienced science teaching-educator.
The teachers enrolled in the SAT STEP program are encouraged to evaluate their school’s overall science teaching capability and act as subject-matter experts and mentors to their colleagues.
The Tait Foundation was established to apply surplus funds from the commercial business to education. Sir Angus was particularly interested in STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math). The big question the trustees hope to answer with this initiative is whether great science teachers mean more children stick with math and sciences – the subject areas which lead into skills like engineering.
Unlike their secondary school counterparts, primary and intermediate teachers are generalists, teaching all curriculum areas, and research has shown that many of them are not confident in teaching science and so will tend to avoid it. That is important because children decide at an early age what they do not want to do with their lives and New Zealand high schools have been reporting smaller percentages of entrants motivated to study science.
This year’s group of SAT STEP teachers visited Tait Communications on Friday (10 November) to see first-hand the range of skills and careers that even a medium-sized technology and manufacturing business provides.
Brigitte Glasson, the science educational expert who is leading the program says the first year has gone very well and the Trust has agreed to fund nine more schools in 2024. “Schools and teachers would genuinely love to increase their science teaching but are extremely busy; and it’s a challenge to find the time to grow and develop staff in this essential curriculum area” Ms. Glasson says. “This program is designed to remove those obstacles for the teacher and Principal in order to focus on best practice, the approaches that will make the greatest difference.
“With The Tait Foundation funding, schools employ a release teacher for one day a week for a full year, which means the class teacher can give their full attention to making the most of the program and becoming an advocate and mentor for others.”
Ms. Glasson says the program is being watched by experts in the field and she hopes the results will be made available to the profession and charitable sector. “If we are able to show that this approach is making a measurable difference then perhaps other charitable funders may be interested in replicating it elsewhere in New Zealand,” she says.
“The SAT STEP program has been amazing…it has given me time, connections and inspiration to explore key ideas in science and science teaching, and shown us clear ways we can implement these in our schools and share with our colleagues. Brigitte’s depth of knowledge, creativity and understanding of the dynamics of primary school has been critical to our learning. My confidence in teaching science, particularly the nature of science, has increased dramatically, and I come away incredibly inspired and motivated every week.”
The charitable purpose of The Tait Foundation is to, “hold funds to devote or apply to or for any charitable educational purposes in New Zealand. The Trustees are empowered to grant financial assistance towards the organization establishment or advancement in New Zealand of any universities, schools, education centers or like organizations of purely educational and charitable nature including the funding of scholarships in New Zealand.”
Story courtesy of Tait Communication’s Head of Communications, Bryn Somerville.
Learn more about the causes that Tait Communications supports on our website.