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Participatory science - what's in it for me?

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Participatory science empowers partners to work together to solve a problem in their community. We look at what it is and what STEM professionals get out of this collaborative approach to STEM outreach and engagement.

Since 2015, the Curious Minds South Auckland Participatory Science Platform has engaged over 4,500 students in 76 STEM research projects. Every project was a collaboration between youth, educators, community and STEM partners. These projects would not have been possible without the help of over 200 STEM professionals that shared their technical expertise and passion for STEM.

Key to the success of any STEM engagement is the concept of ‘ako’. This is a relationship in which student and educator learn from each other. Ako recognises that learning is a two-way street, where new knowledge grows out of a shared experience.

Embracing ako as a STEM professional means recognising that, while you may be the ‘expert’ in your field, you also have lots to learn and gain from working with others. Benefits to STEM professionals (and their organisations) include:

  • enhanced local knowledge and understanding,

  • practical work experience,

  • skills development,

  • new connections, and

  • feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment.

But don’t just take our word for it! Hear from a few past Curious Minds project partners to find out what they enjoyed about being a STEM partner.

“Seeing the kids excited about science and technology is always the highlight, especially when [they] start off looking a bit bored/disengaged. Kids that tell me they are now interested in becoming an engineer is also awesome to hear.

– Vicky Gao, senior engineer, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. Water recycling project at Willowbank School.

We found the work with [Manurewa High] students to be really important and would love to get involved with similar projects again in the future.” – Krystal Alferez, spatial analyst, Auckland Council. Affordable Housing Project with AUT and Manurewa High School.

“As the project manager… I learnt a lot through the journey. Being a leader, how to work with children of this age, working as a team member and relying on [others’ experiences] to create powerpoints and videos. A valuable reminder and lesson that we learn from everyone.”

– Dr Moushumi Chaudhury, public health researcher, AUT. Citizen X project with south Auckland intermediate schools.

Curious Minds 2023 applications are open now!

Are you interested in getting involved in community-led STEM projects? Being a STEM partner or project mentor for Curious Minds is a great place to start!

The Curious Minds team is on the lookout for new partners in a wide range of STEM fields. Once you join their database, they will get in touch if there are potential project opportunities that relate to your field or profession. The Curious Minds team connects you with like-minded teachers or community partners and can help to foster successful co-designed STEM research projects.

Find out more about Curious Minds South Auckland here and use this form to register your interest in being a STEM partner.

Curious Minds WeSTEM STEM Partner Info Pack - 2023
Download DOCX • 67KB


STEM Alliance Aotearoa has created a resource, "A Practical Guide to STEM Community Engagement" especially to support STEM businesses to learn more about "ako" and how to collaborate effectively with youth, education, and community partners.


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