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WeSTEM programme expands horizons for Pacific young people

Launched in 2021, the WeSTEM participatory science programme seeks to ignite a passion for STEAM in Pacific young people by actively involving them in the scientific process to address an issue that is relevant to their community. From understanding the problem, to meticulously collecting data, analysing results, building prototypes and sharing their findings, WeSTEM participants gain invaluable hands-on experience.

   

WeSTEM 2023 Showcase cover

WeSTEM aims to change the narrative around what it means to be a scientist. Although 8% of Aotearoa New Zealand’s population identifies as being of Pacific descent, only 2% of the STEM workforce is made up of Pacific Peoples.


WeSTEM Project Manager, Dr. Sneh Patel, firmly believes this stark contrast doesn't reflect a lack of ability, but rather a lack of opportunity. "Pacific Peoples possess a wealth of untapped potential," she emphasises. "Their ancestors navigated vast oceans using remarkable scientific knowledge and innovation. By reviving these forgotten narratives and showcasing the possibilities ahead, WeSTEM helps young Pacific people envision a world where they can thrive in STEAM fields."


2023 WeSTEM Showcase - FINAL [web]
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The 2023 WeSTEM Showcase is out now and highlights the learning outcomes for over 400 students across 6 projects.



Why participatory science works, as told by the participants:

Tony Nemaia, a teacher at Te Atatū Intermediate, has been involved in several WeSTEM projects since 2022. He most values the authentic learning that WeSTEM facilitates. His projects enabled students to work alongside real STEAM role models from Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology. This allows students to experience that science is everywhere and can be done by anyone, connecting the work they’re engaging with at school to what scientists do in their day-to-day jobs.

“When you allow students to sit in a real space, in something they can actually genuinely work in, it’s more of a legacy piece.” - Tony Nemaia, Te Atatū Intermediate School
Student WeSTEM project experiences

The connections between students, the community and STEAM experts are crucial to the success of a participatory science project. For Pacific students, service to family and community is highly valued, so showcasing their STEAM learning and understanding of how science can benefit their communities is a hugely rewarding experience.


The benefits extend beyond students, impacting teachers and STEAM experts as well. Michael O'Sullivan, associate professor of engineering at the University of Auckland, finds the connection with community to be invaluable — one of the most exciting things he has been involved with in his time at the university.

“[It’s] been really inspiring to understand the power of just getting out into the [school and] community and making those connections and seeing what wonderful opportunities there are that you don’t get if you just stay at university.” - Associate Professior Michael O'Sullivan, University of Auckland
Adult WeSTEM project experiences

WeSTEM and Pacific young people need your support!

Participatory science offers a unique opportunity for schools, communities, universities and businesses to collaborate on meaningful projects that shift students’ attitudes toward STEAM and expand their vision of what is possible.


Are you keen to support more Pacific students to see pathways into STEAM? Contact the team at Te Hononga Akoranga COMET to discuss future opportunities: stem@cometauckland.org.nz

 

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