Teacher Fellowship inspires leadership and cheesemaking02/07/2014
An opportunity to learn more about artisan cheesemaking has led to grate things for Nicki Harding.
Left: Nicki Harding. Photo: Manawatu Standard.
A keen interest in the art and craft of artisan cheeses led Nicki Harding to apply for an Endeavour Teacher Fellowship.
The head of science at Tararua College, in recent years Nicki has cultivated a taste for artisan cheeses and even tried creating them at home. Her science background is in wildlife management and zoology.
“Previously I hadn’t had a very good success rate with the cheesemaking at home, but now I have a much better one,” she says.
“Depending on what kind of cheese you’re actually making, the whole range of science that’s involved in the process is really quite mind-blowing.”
The Endeavour Teacher Fellowship programme is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and involves partnering teachers with working scientists. Nicki was hosted by the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at Massey University, where she had an interesting time investigating the biotechnology of small-scale artisan cheese production.
Nicki has been inspired by what she’s learned while taking part in the Fellowship.
“I’m now thinking a lot about ways I can bring it in to my Year 11 general science classroom. Next term, I’ll be basically writing and trialling a unit specifically looking at microorganisms and using the cheese context.”
Nicki intends to get her students themselves making cheese, examining what happens at different stages and really learning about the microorganisms and enzymes involved.
“I thought it would be good to start the lesson plans with my Year 11 students. We have quite a popular food technology programme at our school, so I wanted to bring in a food science module to support that particular course.”
Nicki believes many students leaving school go on to apply for food technology courses at university but don’t have enough other science in their background. She says it would be good to make more links for students wanting to pursue particular paths after school. By bringing different modules into general science, she can help to do that at Tararua College.
She would definitely recommend the Endeavour programme to her fellow teachers.
“It’s an absolutely brilliant programme,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to bringing my new knowledge into school next term.”
The leadership programme
Nicki says the leadership component of the fellowship was especially interesting and inspiring to her. “The leadership programme was one of the key parts of this experience, and it was really fantastic,” she says.
Over one week in Dunedin, the participating teachers were taken in-depth through many different aspects of leadership and how they might apply these concepts in new ways once back at school.
“It really inspired my practise,” says Nicki, “and I can see a whole bunch of things I really want to get done now.”
The experience has changed the way Nicki views the concept of leadership.
“I’ve always seen my role as head of department as a lot of administration, and some leadership, but I want to switch that around and do more leadership- not just within science, but within our school.
“This was a whole new branch of science to me – I didn’t have any training in food technology before this fellowship. So it’s really opened my eyes to new things and gave me time to really think about my practice and what sort of teacher I am.
“In everyday teaching life, you are so busy, and you don’t really have time to sit down and read new ideas or reflect on different aspects of your craft. But this time out just really let me do that. Someone said ‘it really gives you the gift of time’, and that’s absolutely what it did for me.”
A note on the Fellowships:
This is a recent statement from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry of Education, in consultation with the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, are working on finalising a draft Science in Society strategic plan. The National Science Challenge (NSC) Panel identified ‘Science and Society’ as a fundamental leadership challenge for the government. The draft plan has identified a number of new strategic actions and reframing of current programmes to achieve the objectives of the plan. As part of the work on developing the plan, government has recognised that the teaching of science from Years 1 – 10 needs increased focus. In 2014/15 there will be changes to the current Teachers Fellowships programme which reflects this change in emphasis. As a result, Endeavour Fellowships will no longer be offered.