Flipping the switch on STEM

posted: 2:50 pm - 29th March 2019
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(Picture caption: L-R - Ministry for Pacific Peoples CE Laulu Mac Leauanae, Niue Kaufakalataha Wellington Region's Ofania Ikiua, and Pacific Peoples Minister Hon Aupito William Sio at the Central Region Toloa Awards Ceremony.) 

Enticing the local community to get on-board with addressing key issues affecting them is what Niue Kaufakalataha Wellington Region (NKWR) does best. 

When a lack of Pacific representation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) became an issue facing Pacific peoples in Aotearoa, NKWR ensured it was leading the way to find ways to flip the switch. 

Its work in the STEM arena, encouraging Pacific peoples to learn more about STEM subjects and be interested in how STEM works has been recognised by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) at the recent Central Region Toloa Awards Ceremony as recipients of the Toloa Community Fund

Secretary of NKWR Ane Hunkin says it is really important to be aware of the needs of the world and for Pacific students to be part of that world.  

“We want to provide our students with opportunities to learn more about STEM subjects and be interested in how STEM works so that they might want to contribute and participate in the world of modern technology,” she says. 

“We want them to see what STEM subjects can do for plants, oceans, transport and so on. 

“Promoting STEM can hopefully encourage young students to go down this path and choose one of the STEM subjects as their interest at school and beyond.” 

Ane says NKWR’s main focus is to keep up with mainstream issues that affect the community, and it is often informed via churches, clubs and families in the Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua areas. 

“We organise important cultural events, for example Pule Fakamotu (Niue Constitution Day) annual celebrations, we have radio broadcasts twice a week in the Niue language, get involved with Niue cultural events around town and organise Niue language lessons in Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua.” 

Over the past few years, it has seen a gap that needs bridging in the STEM arena, and has a working committee responsible for seeking STEM funding, putting a programme together and managing the events and activities.  

This year, NKWR organised its 3rd STEM event, inviting school-aged children to the day where Niuean university graduates and experts on STEM subjects gather to discuss everything STEM with the children. 

“Each year we involve more people and different groups such as youth groups from Porirua or Hutt Halley, and we also encourage young people to manage some activities.” 

With the money from the Toloa Community Fund, NKWR is planning to organise open day events, where students are introduced to various STEM technologies, Ane says. 

“We want to attract them to fun workshops – on how to build computer games or code – and make it interesting and accessible. 

“We’ll have workshops suitable for various age groups and aim to organise a workshop specifically for parents so they are on the same page about what STEM is; as well as exploring how parents can positively support and encourage their children to study STEM subjects at school.” 

Ane says NKWR’s intention is to always give back to the Pacific community, and it achieves this by being involved in mainstream activities and staying positive and supportive about opportunities available for Pacific students. 

“And by providing alternative STEM careers to some Pacific parents’ expectations and aspirations for their children to be Lawyers and Doctors.” 

Visit MPP for more information on the Toloa Programme.