Teacher seeks inspiration from Lincoln scientists

08 March 2022 | News

Lincoln High School science teacher Willem Tolhoek is hoping to pick up some research ideas that will inspire his students after spending a semester at Lincoln University.

Willem has been given the opportunity to work alongside scientists and postgraduate students from the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences as part of the Science Teaching Leadership Programme.

Funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) and managed by the Royal Society Te Apārangi, the programme provides primary and secondary teachers with experiences that will enhance their teaching of science.

I hope to return to school highly motivated and able to inspire students and teachers to be scientifically literate.

Willem, who has a degree in ecology, is working as a "Participant Teacher" in the Department of Pest Management and Conservation, with Associate Professor Adrian Paterson as his "Host Scientist".

He says he's keen to participate in "some of the amazing current science research happening at Lincoln University" and investigate ways of creating a stronger relationship between the faculty and the Lincoln High science department.

"I would love to see more of our local high school students learning and participating in science, with this being extended out into some local citizen science projects."

He had been aware of the Leadership Programme "for many years", but finally decided to apply with another colleague, who will be based at another institution, "as we are ready to make the next push to further improve our science programme".

"It will support us to develop our leadership, knowledge of the science curriculum and current innovative scientific research," he says.

"This will allow us to make our science curriculum more responsive to our students who come from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

"We also hope to engage students in science that is happening in their own backyard, in Lincoln, Selwyn, and Canterbury."

Willem would like to learn from Lincoln scientists about the type of content that could be built into his school programme to "prepare students to think critically and be able to participate in a society that values science".

A Lincoln resident, he has taught at Lincoln High School for the past 17 years, and currently works as the Science Department's Head of Learning Area.

"I have a real passion for the teaching and learning of science and I try to engage as many teenagers as possible to understand the importance of science in society and for some of them to consider further study and careers in the field," he says.

"I work with a wonderful team of 15 teachers back at Lincoln High who also share this passion."

Associate Professor Paterson says his department is happy to host Willem and "explore and enhance our links with the science students at Lincoln High School".