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Expo offers Antarctic experience to islanders

Saturday 10 December 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Education, National, Outer Islands

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Expo offers Antarctic experience to islanders
School pupils in the Cook Islands enjoying a science expo run by Otago Museum this year. PHOTO: SUPPLIED 22120901

Being able to step from the sweltering sandy climate of the Cook Islands into the freezing environs of the Antarctic will be a novelty for the community of Aitutaki.

Following the success of its first science festival in Rarotonga earlier this year, the Otago Museum science engagement team is returning to the Cook Islands to share more science experiences — this time, on the outer island.

The Aitutaki Science Expo will be held next week (December 12-15) in partnership with the climate change division of the Cook Islands office of the Prime Minister.

The Aitutaki Science Expo will be held next week (December 12-15) in partnership with the climate change division of the Cook Islands office of the Prime Minister. 22120925
The Aitutaki Science Expo will be held next week (December 12-15) in partnership with the climate change division of the Cook Islands office of the Prime Minister. 22120925

Museum science engagement director Dr Craig Grant said it would feature a shipping container that transforms into a laboratory, and a mobile immersive theatre where people could experience life in the Antarctic and learn about climate change and its impacts.

"The response from the Cook Island school pupils and community at our expo in October was truly amazing.

"We had every school on Rarotonga come through it.

"The children enjoyed it so much that many brought their families back to our evening community sessions."

He said the support of the United States Embassy and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade meant the museum was able to take some of these experiences to Aitutaki so their communities could also experience "some hands-on STEM fun".

"It’s a real privilege to be able to share all the amazing mahi of partners like the Dodd-Walls Centre and the MacDiarmid Institute with communities that would otherwise never get access to such science-themed experiences.

"There’s a huge amount of logistical planning that goes into reaching these remote communities, but seeing the kids’ eyes light up with our hydrogen demos and hearing their ‘Wooowwws!!’ when they get transported to Antarctica in our dome, makes it all worthwhile," he said.

The museum employs the largest science outreach team in New Zealand, delivering science communication to communities around New Zealand and the Pacific.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz