As a young boy I used to go fishing with my Dad in the Manukau Harbour. Dad owned a small boat with an 85 horsepower outboard motor. It was supposed to be more of a secondary income stream than a recreational hobby, but most of the fish we caught he gave away to family and friends so I don’t think it was too much of a lucrative venture. As soon as he found a spot, we anchored and began preparing the lines by baiting the hooks. There was always a sense of anticipation at the prospect of quickly filling the chilly bin with schools of fresh flounder and snapper and on a good day we would often stop off at all my relatives’ homes to distribute the bounty on our return. However, on a slow day this excitement seemed to fade over the course of the expedition (along with the sunlight) and the silence in the water was louder than the quiet in the boat.
As educators, we may also go “fishing” in our classrooms every day, especially when we are teaching children who may not have firsthand experience in the knowledge domain that we are trying to teach or explain.
The Samoan proverb “O le upega e tautau, ‘ae fagota”, which is translated “The net is now hanging up to dry, but will be used again soon for fishing”, means that if at first you do not succeed – try and try again.
As a Pasifika secondary science teacher, it is fair to say that there have been days where the silence in the classroom reminded me of those quiet days in the boat with my Dad when the only thing that was biting was his sense of frustration.
In the 2012 NZCER research paper “Science Community Engagement with Schools” by Bull, Bolstad & Spiller, a survey conducted on science initiatives available found that there were “few examples of the science community engaging with schools with the specific aim of improving outcomes for Pasifika students”.The research and strategies for engagement of Pasifika learners have been well documented and there are many examples of best practice. But what about engaging Pasifika learners specifically in a science-related context?
Applying the scientific method to test the validity and reliability of a hypothesis is a key tool in developing an inquiring habit of mind. The practical component of the scientific process allows learners to test their own ideas against the theory and make deductions.
In my experience, the fishing analogy of “Hook, Line and Sinker” is useful in understanding the reciprocity of the learning process for Pasifika learners:
Hook: try to ‘bait’ your Pasifika students into engagement by using a culturally relevant, weirdly interesting and topical hook to capture their interest.
Line: once hooked you need to ‘reel them in’ by making sure that the delivery of the lesson will directly allow you to achieve the learning outcome and clarifying exactly why you are learning about it. The line connects the purpose and the intended outcome and needs to be strong and clear for holding their interest. Pasifika students like to know exactly how they will benefit from what we are teaching, so connecting the learning to the overarching theme as well as quantifying the value of the learning is useful (how many credits will they potentially gain).
Sinker: allow the learning outcome to ‘sink in’ and give them an explicit ‘takeaway’ (no pun intended that time) for them to digest later.
Below is an example of how I have applied the “Hook, Line and Sinker” process in planning a Year 10 science lesson.
The lesson topic was “Pressure” and I was looking to introduce how air flows from high to low pressure.
The hook I used was the classic “Push an egg into a glass bottle without touching it” experiment. I used an old glass juice bottle and hard-boiled egg. After lighting strips of paper and placing them into the bottle still alight, I placed the egg back on top of the bottle completely covering the mouth. Students were amazed to see the hard-boiled egg squeeze itself through the bottle mouth and into the bottle!!
The line was to connect the science behind the lesson of the movement of air particles from high to low pressure, with the effect of extreme weather on their island homes, and how weather patterns are caused by the relationships between high and low air pressure systems.
The sinker was for students to prepare or present a weather report to the class explaining the weather and predicting what we could expect either locally or back in their Pacific Island homelands.
Recently the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs launched the Toloa Scholarships to encourage Pasifika students to pursue studies in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering Maths) at tertiary level.
For science educators in the schooling sector, the challenge is to ensure that we encourage Pasifika students with an interest in STEM subjects to be confident enough to follow their passion for science and to provide the encouragement and support for them to do so.
The answer to the question, “Who are the best teachers for Pasifika students?” still remains …”The BEST teachers”.
I would encourage you to apply a Pasifika lens right at the planning stage of your teaching practice, to ensure you get the best catch during your lessons. You may even put a sign outside your classroom door: ”Gone Fishing!”
Soifua ma ia manuia.
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- Hook, line and sinker: Engaging Pasifika learners in Secondary Science - December 9, 2015