Young children can soon learn more about protecting themselves and others from illnesses with the launch of a new science kit in certain schools.
House of Science New Zealand makes science curriculum-based kits for primary and intermediate-aged students to boost resources in schools and increase teachers' confidence in delivering science.
The new mighty microbes kit included practical experiments showing how far a sneeze travelled and what was on our hands before and after washing.
Treasurer on the House of Science New Zealand board Maria Livingstone said kits were in 450 schools and more than 10,000 children used them.
Founder and chief executive officer Chris Duggan told the Bay of Plenty Times the kit was about positive learning when dealing with sickness and there was not a specific focus on Covid-19.
"It's positive messages around handwashing especially… how to sneeze responsibly. It's about giving them the tools to positively keep themselves and others safe.
"We were really careful not to scaremonger - we didn't want the kids to become scared."
Duggan said the kits were about empowering children to do "hands-on science in the classroom".
"That's the whole point of our kits. The children get to do the science [and] it gives the teachers all the resources they need."
At the launch event on July 8 in Tauranga, microbiologist and House of Science ambassador Dr Siouxsie Wiles said the science kits were in about 20 per cent of schools.
"But they should be in every school, so there's clearly a long way to go," Wiles said.
"Our children naturally have an interest in science… somehow that gets lost and we end up with this kind of 'you can't be a scientist'."
Wiles said petri dishes in the kit was "a really important thing".
"To be able to see stuff from their bodies and environment grow… it's an amazing world when you get a petri dish…. To see the physical evidence of what is living on you…"
"To have really clear instructions on how you do this safely – that's what the kit is all about."
Wiles later told the Bay of Plenty Times the new mighty microbes kit was "awesome" because it covered handwashing and included a great experiment on "watching how far a sneeze can travel".
"The kits [are] also about learning a bit more about microbiology and that microbes aren't all nasty," she said.
"There's a really fantastic experiment about yeast – the microbes that give us bread [and] showing how they're alive."
Vice president of the New Zealand Microbiological Society Heather Hendrickson said the new kit was "so exciting".
"I never had the opportunity to be exposed to microbiology when I was a kid."
Hendrickson said she had to wait until university to start to discover "this amazing and invisible world of wonder around us".
Microbiology is "really at the core of so many of our industries and our medical professions", she said.
"Anything from the beautiful bacteria that ferment our cheese, or the incredible microbes that make beer or bread."