A Raumati South woman who has been making a significant difference in the education field for about half a century has been recognised in the New Year Honours List.

Rose Hipkins has become a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science education.

Rose, who was "surprised and then delighted" regarding the award, started her career as a secondary science and biology teacher where she was "driven by a desire to make the learning relevant and engaging for as many students as possible".

"Science was one of the 'gatekeeper' subjects and there was an general expectation that many students would not be 'good at it'.

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"But I could already see the looming environmental challenges.

"Scientists were beginning to talk about global warming, for example, and I recognised how important it is to educate everyone in ways that help them be good stewards of our planet.

"Nowadays that is the focus and emphasis of the science curriculum but it wasn't necessarily so at the start of the 1970s when I was an early career teacher."

She also developed a love of teaching human biology and wrote a human biology textbook Alive and Well that used short snappy narrative stories to link the intended learning to life contexts.

"It looks clunky to me now but was ahead of its time back then.

"I went on to develop another widely used textbook called The New Genetics for essentially the same reason.

"I kept waiting for someone else to do it and when it didn't happen I just went for it.

"This was back at a time when DNA fingerprinting was a brand new thing — as we now know with huge ramifications for how science itself is done as well as in fields such as forensics."

Then, about 20 years ago, Rose got involved in educational research working at the New Zealand Council of Educational Research communicating research findings in ways that supported and helped teachers to make a difference to student learning.

She has led national research projects related to both curriculum and assessment innovation in New Zealand, provided workshops across the country, written articles for teacher audiences and worked with individual and groups of teachers within schools.

"I see myself as a person who can build bridges between research and practice and doing that is something I strongly value.

"I really enjoy getting alongside teachers' listening to them talk about the complexities of their work, and helping them achieve changes they might be trying to make.

"Teaching is such a complex job and I'm not sure that many people who have never tried to do it really deeply understand and appreciate that.

"I also love working with new ideas and expanding my own horizons.

"For example, over a number of years now, a few teaching colleagues and I have been exploring the implications of 'complex systems' as an idea that drives a lot of research in science itself.

"What does it mean for how we teach the 'content' of science?

"How could we work with today's students in ways that encourage them to be and become systems thinkers?

"Those are the sorts of questions that drive my ongoing passion for my work."