Michelle Dickinson aka Nanogirl showed Whangārei student teachers Holly Weber (left) and Blake Pattison (right) how pH levels can change the colour of noodles. Photo/John Stone
Michelle Dickinson aka Nanogirl showed Whangārei student teachers Holly Weber (left) and Blake Pattison (right) how pH levels can change the colour of noodles. Photo/John Stone

Pink and green noodles, a banana candle and a torn-up nappy.

It sounds unusual, but that's what happens when a nanotechnologist shows you how easy science can be.

Dr Michelle Dickinson, also known as Nanogirl, visited second-year Bachelor of Education students at the University of Auckland's Whangārei campus on Monday in what was her first time doing workshops with student teachers at a university.

"One of the challenges we have is we know teachers are complaining that they're not getting enough training in hands-on science during their degrees, and when they're going out to teach they're feeling they're not confident enough to teach science principles," she said.

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Dickinson and uni lecturer Mirko Wojnowski came up with a strategy to increase student teachers' confidence around science by doing hands-on experiments that are cheap and easy using only things found in a kitchen.

The experiments included cooking noodles in water used to boil purple cabbage - which turned the noodles purple - and using lemon juice and baking soda to demonstrate how pH levels can change the noodle colour; they also made a banana candle using an almond as the wick; and tore up a nappy to show how absorption worked.

"It's important when you're teaching in primary schools the kids can then go home and tell their parents about stuff that they've learned and see their baby brother or sister in a nappy and say 'I know how that works'," Dickinson said.

"People think science is chemicals and Bunsen burners and lab coats and not accessible. But actually science is everywhere, so my goal is to show people science is not just for scientists."

Student teachers Holly Weber (left) and Blake Pattison (right) watch while Michelle Dickinson aka Nanogirl lights the banana candle. Photo/John Stone
Student teachers Holly Weber (left) and Blake Pattison (right) watch while Michelle Dickinson aka Nanogirl lights the banana candle. Photo/John Stone

Students Holly Weber and Blake Pattison said the thought of teaching science to primary school students had been intimidating, but they were now confident thanks to Dickinson's workshop.

"It was quite different because we'd gone through science all through high school and we never had anything like this," Pattison said.

Weber agreed.

"It's reassuring to know we don't need to be afraid of teaching science at school. It's hands-on tactile activities."

Dickinson's science show Out of this World will be at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri on Sunday, December 9.

For more information visit nanogirllive.co.nz