Remote communities - and they don't come much more remote than the Hokianga - are used to missing out on what other might take for granted, not least in education. But geographical disavantages can be overcome, as Hokianga resident Jessie McVeagh, a parent with a passion for education and conservation, and others have proved.
It started when Jessie saw what the House of Science was doing throughout the country, providing comprehensive science resource kits to 430 of the country's 2100 primary schools, in turn giving teachers confidence in the classroom and resulting in engaged students. It is a charitable trust, which receives no government support, and relies on philanthropic funding, grants and donations.
The House of Science lends themed hands-on science kits, with instructions in te reo Māori and English, to schools. The kits are tightly aligned with the national curriculum, and in many cases include areas of research by real scientists, helping to make formal science education current, relevant and engaging for both students and teachers. It also provides professional development for teachers who need help in using the kits and gaining confidence around teaching science.
Jessie spent two years working with House of Science to open a branch in the Hokianga, her dream finally becoming a reality this year thanks to Sandra Kirikiri, business manager for House of Science, who managed to find a sponsor.
Ten Hokianga schools - Kohukohu, Ōpononi Area School, Rāwene, Te Kura a Iwi o Omanaia, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hokianga, Te Kura Taumata o Panguru, Te Kura a Iwi o Waikare, Matihetihe, Hōreke and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe - are now using the kits.
Jessie, the Far North branch manager, said it was heart-warming to see how the community was working together to ensure the kits were delivered.
"We have quite a unique set up in Hokianga," she said.
"The local bus drivers transport the kits to the schools, with students assigned to take them kit into the school. The Rāwene ferry is even part of the delivery service. I take the kits down to the wharf and pass them on to the teachers who take their cars across on the ferry to work on the other side of the harbour."
The system was working, and feedback from staff and students had been fantastic, but the goal was to expand into more schools, and that would need funding and sponsorship.
"There are 65 schools in the Far North, and the House of Science kits are used in 10 of them," Jessie said.
"We have started to deliver to some schools in Kaikohe, but we would like to see all schools in the area using the kits. If there is no funding, we can't expand into those schools."
Rāwene School teacher Rouati Ewens said thanks to the kits, science had become a firm favourite in her classroom. They were well resourced, "super simple" to follow, and the entire class had developed a profound love for science.
"Swimming used to hold pole position in terms of the 'best part of my day,' but this has quickly been rivalled by science," she said.
"We have fierce debates daily over which one shall be timetabled."
For more information on House of Science in the Hokianga, or to donate, go to https://houseofscience.nz/