For their first week of school holiday relaxation, Ngati Whakaue children were playing with light.

Matakokiri, a holiday programme teaching 7- to 14-year-olds about science, was begun in 2011 by Te Taumata o Ngati Whakaue Iho Ake Trust.

It has been held during the first week of almost every school break since then, with this being its eleventh run.

"Our kids learn about our matauranga Maori. Our Maori studies, knowledge, experiences, and then we look at Western science and see how the two either marry together or have differences," Matakokiri team leader Renee Gillies said.

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The name of the programme referred to a comet lighting up the sky. For Ms Gillies, it symbolised the goal of the programme.

"It's about lighting that passion for science, lighting up a bit of a spark in our kids and their understanding," she said.

"We want our children to become our scientists and our leaders of the future. We believe we need to instil that in them at this young age."

The topic last week was te pumairangi, or light.

Puti Pomare and Hemi Gardiner, both 11, said the most interesting thing they learned was how light travelled.

"I used to think light could travel in different, bending ways, but it turns out it travels straight and the only way it can bend is when it bounces off each mirror," Hemi said.

Puti also enjoyed looking at circuits and pinhole cameras, while Hemi had fun "mucking around with the electronics to create games".

Last Thursday, Photon Factory director Cather Simpson and students from the University of Auckland taught children about light as a form of energy that powered themselves and many of the things around them.

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"I'm very excited to be down here. It's wonderful seeing the enthusiasm for science and learning and curiosity in the kids," Dr Simpson said.

To further its initiative to get kids excited about science, Te Taumata partnered with House of Science Tauranga and began distributing ready-made science resource kits to Rotorua schools in April.

Te Taumata recently received $30,000 from Curious Minds to develop kits based on Matakokiri and Maori perspectives on science.