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Schools to Seas and Skies sparks central North Island teacher in STEM subjects

Spending time at military bases in Auckland has given one central North Island school teacher the ammunition to fire up her students with ideas for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

25 January, 2024

Liva Ozola took part in this year’s School to Skies and School to Seas Teachers’ Edition Camp, which aims, among other things, to “teach the teachers”.

It was held at Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Auckland and the Royal New Zealand Navy’s (RNZN) Devonport Naval Base earlier this month.

At Base Auckland, Whenuapai, the 40 teachers taking part were introduced to military skills, the principles of flight and aviation mission planning, and treated to a flight over Auckland with No. 40 Squadron aboard a C-130 Hercules.

Miss Ozola, who teaches woodworking and STEM subjects to Year 7 and 8 students, will pass her new knowledge onto those students at Ohakune Primary School and the wider Mt Ruapehu District Area, including Waiouru Primary School, National Park Primary School and Raetihi Primary School.

The camp showed her how STEM knowledge can be utilised in real jobs and real places, she said.

“You can build a rocket, but as teachers you need to know where the young person can use it, get jobs and identify opportunities. So I’m exploring this and personally I think the camp is amazing,” Miss Ozola said.

“We make wind turbines and rockets at school, but young people don’t really know about the maintenance and engineering side of things. They know about pilots, but you need to have the aircraft serviceable which all comes down to the maintenance and engineering crew.

“In my area, most of my students want to be farmers because that’s what they know, so to bring this knowledge back to them will really broaden their horizons,” she said.

Teachers stand behind the wing of a small aircraft in a hanger.

At RNZAF Base Auckland teachers learned about aircraft maintenance.

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Teacher Liva Ozola from the Mt Ruapheu district at Defence Science & Technology as part of the School to Skies and School to Seas Teachers’ Edition Camp.

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Miss Ozola was amazed at the range of trades available at Devonport Naval Base.

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Miss Ozola takes control of her ship at the Royal New Zealand Navy bridge simulator.

Project lead, Squadron Leader Matthew Pitts, said School to Skies formed part of the RNZAF’s commitment to the New Zealand Defence Force Wāhine Toa programme.

“The aim for participants is to develop a learning experience which will inspire their students to pursue STEM career pathways and in turn help to increase diversity in RNZAF technical and aviation based roles.”

During their time at Devonport Naval Base, the teachers were exposed to a wide range of naval activities, including what experiencing day-to-day life is like for Navy personnel, as well as firefighting, navigation and leadership skills.

RNZN School to Seas project lead, Lieutenant Commander Emily Kutarski, said recruiting and supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce that represents all New Zealanders was also critically important for the Navy.

“School to Seas certainly helps to show the range of career opportunities the Navy has to offer. The camp aims to introduce what life is like at sea, as well as break down stereotypes and barriers that may prevent women and other under-represented groups from enlisting in the Navy,” she said.

Miss Ozola said spending time at Devonport opened her eyes to how many opportunities and trades there were.

“It actually blows my mind. It’ll be great to share with my students that they don’t need to decide what to do straight away after leaving school. In the services they can get educated and try all of these different trades.”

Learn more about our School to Seas and School to Skies camps.