NASA’s Spaceward Bound New Zealand 2015, based in Rotorua, which brought together teachers and practicing scientists, attracted a great interest in STEM from local Maori students, who showed up to find out more about space sciences and astrobiology. Following on this success, we propose to create Spaceward Bound for Youth and ensure the programme reaches out in particular to low decile rural schools in North Island.  

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Space science is now active in New Zealand. The New Zealand-based aerospace company Rocket Lab is currently developing a small launch vehicle and will launch a number of small satellites through 2017. The New Zealand Astrobiology Network (NZAN) is newly organized and already recognized formally by the globally interconnected NASA Astrobiology Institute. 

Our proposed pilot educational programme will support development of New Zealand’s Earth and Space education curriculum for secondary schools which, in turn, will encourage university-level uptake of science by providing first-hand experience, helping to create opportunities to participate in activities relating to the international space industry and astrobiological and planetary science research. Today, students who wish to progress in space sciences study must do so outside the borders of New Zealand, even though NZ is starting to become recognized internationally as a unique launch site for rockets and a significant astrobiology field research location. Fostering Earth and space sciences educational activities will maximise opportunities to harness the curiosity of NZ students, cultivate their ability to be engaged in STEM subjects, and improve social and environmental outcomes.

This 360-degree panorama was acquired by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover while the rover was in an area called

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Understanding that Astrobiology is in fact part of the overarching study of Earth and space provides an exciting way to raise awareness of STEM topics and enhance learning, because to be effective education needs inspiration. Spaceward Bound is about understanding our place in the Universe, reconnecting with our whakapapa and reassessing our relationship with the natural world. Spaceward Bound New Zealand for Youth will provide a platform for students to experience Astrobiology first-hand and includes looking through the lens of a unique Māori perspective.

Our place in the Universe: The Day the Earth Smiled. In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame.

By using a Mātauranga Māori holistic perspective to incorporating science into the knowledge base, Spaceward Bound New Zealand for Youth aims to offer an immersive experience that will offer students a different perspective about our place in the Universe. By encompassing both ancient and modern forms of knowing and enlightenment, Mātauranga Māori communicates something fundamental about the Māori world, something distinctive and valuable. Mātauranga Māori enables all young people to understand the significance of Māori as tangata whenua through the use of te reo Māori; Māori symbols; learning experiences that focus on the environment (taiao) through the lens of atua Māori (guardians of the forest, sky, earth, wind, rain, storms earthquakes and volcanoes); pūtaiao (science); and hangarau (technology).

Spaceward Bound New Zealand for Youth is extending this approach to understanding our place in the Universe as life on Earth is the only life known to humankind. Thus the people of Earth are the guardians of Earth, just like tangata whenua are the guardians of the land.

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