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Internal seminar – Climate Change & Sustainability Education in NZ Schools

“Simple questions require complex, collaborative solutions”

Webinar and conversation with Davina Hunt on Climate Change & Sustainability Education in NZ Schools


On the 23rd of June we were privileged to have Davina Hunt, a teacher and science educator from Musselburgh School, share with us her work and reflections on climate change education in schools. He Kaupapa Hononga has hosted Davina as a participant teacher in the Royal Society Te Apārangi Science Teaching Leadership Program.

Davina started her talk by setting the scene with the timeline of how sustainability education has developed here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and then discussed her understanding, investigating, communicating, and participating and contributing to science and science conversations throughout her time with He Kaupapa Hononga.

Davina spent time in the Physics, Management and Surveying departments, bringing Energy Management students to conduct an energy audit at Musselburgh School, and observing Environmental Engineering student debates on sustainable transport, green infrastructure and South Dunedin’s rising water, providing content that has already fed into school students’ Ōtakou STEAM cluster “future focussed” projects (STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). She also spent time in the Physics ice lab’s cold room, making thin sections of Antarctic sea ice cores. Studying sea ice cores in this way contributes to answering one of the fundamental questions in the sea ice physical science community – “how thick is the sea ice, and how is this changing?”.

In her talk, Davina spoke about how “thinking physics” means simplifying a problem down to the key question, and then adding the layers of complexity back on. She likened this to a strategy that can be used when talking to children about climate change; simplifying climate change down to what we know, and using that knowledge to empower change and adaptation. If the city of Christchurch knew that they were in for a large earthquake 50 years in advance, or even 5 years in advance, would they have chosen to do things differently? Probably, she posited. Knowledge is what gives us the power to act.

Davina also discussed what is currently occurring in schools in terms of sustainability and climate change education, and what principals and teachers are already doing and asking for more of. She highlighted how the discussion currently focuses more on mitigating impacts than adaptation, perhaps because climate change is still being seen as a future problem, rather than a problem of right now. In order move our thinking towards climate change as a “right now” issue, Davina said, we need to develop students’ emotional and social connections with the environment and climate change before they can move onto the necessary systems thinking.

One of Davina’s key reflections on the nature of science was that “simple questions require complex collaborative solutions”. This is certainly the case when it comes to climate change.

We thank Davina for her talk, as well as her wider contributions over her placement with He Kaupapa Hononga. For now, Davina is going back to the classroom. She will form a science development plan for her school and share her learnings with other teachers. We will welcome Davina back to He Kaupapa Hononga in 2021, for the remainder of her program.


Davina’s talk can be accessed on request by Otago researchers and students, by contacting


The papers Davina worked alongside were:

EMAN405 – Energy Practice

MANT437 – Organisations & Sustainability

PHSI243 – Environmental Physics

SURV454 – Environmental Engineering


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