BPM hosted a morning visit to the Ngakuru zeolite quarry as part of a hands-on, field-based, 5-day Astrobiology field trip for 25 local secondary school students. Designed to enhance the Earth and Space Sciences school curriculum, the children studied NZ’s unique geologic features and associated flora and fauna and explored questions relating to life’s origins and existence in extreme environments, here on Earth and potentially elsewhere. The programme also introduced technology used for space exploration, rarely accessible to secondary school students, and the rigorous methods used for scientific observation and discovery.
This youth pilot project of the New Zealand Astrobiology Institute is part of NASA’s international programme which aims to create resources for the new earth and space sciences curriculum.
University of Auckland professor Kathy Campbell led the fieldtrip, introducing children to concepts such as, Why do rocks and minerals matter? For Kathy, rocks “tell us where we came from and where we’re headed in the future,” she says “and are vital for unlocking the mysteries of life’s origin and for guiding the search for life on other worlds.”
The programme is aimed at getting kids interested in science while learning about how rocks can tell us stories of the past and the changing environments from 1000’s of years ago. “The children in our schools need to know that the search for extraterrestrial and early life is not just for people in Europe or the USA and that they can learn and contribute to this field too,” Kathy says.
The BPM zeolite deposit is interesting in that it is a mineral that is quarried for a wide range of commercial and environmental applications, as well as being of interest to scientists studying the geologic history of this volatile volcanic region.