Climate Change Cook Islands Science Expo - Keeping it Cool!

A/Prof Kristen Splinter, Anna Blacka and A/Prof Fiona Johnson at the Climate Change Cook Islands Science ExpoThe first ever Climate Change Cook Islands Science Expo held in Rarotonga has just wrapped up, with a theme of “The Synergy between Traditional Knowledge and Science – Keeping it Cool!”

UNSW was one of several international partners privileged to be invited to attend the Expo, hosted by the Cook Islands Prime Minister, Mark Brown, who hopes the Expo “will encourage more kids to take up STEM subjects for university study”.

The Expo was extremely well attended and resourced, with UNSW joining Otago Museum, NIWA, University of Auckland, University of Waikato and Manaaki Whenua (Landcare Research) from New Zealand; and Brigham Young University from Hawaii, as the international invitees for the unique outreach opportunity. Local partners also shared their love of science and knowledge for the Expo with highlights by Korero O’te Orau (who had a display of Crown of Thorns Starfish!), Gallery Tavioni, the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, Te Ipukarea Society, Cook Islands Meteorological Service, Emergency Management Cook Islands and Muri Environment Care.

Anna Blacka, A/Prof Kristen Splinter and A/Prof Fiona Johnson meeting Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Mark Brown

Running the booth for the UNSW Global Water Institute were A/Prof Fiona Johnson from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Water Research Centre, A/Prof Kristen Splinter and Anna Blacka from the School’s Water Research Laboratory.

The three-day Expo was overflowing with 1,500 school children ranging from Pre-School through to Senior High Schoolers, followed by an afternoon dedicated to community outreach, with many keen young scientists returning alongside their parents. 

The UNSW booth was kept particularly busy throughout the entire Expo – where we focussed on a hands-on and fun experience for the kids – allowing them to get busy building rafts, water filters and capillary action with rainbow food colouring - our raft building exercise was a particular highlight, with many kids returning several times to outlast and outdo one another floating Seabee armour units.

Raft building How many Seabees can you float?
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