The Science of Rongoā


Since the start of this year, Year 10 students have been able to choose different ‘flavoured’ modules within each of their core subjects. Last week the ‘Human and Environmental Health’ Science class learnt how to make their own kawakawa balm, a natural antiseptic used by Māori for generations.

Over the past few years, ƹϵεapp has continued to develop, enrich and extend our innovative junior learning programme. This year, we introduced a variety of modules for students to choose from within their core subjects. For example, in Science, Year 10 students can choose from ‘Engineering,’ ‘Planet Earth and its History’ or ‘Human and Environmental Health.’ Across the year each Year 10 student will get to do two of the three options.

Last week, the ‘Human and Environmental Health’ class were treated to a lesson given by Mrs Hayley Pemberton (Ngāti Koata), about rongoā (traditional Māori medicine), and the medicinal properties of kawakawa.

Students learnt how to pick the leaves and which leaves were the best to choose. Did you know that the ones with the most holes have the most nutrients? Research has shown that the chewed leaves have more active compounds so the insects are onto something! have identified more than 60 biologically active compounds in kawakawa leaves, which are useful for treating a wide range of skin and internal conditions. 

Students in the Year 10 class learned one way to extract the nutrients from the kawakawa leaves, by soaking them for an extended time in a carrier oil and then gently warming the oil overnight to make a natural antiseptic skin balm. 

The students worked in groups to pick leaves and add in olive oil. Once the fresh containers were ready for soaking, Mrs Pemberton brought out a batch that she had prepared earlier, for students to make their own kawakawa balm. The leaves had been soaking for six months and were already warmed up in a slow-cooker, ready for the addition of beeswax before spooning into jars. Each student was able to take a jar of kawakawa balm to try out at home.

Overall, the lesson covered a wide range of Te Ao Māori and Science learning with hands-on practical application. We want to say a huge ngā mihi nui to Mrs Pemberton for giving her time and sharing her knowledge with our ākonga!

By Sarah Gwyn