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Innovative animation educates tamariki on the role of COVID-19 genomic sequencing

16 February 2022

COVID-19
Covid Animation Esr
Covid Animation Esr

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) and the University of Otago have partnered with Maui Studios Aotearoa to create a short animation to highlight the role of genomic sequencing in the management of COVID-19.

The animation is guided by Koro, an elderly Māori scientist and his granddaughter, Ruia, a young Māori girl intrigued by science and technology but tired of kōrero about COVID-19. Tūī, a wise manu friend of Koro and Piki, a robotic assistant completes the characters of the animation.

Otago University virologist Dr Jemma Geoghegan says the animation was developed to explain genomic sequencing to a younger audience in an engaging form that didn’t rely on a standard textbook.  

“Many young people are really interested in science and want to understand complex issues like the COVID-19 virus. The animation was a genuine collaboration between scientists, animators and tamariki,” said Dr Geoghegan.

Associate Professor in Quantative Genetics, Dr Phil Wilcox (Ngāti Rakaipaaka, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa) says it is critical to present science-based learning in a way that connected with Māori.

“Unpacking important science-based activities in a manner more relatable to Māori communities is extremely important, not only for improving understanding but also to encourage tauira and pakeke to think about how gene technologies might be used to benefit our people.  

“These resources also support Māori-specific education initiatives regarding genetics and gene technologies such as the Summer Internship of indigenous peoples in Genomics Aotearoa and the University of Otago's Science Wananga genetics modules. Increasingly, Māori are engaging with gene technology-based research and application in both health and primary sectors, so such resource serve to support that trend.”

ESR's lead for Genomics, Joep de Ligt says the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed genomic sequencing firmly into the public domain.

“COVID has provided an opportunity to show people the power and speed of these technologies and give them a look under the hood of the science behind the work.

“The animation was designed to be relevant for school-age students, in particular, with the aim of incorporating te Ao Māori views and concepts alongside the science. This is an important shift to recognize the value and look at how it can be appropriately working into NZ curriculum.

The animation was created from funding provided under the COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund.

Watch the video here.