“If you put the right people together, then anything can happen. Magic can happen.”
As a cornerstone of our outreach programme, BEAST! (Baboró: Environment, Arts, Science & Technology) was part of our strategy to develop models to encourage primary school teachers to explore cross-curricular teaching and education through the use of creativity. The three-year project began in 2012, in conjunction with the Ryan Institute and the Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway. The project matched 3 primary schools with 3 scientists, as well as a number of artists, to explore the proposition of a Low Carbon Future, through (science and arts) workshops and engagement.
- To give a profile to the sciences in primary schools
- To demonstrate the use of the arts in teaching the school curriculum
Direct Project Objectives:
- To marry science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and the arts in exploring a ‘Low Carbon Future’ with primary school children through a series of workshops delivered by scientists and artists
- To create an artistic response using the children’s understanding of the topic
Phase One – Exploring Science Through Art
In 2012, scientists and researchers from various disciplines at NUI Galway engaged with children from 8 primary schools in Galway – 4 in the city, and 4 in the county. Each scientist was matched with a particular class, and together they surveyed various themes including Ocean Acidification, ECO Housing and Energy Harvesting through activities both inside and outside of the classroom. Each class then subsequently worked alongside an artist who introduced them to art forms such as macramé, sculpture, animation or poetry, through which the children explored what they had learned from the scientist.
Installations created by the children were then displayed in an interactive exhibition during the Baboró festival, produced by Tom Meskell. Free workshops took place at the exhibition daily, and the schools that participated in BEAST! were invited along for a workshop and tour of the exhibition. 500 children and families engaged in the workshops, and over 7,000 people visited the exhibition.
Phase Two – Science, Stories and Scratch Programming
When embarking on the second stage in 2013, the focus of the study narrowed in on just three of the schools, so as to provide a more detailed analysis of the process and its results. Three of the original scientists remained involved to investigate additional issues relating to alternative energy, marine life off the coast of County Galway, and biofuels. One artist, Oisín McGann, worked with each of the schools to engage in story creation and animation. A third phase was added in 2013 with technology responding to the science and art workshops. SCRATCH programming was introduced, and each school produced a game or video.
Baboró created a free, interactive, drop-in creativity centre, known as the Exploratorium, where visitors could create their own artwork to contribute to the underwater-themed installation, which was linked to the interactive science centre next door which featured a number of energy harvesting activities.
Artists and scientists from Baboró and the Ryan Institute at NUIG staffed the Exploratorium, and were charged with the task of encouraging both adults and children to partake in the activities that were on offer. Over 3,000 people visited this space during the festival.
Phase Three – Creating a Legacy
As this was the final year, it was thought appropriate that the students should be able to create a ‘legacy’ specific to each school that corresponded with a particular need of that school, to be presented to the school as the culmination of all of the knowledge gained during their participation in the BEAST! project. One school created short films explaining their school’s green technologies; one created a puppet theatre from elements which were powered using sustainable sources of energy; and the third school created a saltwater school aquarium. The social scientists from NUIG followed their progress and studied the process of each of these ventures.
Opening the Door to Creative Teaching and Learning Conference
The Opening the Door to Creative Teaching and Learning conference took place on Thursday, 28 May 2015, and was aimed specifically at those interested in improving confidence, creative and critical thinking and problem-solving in primary school children, and in finding new ways of exploring the curriculum through the use of creativity and active learning. At the conference, the outcomes of the innovative project were presented by social researchers from UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, Patsy O’Sullivan, Dr. Lisa Moran and Dr. Cormac Forkan. The guest speakers of the day were Paul Collard, Chief Executive of the UK-based organization CCE (Creativity, Culture & Education) that is responsible for delivering the British government’s major creative educational programmes for young people in England, and Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement, and joint-founder and director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway.