Altered Perceptions was a project that was part of the Cambridge Science Centre's exhibition on Perception (from Oct 2013-April 2014 and was aimed at raising awareness of:
- How our brain and our senses work together to interpret the world
- The importance of our senses to our physical and emotional state and of the challenges individuals with altered senses/perception face
- The world class, local research into senses and perception
The project aimed to:
1. To engage around 300 adults through delivery of five interactive adult events about the senses.
2. To engage around 1450 pupils (KS2 and KS3) with a curriculum enhancing interactive show and/or workshop based around the senses, developed in collaboration with scientists, delivered as part of our schools engagement programme during the perception exhibition (Oct 26th 2013-April 2014)
3. To engage 3000-4000 people (family audiences and adults) with a selection of the show elements as part of our general mini show programme in the centre during the perception exhibition.
Summary of activity:
We worked with researchers and clinicians to develop a set of hands on activities and resources that 1. explain how our brains and our senses work together to make sense of the world, 2. convey what it would be like to experience reduced sensation. 3. show how our brains can be tricked through sensory illusions. The Science centre team used a selection of these activities as demos in the science centre, and to develop a show and workshop for our school audience. The researchers and clinicians delivered these activities at our 5 adult only events. The first half of these events was hands on and the second part was an informal Q&A between a panel of researchers/clinicians/patient and the audience, led by a moderator.
We engaged an experienced external evaluator who helped us develop an appropriate evaluation programme for the type of project.
We used a mix of quantitative and qualitative data collection methods for the adult events, the demos and the schools workshop/show.
Adult evening events were observed, visitors completed evaluation postcards.
We conducted short interviews at events with a small number of visitors. We did follow-up interviews approximately two weeks after events. We obtained researcher feedback through an email questionnaire.
The schools workshop and show:
All school workshops and shows were observed. Pupils completed evaluation postcards. A small number of pupils were interviewed. Teachers completed evaluation postcards and a small number of teachers were interviewed.
Weekend and holiday demos:
The demos were observed at various times throughout the duration of the perception exhibition. We asked a proportion of the visitors to complete evaluation postcards.
What went well:
1. Both visitors and researchers very much liked the adult event format of combining hands-on activities with informal panel discussion.
2. The demos are an excellent way to engage a family audience with a science topic to learn something new and to trigger interest to find out more
3. Teachers noted improved pupils’ understanding of the senses and positive perception of science as a topic after participating in the school shows/workshop.
3. Getting researchers involved early on in the project led to developing resources for show/demos and interesting events related to our perception exhibition.
4.Researchers gained increased confidence and ability for science communication and valued meeting other researchers.
5. The success of the perception exhibition (Oct 2013- April 2014 in terms of visitor numbers (~15 000) and number of people engaged with the demos (>8000).
6. Evaluation shows that the project has achieved the aims of raising awareness of how our senses and our brains work together to make sense of the world, how reduced sensation affects our well being, and about current research on the senses in our target audiences (adult, families, pupils/teachers)
What was learned:
The Altered Perception project provided experience for the CSC team in:
• Developing and delivering a programme of fun, informative and engaging adult events.
• Expanding the school engagement in Cambridgeshire and wider region through shows and workshops at the CSC and our ‘on the road’ outreach programme
• Developing researcher engagement and incorporate current research into the CSC public programmes.
2. Trying to get a group of researchers from different departments/universities and clinicians together for a meeting is hard, if not impossible
2. Teachers need more information about Shows and workshops topics/format and explicit links to the curriculum before they book a session
3. Adults love hands-on experiences!
Top tips and advice for others
1. Allocate adequate time to administration/organisation/communication/management for engaging external partners
2. Make teachers aware that the school show /workshop concepts can be reinforced by playing with our exhibits in the centre.
3. Highlight links between the topics covered in the workshop/show to the curriculum