The overall aim of this project was to raise students aspirations and improve their attitudes towards science and engineering through the non-traditional
engagement medium of mosaic art. The event was funded by RCUK for National Science and Engineering Week 2007, where school students worked with scientists and an artist to create a mosaic representing a vision of the future as influenced by science and technology.
Specific objectives included:
1.To involve approximately 100 students in informal discussions about the
future with at least three professional scientists and engineers from the
University of the West of England, Bristol.
2.To produce a professional mosaic design based on student drawings
3.To involve approximately 150 students in mosaic workshops.
4.To produce a professional mosaic artwork, to be permanently installed
at the school.
5.To host an official unveiling event to celebrate its completion, to
coincide with the opening of a new Science Centre in Easter 2007.
6.To investigate the project impact on student aspirations and attitudes
towards science and engineering.
7.To get at least two news items relating to the project in the local press.
Summary of activity:
The researchers participated in a public engagement training and discussion session provided by the Science Communication Unit. Specific ideas relating to the activities each researcher might offer were discussed amongst the group, with the aim of enabling all researchers having a good overview of what was involved in the project and how the Exploration Sessions would work.
Exploration sessions were held with Year 8 pupils approximately two weeks prior to National Science and Engineering Week. The sessions were each of two hours duration and took the form of short interactive presentations by UWE scientists followed by a creative design activity. Between the two segments their learning was reinforced through a series of interactive activities, including informal
discussions and Q&A with the scientists, comparative conversations with the students peers, and the development of a spider diagram representation of their learning. Students then drew together the issues discussed, producing an artistic representation of how they envisage the future, with particular reference to the impacts of science and engineering. The professional artist then incorporated a selection of these designs into the final artwork. The original designs were also used for display and publicity.
The mosaic workshops were held over four days at the school during National Science and Engineering Week (March 12-15, 2007). Approximately 100 students were involved in total, broken into separate sessions over the four days. Each group consisted of 8-10 students, in order to allow them to work independently but receive appropriate help where necessary. UWE researchers and the project team were on hand throughout the mosaic workshops. The scientists were keen to contribute directly to the mosaic and also engaged students in discussions regarding the scientific topics and issues arising from the artwork. The students were also able to ask questions relating more generally to higher education. Each of the UWE researchers who assisted with the Exploration Sessions attended a helpful helper session in advance, which introduced them to the format, content and techniques involved in the mosaic workshops, as well as the health and safety issues.
The completed mosaic was grouted and finished by the artist. Final installation occurred at the school, to coincide with the opening of the new Science Centre. An official unveiling ceremony was hosted for the school pupils, their teachers and families, and the project team, to celebrate the mosaic completion. The ceremony was officiated by the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences at UWE, Professor John Duffield, and attended by representatives of the school (staff, students, school governors) as well as many of the UWE staff involved in the project.
At the preparation stage outcomes were determined by observations by the project team as well as informal discussions with the researchers. During the exploration sessions observations were recorded by a member of the project team.
What went well:
1.Researchers reported increased confidence and (where appropriate) improved skills in public engagement.
2.The students were generally well engaged, asking questions and interacting with
all three sets of researchers.
3.The researchers all did an excellent job of asking questions and prompting student interaction.
4.The success of the session was evident by the fact that some students expressed a keen interest in finding out more about the topic for example many students now planned to attend the upcoming UWE Open Day to view the mock crime scene and forensics laboratory.
What was learned:
The Mosaic Magic project was a very successful and stimulating project. It:
1.successfully engaged Year 8 students with science and art in a novel and
2.brought together a team of researchers, artists and a local school to work
together on a project which had benefit to all concerned
3.furthered links between UWE and King Edmund Community School, Yate
4.developed a professional partnership between UWE and Art Mosaic Design
5.provided an informal opportunity to further develop researcher communication skills with a non-specialist audience
6.produced a professional artwork now on permanent display in the school's
new Science Centre
7.achieved local press coverage
Top tips and advice for others
1.Distributing students randomly into groups (rather than allowing them to go
with their friends) this assisted in encouraging good behaviour.
2.Organised discussions between students (one or two from each scientific
subject group) work well.
3. A variety of materials worked favourably in stimulating the pupils' imaginations and interest.
4. Use of a spider diagram provided further opportunities for the students to reflect
on their learning from the scientists' discussions, and prompted many
questions from the students. Leaving the diagram clearly visible during the
design session also allowed students to refer back to it for inspiration.
5.Large staff numbers during the drawing session was very beneficial to
ensuring that students remain on-task. In particular, this included the
presence of the researchers when the students are coming up with the
6.Incorporating some structure and/or prompts for the students during the
design session improved the quality of the students' artwork, e.g.
encouraging students to provide feedback to one another, reminding the
students to include colour in their drawings etc.