Karolina Korupczynska is the coordinator of our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) autism programme. The project involves BOM working with Baskerville School to deliver a whole academic year of science lessons taught by artists. The programme is underpinned by a robust evaluation framework designed with the University of Birmingham.
We want to prove that teaching science with art can improve attainment, confidence and engagement in the subject of science. Karolina and Louise have been developing the project and now Karolina gives us a bit of an insight into the work she has been up to…..
What a fascinating meeting with BOM fellow Dr Melissa Grant and Dr Sarah Kuehne today! I spoke to them about the STEAM Autism Programme and their ideas for the project.
Melissa Grant is a senior lecturer in biological sciences within the School of Dentistry and Sarah Kuehne is a lecturer in Oral Microbiology and the lead of the Oral Microbiology Research Group. Both are working at the University of Birmingham in the School of Dentistry.
Melissa’s research focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations and clinician-scientist partnerships, while Sarah’s lab is working on the communication between bacteria and bacteria-host interactions. Both are currently working together on a project looking at biofilm and would like to incorporate their experience in this area into delivering sessions on bacteria and biofilm to students at Baskerville School.
During this meeting I’ve learnt that a biofilm is ‘any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other and often these cells adhere to a surface. These adherent cells are frequently embedded within a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substance.’ This means that biofilms form when bacteria stick to surfaces in some form of watery environment and begin to excrete a slimy, sticky matter that can adhere to all types of materials – for example teeth. Here is your plaque explained folks!
Today was an exciting day for the development of the project! I met several artists and scientists who will be involved in the STEAM Autism Programme and discussed their ideas for KS3 Science lessons delivery to students from Baskerville School. There was a lot of learning going on as we looked at microscopes and plant cells with artist Sue Brisco, whose research and enquiry is led by an innate scientific interest into the hidden properties of flora and our everyday relationship to plants. Using a high-powered scanning electron microscope, Sue creates beautiful stories interweaving film, drawing and science.
Sue Brisco – Plant seen through a microscope
BOM fellow Jon Wood joined us just as Sue and I were finishing our conversation. We now know how to make a microscope and a pinhole camera ourselves!
Jon Wood – Fingerprint seen through a handmade microscope
Jon is a STEM ambassador, member of #BrumScicomm and a keen backer of ScienceGrrl, supporting women in science and engineering. His knowledge of biomedical science, microbiology, psychology and neuroscience as well as his experience of delivering innovative science programmes to young people brought a lot of excitement and anticipation to our conversation. Jon told us about tasty, lemony clouds and amazingly fun digestive system explorations (lots of gross stuff and sweetcorn!), which I am sure were loved by all the kids, for probably very different reasons. Jon also showed us various resources that will be very helpful to other artists and professionals in preparation for the sessions.
Matt Gale, a Birmingham-based artist who is blurring the distinctions between organic and synthetic states in his research and practice joined Jon and I at BOM soon after lunch. He became engaged with our conversation swiftly and we were able to discuss details of the KS3 curriculum, and the possibilities of sharing the delivery of various topics. We talked about cells and the role of diffusion in the movement of materials in and between cells but also looked at ecology topics. Matt’s experience and skills are very relevant to the STEAM Autism project and it was great to hear that he will be able to produce alternative biology lessons through art, with such confidence and enthusiasm. Matt studied biology as an undergraduate, taught at primary school level for eight years and has been a visiting lecturer in Education the past four years. Bring it on science!
Justin Wiggan, BOM fellow and an artist working at the frontiers of art and health joined us too. Our conversation turned towards Physics and sound very quickly. Justin shared his experiences working with a school on a project called Sparks, which was inspired by his Life Echo work. Sparks are personalised sound memories, which during this experiment were used to impact on the school children’s positivity, focus and motivation. For the STEAM Autism Project, Justin wants to carry on focusing on sound, delivering sessions exploring sound waves in a creative and innovative ways. Who knows, maybe we will even see some sounds! Justin is looking to potentially collaborate on this project with visual artist Halina Dominska and BOM fellow Leon Trimble (more about Halina and Leon in my next blog post).