Fighting for Girls Education

In Sierra Leone there is a dangerously worrying fact facing vulnerable young girls looking for a fair start in life: they’re simply not being given the opportunity to stay in school. UNICEF research shows that even a single year of secondary education has the potential to increase a girl’s future earnings by up to 25%. Investment in girls’ education also has a multiplier effect: educated girls benefit from better family planning and have healthier children who are more likely to remain in education themselves. But Sierra Leonean girls are increasingly likely to drop out of school at this vital stage.

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Science Poetry

Dividing education into disciplinary boundaries, is not the only way of learning about a subject. Specific disciplinary labels can have stereotypical associations which affect how learners feel about, or engage with, a subject. Therefore, the extent to which learners enjoy or excel in different disciplines may have little to do with their abilities, and more to do with how the subject is portrayed and taught.

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Escape the Classroom

Escape Rooms have become increasingly popular entertainment experiences in recent years, in which groups of people work together to solve puzzles and escape a locked room in a limited time period. As well as developing teamwork, communication and puzzle-solving skills, these rooms have the potential to embed puzzles that are related to specific disciplines or subject areas to provide a playful way for participants to engage with curriculum content.

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Work with Grimm & Co

Grimm & Co are a Yorkshire charity based in Rotherham town centre, championing the writer in every young person through the joyful discovery of stories. Their story centre and imagination gym can only be accessed through the secret door of our ‘Apothecary to the Magical’, selling wit, humour, awe and wonder to all children. They aim to creatively engage young people and inspire a new confidence and motivation to write.

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Imagineering with StarLab

StarLab is an inflatable dome onto which star and constellation maps can be projected to take learners on a virtual tour of the universe. It is a portable system which is easily transported and inflated, and can comfortably accommodate a class of children, or a group of adults.

EdLab students delivering a workshop to children within the StarLab planetarium.

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The practices of coding and electronic ‘making’ have recently entered mainstream education. Their reach has, however, not been universal – and particular groups of pupils (boys, for instance) tend to feel that they are more relevant and accessible than others.

EdLab students facilitating a Sonic Pi workshop

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Happy Trails

Students worked with Primary Schools to create inclusive and engaging places of play, to explore the everyday in-between spaces of the city where children and teachers can work together. Students worked with creative collaborators  to enable the children to gain an understanding of the built and natural environment.

The final set of workshops took place in MMU’s Brooks Building, where EdLab students helped to deliver activities that engaged the children with the architecture of the space.

Students collaborated with TASC (The Architecture School for Children) on the project How Did Your Garden Grow? It engaged children in a creative exploration of the Piccadilly Gardens story. Students helped children to imaginatively peel back the layers of time revealing how the site has changed, eventually understanding how it is today and what it could be in the future.

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Scavengers of Calderdale – Pilot Workshop

As part of a project that came out of an entry in the Calderdale Bootstrap Project, Scavengers of Calderdale is a joint project of Noisy Toys and EdLab MMU.

This opening pilot workshop at the Hackerspace in Hedben Bridge explore the possibilities offered by taking apart electronic waste and / or recycling computers to create Retro Arcade machines.

The “unmaking” of computers and other devices had a  really positive response. Getting CD drive motors working again was a real Frankenstein’s Monster moment (It’s Alive!).

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Making Arcade Consoles to Play Video Games

It was the last of our regular sessions with our Y4/5 Roll Crescent group of young people recently. So what better to do that play video games.

The learning element here was to use a combination of Arduino, Makey Makeys and authentic arcade buttons and joysticks to assemble DIY control panels.

It was also happening at the same time as the Playful Learning conference so there were plenty of other large scale games to play with as well.

This pilot was a good success. The joint motivation of really good quality electronic components and the final goal of playing retro games was irresistible for young and older alike!

EdLab Highlights of Community Learning Festival 2017

EdLab was happy to be able to contribute some key workshops aimed at children and families for the 2017 Summer Community Learning Festival in the Birley Building.

The festival is an idea way for us to develop our partnerships with local education providers and give us and our students an opportunity to try out new educational sessions.

Below are some photos and quick descriptions of some of the sessions we ran or supported.

Mono Printing and T-shirt creation

This was a session with a great buzz about it and fantastic feedback from families that came to it.

Developing “Usual Theatre in Unusual Spaces”

This was a fun and interactive imagineering session aimed to support young people to develop an interactive promenade theatre show. This involved sharing case studies where participants have been integral to shaping the project and sharing tactics on engaging audiences. This was planned by EdLab together with Jana Kennedy from Z-Arts and the teacher training Drama department at Man Met.

How do we talk to Aliens?

This was a session delivered by Lucy an Master student doing Science Communication. It was a hands on introduction to the electromagnetic spectrum – what is a radio wave and what are they used for? How do we communicate with outer-space? This interactive workshop allowed participants to build their own satellite, design your own alien, and learn some Physics.

Hulme Sweet Hulme A collaborative poem

A fantastic preview of Reel Mcr’s upcoming project. Make sure to look out for the premiere of this film poem and documentary.

Den Building with TASC

A great moment on Thursday, TASC really put the effort into getting great physical resources to support immersive play and creating environments.

Gizmobots Robot Making Workshop

Messy play at it’s best involving recycling waste electronic equipment into cute robots that participants can take home.

Pirate Pete’s Video Arcade

Another collaboration between EdLab and Becky and Alison from the Man Met’s Drama Education department. This was a new session using the appeal of retro video game arcades as an enticing way of then getting young people and families involved in the process of creating games. This was done via creating a dramatic situation where the young people had to save the Arcade.

Junk Percussion Workshop with Andrea Vogler

This is a fantastic hands on way to learn how to be part of a musical band. Andrea ran two sessions and many from the first came back to the second!

Food Find out and Create

This session led by student Roxanna is a very engaging way of learning about energy content of food and related issues of nutrition. It took place in the Food Lab of our building.

Science Education in the Early Years

LAB 0-6

This year we made an international connection with academics and students at UManresa in Spain. Associate professor Dr. Gabriel Lemkow-Tovías from UManresa was my guide, and is a key member of staff working on their early childhood science centre Lab 0-6. Lab 0-6 is a ‘discovery centre’ based in the university where children aged 0-6 can come and immerse themselves in a number of activities and contexts designed to stimulate scientific investigation, observation and conclusions in young children. They developed this facility because they felt that interactive activities for this age group were lacking. 

“Science is a tool for understanding the world
We aim to stimulate the natural curiosity of children and encourage their intervention reasoned reality.”

Science Nest

As a result of this specialist work, colleagues at Lab 0-6 were invited to collaborate on designing a space for young children in the natural history museum in Barcelona; Museo Blau. This space is similar in creating a warm and free environment for young children to explore scientific concepts and ideas, to observe, to experiment and to question. Staff said that one of the most important features of this space was to:

“Leave children with questions. Questions stimulate further exploration, answers provide an end point.


At EdLab we are committed to creating links with all kinds of professionals and communities concerned with innovative and creative education. This year we were able to facilitate a Skype meeting between students on our EdLab unit and academics at LAB 0-6. During this meeting students could ask questions and take a virtual tour of the facility. It is hoped that in the future we will be able to create simultaneous projects between students in Manchester and students at UManresa, developing, observing and comparing educational activities for EYFS children.

Visiting the Community Learning festival

In returning the visit, Gabriel will be coming to our Community Learning Festival held in Brooks Building Hulme from the 25th to the 27th of July. The Community Learning Festival, now in its second year, aspires to bring together the richness of our local community with the skills and facilities from within the university. There will be a full programme of free workshops and activities over the three days, aimed at all ages.

Gabriel will also be delivering a talk as part of the festival from 4-5.30pm on Wednesday the 26th of July in the Bio Social Lab, Brooks Building:

Discovering strategies and approaching new phenomena: the Lab 0_6 as a boost for new questions:
Learning about new phenomena and dealing with emerging enquiries is something children deal with on a daily basis. However not always the phenomena or enquiries that adults find interesting or useful is so fascinating for children. We will present and discuss some situations where children might find a different approach in dealing with new possible knowledge as well as some of the strategies that children might use to respond to these new situations.


More Places and Spaces

You may also be interested in Escola Itaca which is a primary schoool in Manresa entirely based in project-based learning, and the science museum in Barcelona, Cosmocaixa, where they have a similar project-based learning context called Creactivity.

Resources to support Unmaking / Remaking session

Story of Estevan from Bolivia

Story of Hanan from Agbogbloshie

Belen from Barcelona’s story

Tips about being in coding and making games and keeping healthy and happy.

Belen’s great tutorial on Making Phaser Games in the Browser

Play Belen’s game – PlatformerGroowSky PanicTales of Underworld  – Hipster vs Metal

Tips on Game Jams

The Story of Stuff! Infographics on E- Waste


“Brave Ideas”: Facilitating Year 9 Girls Tinkering with Code Bugs

As a result of an earlier project aimed at widening the participation of girls in science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM) subjects EdLab facilitated a follow up tinkering session at Whalley Range High School with Year 9 girls. To do this we took along mini codable LED devices called Code Bugs, and engaged the girls in a 90 minute competition to create an interactive page from a children’s book.

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Create a One Page Wonder Website Workshop at HCGC

The key message for this workshop was Keep it Simple. We wanted to avoid over complicated processes when creating a website for a new project. To do the workshop was divided into three parts. 

  1. Chat about us and our experiences with websites
  2. Generate ideas on paper and talk about an upcoming project that would need a website
  3. Play with technology that will allow us to share these ideas


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