EdLab Sparks

EdLab Spark: Support an activity at The Place Fallowfield

The Place in Fallowfield is a multi use learning centre incorporating Fallowfield library. There are courses offered by the WEA and it is supported by local housing provider One Manchester. It is an inspiring example of the community and local businesses coming together to save a great local resource from the cuts. The Place is home to some larger events which showcase different opportunities available. One example of this is an upcoming event on apprenticeships in January.


When people arrive at education events they may be nervous. They may not have had the best time at school or other education. They may lack confidence in seeking out new opportunities.

Can you design an activity that can happen to support other events. Your mission is to help people gain confidence about learning and make a link to what they have already done. It might be full of familiar and friendly things and allow them to get involved in a fun way. At the end of visiting your stall, they should come away feeling positive about what they already know and ready to learn more.

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EdLab Spark: Support Mixed-Race Primary School Children

Mix-d is an organisation which works with young people who are mixed race to give voice to this underrepresented group. Mix-d have worked with this group over a number of years to hear and understand the perspectives of mixed-race young people, and as a result have created a number of packs to support professionals in working with these young people.


Mix-d have offered to work with EdLab students to create a professionals pack to support primary school teachers working with mixed-race children. This pack would be the first of its kind in the UK, and could help teachers to work with mixed-race children in a positive manner which helps to develop a strong and positive sense of identity.

More Information: 

To get involved in this project, or to work on a challenge which supports the development of this project, contact juliette.wilson@mmu.ac.uk or edlab@mmu.ac.uk

Key Partner: Mix-d http://www.mix-d.org/about

Key Words: Primary, Race, Mixed-Race, Educational Packs, Identity Formation, Social Enterprise, Social Justice

EdLab Spark: Conduct a Consultation with LGBT Youth on Virtual Community groups

The Proud Trust supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people in the UK. In 2013 Manchester’s LGBT youth group said there was a ‘gap’ in how they get and need support. The Proud Trust would therefore like to understand how a virtual community group could support young LGBT people and fill this gap for those feeling isolated from services.


Research demonstrates the persistent disadvantage towards LGBT youth for example,within education due to homophobic bullying. Therefore, a virtual community group may do something to alleviate these issues for young people in education, and The Proud Trust would like students to investigate the potential.

(see: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/The_School_Report__2012_.pdf)

More Information:

If you would like to create and deliver a consultation on the use of a virtual community group for LGBT young people please contact juliette.wilson@mmu.ac.uk or edlab@mmu.ac.uk

Partner Name: The Proud Trust – http://www.lgbtyouthnorthwest.org.uk/

Keywords: LGBT, online community group, support

EdLab Spark: ANTS!!

We have created an internet-connected leaf-cutter ants nest, based in MMUs John Dalton building. The nest generates a live-feed of both imagery and movement data (the ants trigger a counter as they pass key points in the nest) – and young people are able to suggest experiments around which this data will be formed (what happens if you play classical music at one end of the nest?).


The next step is to ‘educatify’ this resource: generating as many different forms of learning. These might range to direct study of the behaviour of ants, through to understanding scientific method, understanding of evolutionary traits – or cross disciplinary use of the ants as a stimuli (stories about the hive? Art produced using the data or imagery produced?).

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EdLab Spark: Paper Craft Circuits: Use Electronics as the Basis of Art

Explore ways in which simple materials such as copper tape and LEDs can be used as materials in the production of art, and develop ways in which this activity can form the basis of educational activity for children, young people and communities more widely. This will include the production of resources that can be used externally, and the development and implementation of pop-up and sustained workshops.


This project work grapples with way in which ‘Art’ and ‘Tech’ are related to each other in the move from ‘STEM’ to ‘STEAM’ subjects. There is a growing body of research which suggests that art (and ‘purpose’ more broadly), adds meaning to abstract STEM learning. In turn, this renders it more accessible and raises the likelihood of successful engagement by learners.

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EdLab Spark: Be a Sports Volunteer and Run Your Own Pop Up Sports Event

Sport Volunteering is a vibrant programme offered by MMU sport through the Sports Volunteer coordinator. It offers students from all disciplines the opportunity to enhance their student experience and employability through following their passion for sport.


MMU Sports Volunteering has teamed up with EdLab to challenge students to design their own pop up education stall for sports events. This stall could be sharing information about any subject but there should ideally be a link to the location or sports event involved.

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EdLab Spark: Contribute to a Hulme Archive

Hulme has gone through many generations of building and demolition. It has been a test bed for innovative urban renewal and environmental approaches. The site of the Birley campus and Brooks building has been a topic of much debate and dreaming over the years.

EdLab has inherited various documents which help to tell some of this story. We invite you to help us to archive them by scanning them and putting them online into the Internet Archive project. Local resident Rob Squires has another challenge for you.


These documents of Hulme’s recent history show a rich picture of what is possible with urban planning, permaculture and the imagination of local residents. How can you bring the documents to life and share the stories behind the plans?

Video of Challenge


Link to video on YouTube

Some information on the specifics of Hulme’s regeneration follows in these links.

More Information:
To get involved in this project, or to work on a challenge which supports the development of this project, contact m.chesterman @mmu.ac.uk or edlab @mmu.ac.uk

Key Partner: Redbricks residents group http://redbricks.org
Key Words: Regeneration, Hulme, residents, sustainable development, collaborative design, urban renewal, urban design, homes for change, Birley Fields, consultation, creative consultation


EdLab Spark: Create a non-linear support resource for Sonic Pi coding music software

Sonic Pi is computer software which creates music with simple lines of code. Designed by a ‘live coding’ enthusiast called Sam Aaron with the support of the Rasberry Pi Foundation, this simple but revolutionary approach has created a new way for young and adults alike to learn coding concepts in an extremely engaging (sometimes compulsive way).


In our Funologist experiments with Sonic Pi so far, we have found the most interesting results happen when participants do not have handouts telling them what to do. Providing them with a ‘linear’ hand out often means that those taking part follow the direction given to them rather than being led by their interest.

Conversely, a starting point and some quick references are handy.  As we ask more students to support Sonic Pi workshops, we need a non-linear resource to help the process.

We are very open to different suggestions but as a starting point we are thinking that a large poster with different areas and possibilities could be a good choice. This poster should be visually appealing, encourage experimental play and also be easy to print and to edit.

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EdLab Spark: Use Drama to Explore Personal and Political Issues

We often explore many of the issues that face us today through research and spoken debate. In a school setting this may involve presentations from teachers, supplementary reading, questions and a short discussion.

Drama games and techniques offer radically different ways to explore contemporary political and personal aspects of our lives.


One challenge of the use of Drama games and the introduction of role play is the negative reaction of participants. Some may feel they are leaving their comfort zone. There are many techniques which take account of these feelings and introduce ways to help everyone be able to communicate in an inclusive way. You can explore warm up games, still image theatre and use of narrator / joker to bring everyone into the story.

For us at EdLab, one particular area of interest is the effect of Digital Technology and new laws on our lives. Should we be able to communicate privately with each other digitally? What is the effect of bulk monitoring of all our communications? Where is the right trade off between safety from domestic attacks and the right to privacy?  

You can explore any issue that you think brings together the personal and political and is of interest to your target audience.

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EdLab Spark: One Manchester – Education in Housing Challenges

One Manchester is a housing association that covers parts of South and East Manchester. As well as providing social housing to their customers they also help them with other services including opportunities for learning life skills. Currently these include a job search club, training around service support jobs.

They are interested in learning opportunities that will attract customers who are not pulled in by what they currently offer.

Employment Training 11

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EdLab Spark: Organise a Film screening at the Brooks Building

The challenge to work with staff promote  one off or regular film screenings in the Brook Building. Your key role will be to decide the right films, work out the practicalities and then carry out a plan to promote these free film events to your target audience be it student, staff or local people.

Watching films is a great way to bring different members of the community together and to share ideas and spark positive action.


Showing films brings people together. In Heaton the Savoy Picture House has been transformed from a run down flea pit to a thriving community hub. A recent screening of the film Suffragette saw the place packed out.

A film can be used as the start of a conversation. Community and Art film houses like the  Home and other local Picture Houses bring in the directors and associated groups and individuals to share details of the issues and build connections to social movements.

Movies can inspire you to change the world. Seeing the positive transformations that passionate individuals can create a willingness to work together on a local level.

More Information:
If you would like to support and develop this project please contact m.chesterman@mmu.ac.uk or edlab@mmu.ac.uk

Partner Name: Various – Faculty of Education, Brooks Facilities Team, Student Union
Keywords: film screening, community development, arts, civic action, popular education, local forums


EdLab Spark: Create an Online Timeline of a Local Community Group

Many local community groups are performing vital work but lack the sort of profile and recognition that they deserve. One particular area of interest to address this is the use of maps and timelines to represent successful projects and key moments in their history.


The challenge is to identify and work together with a local group to create an online story of the organisation or one of their main projects. It should be easy to navigate, visually attractive and give a story focused overview of the organisation’s progress and the activities they run. You will also work with them and the EdLab team to gather and input some of the data into an interactive timeline. 

EdLab Spark: Support the Educational Work of Street-Child in Sierra Leone

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.1461757135471

Street-Child are a charity who work to address these issues.See: http://www.street-child.co.uk/

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EdLab Spark: Create a 1-minute creative learning video for ‘Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things’

Z-arts are a creative space for young people in Hulme promoting and delivering creative learning in all its forms. Between 17th September and 17th December 2016, Z-arts are hosting ‘Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things’; an interactive experience for children based upon the stories and poetry of well-known author Michael Rosen.

Z-arts would like MMU students to develop a simple pre or post visit creative learning activity inspired by the themes in ‘Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad things’, and then create a short 1-minute instruction video for children and families to follow at home. Students taking part in this challenge will have the opportunity to explore the interactive experience in a special preview event with Michael Rosen himself!


 For more information about ‘Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things’ visit the Z-arts web pages: http://www.z-arts.org/events/bear-hunt-chocolate-cake-bad-things/


EdLab Spark: Augmented Reality

Aurasma is a free ap which enables users to create simple augmented reality resources. Augmented reality is a way to make images come to life through the use of tablets and phones which are triggered by images to play videos, or 4D images. This project asks EdLab students to work with interested partners to create new applications for this simple to use technology. At present we have schools and libraries interested in using it for projects such as interactive book reviews. See here: https://www.aurasma.com/

“Food science student Roxanna is interested in the applications for communicating healthy eating information.”