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STEM blog

JOurney To The Centre Of The Brain, funded by Wellcome Trust, tours the South West

In 2014, the MakeBelieve Arts team ran a touring show of Journey to the Centre of the Brain, our theatrical exploration of the human mind, how it works and why it makes us feel the way we do. This year, we’ve run another two tours, visiting schools all around the country from children in Year 2 all the way up to Year 7. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, we wanted the show to give young children an understanding of how their brains function in a thought-provoking and engaging way, making the science behind emotions and cognitive processes accessible to everyone; even the teachers found that they learned a lot from the performance!

Having moved our main hub to Corsham in Wiltshire we were keen to lay down local roots and to tour rural areas. This we managed to do, visiting schools who have not had quality educational theatre before. The tour took us to Wiltshire, Somerset, North Devon, Dorset and thanks to the films being seen on the website, the island of Guernsey.

Journey to the Centre of the Brain features nine-year old Zac, on the night before a big test. Having not prepared himself with revision, he gets anxious, wishing that he could fly away and not have to worry. During the night, he finds himself transported into his own brain, where he meets with the various sections: Neo Cortex, Hippocampus and Cerebellum, who teach him about how they work and communicate to process ideas and feelings.

Responses from pupils have been wonderful, and the show has clearly helped them to learn in an exciting way, which inspires them to share this knowledge with others. One Year 5 pupil was proud to report that they had taught their mum something about the brain: “she didn’t know about the Neo Cortex”. It’s here that the show is most effective: teaching young pupils about rather complex scientific ideas in a way that they can understand, as well as how it affects them.

“They realise the strength their brain holds… [the show explains] how this relates to their learning”, said teachers watching the show earlier this year. They also saw the value in the show for themselves, finding an understanding of how different teaching techniques are important in reaching all learners.

Alongside the show, we released a number of accompanying films that discuss various parts of the brain in detail, using catchy songs, humour, acting and animation to engage young viewers with the content. Pupils found that the short films inspired a number of imaginative discussions, such as: “what’s the most important part of the brain?”; “what would happen if you didn’t have a memory?”; and “if you had little people inside your brain, what would be inside their heads?”.

Day Out in a Balloon was the most popular video, as after seeing all the films explaining how the various parts of the brain work, this final episode shows exactly how the

Amygdala, Temporal Lobe, Neo Cortex and Hippocampus work together to handle situations. By examining events and concerns that affect young people, the films help to relate emotions and ideas to real-life issues they may have dealt with before, helping to explain exactly why they feel the way they do.

We’ve been thrilled with the response to the show and we hope that everyone has learned something about themselves and others through it!

Please see the evaluation and films at

Giant Tours…Next destination…?

Wow!  What a time, what a tour.  Science will never be the same again!

The power of story has enthralled and inspired the scientific minds of Year 2 – Year 5 pupils all over South East London.  The feedback from pupils and teachers was fantastic.  It’s a fact – our little girl Giant Nell is a hit.  We’ve got to her know her intimately over the last few months and she will be missed.

But – the suitcase has been packed for the last time…Giant Tours has come to an end…for now!

Where next I hear you ask?   Ahah!  We’ve got our eyes on science week in March and have a team of experts foraging for funding to bring giant Nell back on the road for a reunion with Ricky and Dr Brown in 2012.

So, keep checking in to hear the latest science news…and of course HAPPY CHRISTMAS! 

Hmmm…I wonder what Nell’s getting in her stocking, not too many sweets I hope…better get Ricky on speed dial just in case…

Science goes down a storm!

This week 300 children across South East London have been on a whistlestop tour around a giant body with the launch of our creative science programme sponsored by The Wellcome Trust.  Discovering all about what goes on under our skin they have visited organs, met characters and learnt about what makes a healthy lifestyle along the way.

The pupils from Year 2 – Year have come up with lots of interesting questions and ideas.  Here’s something to think about:

Are a giant’s red blood cells much bigger than ours or is it just that they have a lot more?  Hmmm….

[slickr-flickr tag= gianttours]

First stop on Giant Tours…Turnham Primary School

A GIANT thank you to the pupils and staff at Turnham Primary for welcoming Giant Tours into their school.  The MakeBelieve Arts team had a very productive 2 days working with the Year 2 & Year 5 pupils.  Their thoughts on the show were taken on board, and with a few tweaks we’re now ready for rolling out in November!

Loud noises coming from the rehearsal room…

Today sawing and banging could be heard coming from the Gulliver rehearsal room as Ian Teague, award winning theatre designer was busy working on his latest creation, a giant suitcase for a very big little girl.

Walking into the corridors i was greated by the mist of sawdust escaping from the room, and my heart filled with joy as I opened the door to an enormous wooden structure, big enough for Ross to walk into and to contain an array of giant goodies.

This project, funded by the Welcome Trust has created a real buzz around MakeBelieve Arts. Funding issues have meant that it has been two years since we have produced a theatre performance but this programme, although not a full blown production is definetly a step above your ordinary workshop.

Amazing bodies – a wonderful source of story material

Another day of Giant Tours – Science Rerhearsal today and I am so pleased with how it is all going. Having spent a lot of time worrying about the ethics of taking 60 children into the ear of a giant little girl, and giving them a chance to learn about her body from the inside, we have finally cracked the problem. We have begun creating a training programme for one of our crack team of giant experts, where he and the children get to explore a mock up of her body and meet all the exciting characters inside, and all of this as part of a practice run for when Ricky the Roady has to go inside her for real to unblock a blockage.

Filled with jokes about poo, and facts about keeping our bodies healthy, it is a very exciting workshop/performance and iI am so enjoying devising it.

And I have learnt masses in the process…

Did you know that our red blood cells only live for approxiamtely 120 days, (4 months). They do all this work, racing around our bodies, carrying oxygen from our lungs  and and helping us get rid of CO2. And then after all this they head of to the spleem to die. Apparently the spleem is like the graveyard of the body.

And there are hard core killer cells patroling inside us, waiting for the white blood cells to call them so they can pounce on the vile viruses and beastly bugs.

Our bodies are amazing places and doing this project is giving me such an insight into all the exciting things that are happening in there that I have previously taken for granted.

Also it is such a rich source of story material.

Stories are incredible, because through them we can engage children in areas of learning far beyond the scientific areas specified for their particular age group. Thorough story we can gain greater understanding of complex ideas well beyond our years.

Having failed in both Maths and Science at school I am constantly amazed at how exciting and dynamic I find this work when we begin to shape these subjects into story form. If we truely are to turn around education and ‘raise standards’ as politicians continually demand, then story has to take center stage in our classrooms.




A few thoughts from Dr Ranj Singh on his involvement in Giant Tours…

“The Giant Science Project is an innovative and extremely important positive step in improving the knowledge and health awareness of school children.  It takes sound scientific information and presents it in a unique and fun way that is both educational and entertaining.  It delivers in areas where traditional classroom-based teaching feels somehow inadequate – yet can be done easily and effectively in any school environment.  With key national curriculum principles in mind, it is both a relevant and essential part of a child’s learning.  I feel privileged to be involved in such an exciting project and look forward to working on more of them in the future”.

…And a big thank you to Dr Ranj for his invaluable input!

Wish you were… hear!

It’s all go at Giant Tours!  The story is being scripted, the guides are learning their lines, and the postcard publicity has arrived and will be winging its way to schools later this week.  Here’s a sneak preview…

Building a giant’s insides

Determined to get our science right, we decided to build a replica of a giant body on the floor using various materials and rehearsal props that we found lying around MakeBelieve Arts. Our first attempt, although colourful and inventive was anything but accurate.

'Colourful and inventive, and anything but accurate...'

Thankfully Dr Ranj was on hand to help us create a masking tape replica of a giants innards.

'Thankfully Dr Ranj was on hand...'

MakeBelieve Arts is really proud of the numerous programmes we offer to support a more creative approach to Science, Technology and Mathematics. From stories about the King and Queen of Number that teach number recognition in the early years, to programmes exploring the inside of a giant as part of our Giant Science tour, MakeBelieve Arts is incorporating STEM subjects in a dynamic and exciting fashion.

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