Participatory Engagement with Scientific and Technological Research through Performance (PERFORM)

 Two clowns firing air at each other

PERFORM is a research project that aims to find out whether performing arts can be used to better develop young people’s engagement with science, scientists, and scientific research.  It is a European Union Horizon 2020 project working with selected secondary schools in France, Spain and the UK. We are one of the partners alongside other universities and performance practitioners from across Europe, and we are leading on training for Early Career Researchers and teachers.

Each of the countries involved is responsible for developing a certain performance technique to be used to engage young people with science. Partners in Spain are working with monologues and stand-up comedy, in France they are using improvisation theatre, and in the UK we are developing science busking.

Running alongside the performance dimension of the project has been work to engage teachers and students with the ethical and philosophical dimensions of science and scientific research, tying in with the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) values that are an important part of EU research work.

Training for Early Career Researchers

The Public Engagement Team has offered PhD students and early career researchers in science subjects the opportunity to participate in a bespoke training programme covering philosophy of science, science communication and performance.

Speakers have included a range of experts from across the University and city, from philosophers of science to stand-up comedians. Participants were encouraged to critically consider scientific practice and develop skills to share this thinking with secondary school students. After the training they had the opportunity to put their skills into practice by participating in workshops in schools in Bristol. As the European lead for training on this project, we have utilised the model we created to co-ordinate the training programmes for the other partner countries.

Performance in schools

Alongside science performers Science Made Simple, we have worked with four Bristol schools to deliver participatory workshops that encouraged the students to discover the ‘human side of science’. In the first year, eleven early career researchers were trained to go into schools and explain their research to students. The students were then supported to develop a science busk that they would perform to the public based on the research they had heard about. This gave the students an opportunity to really understand an area of contemporary research, as well as develop performance skills and transferable skills.

Training for teachers

Our training for teachers explores how philosophy and performance techniques can inspire deeper engagement with science in the classroom.

We are running two workshops, one on philosophical questions in the science classroom, which explores how dialogue facilitation techniques can encourage reflection on science. This is led by the Public Engagement team, alongside a philosophy practitioner. Our second workshop is developed and run with immersive theatre company Kilter and explores how performance techniques can enhance students’ creative engagement with science.

Toolkits

We are developing toolkits for both teachers and early career researchers that can be used after this project has finished to deliver science workshops through performing arts in schools. The toolkits will include films as well as resource cards, and will be digitally available as well as in hard copy.

Visit the PERFORM website for more information

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 665826.

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