If spring is nature’s way of declaring “Let’s Celebrate!” then the decision to hold the Marvellous Movers exhibition in the month of March was an inspired one.
The exhibition was always envisaged as a celebration of the children’s work and what a celebration it turned out to be! The support from the community behind both schools as well as the wider local community and beyond was unprecedented. Hundreds of visitors attended across the three days of the public exhibition, while thousands followed on social media. Visitors included children, parents, grandparents, the local mayor, representatives from local businesses, Government, Press, Education Authority, school governors, Dominican College and faith communities.
On the opening night there were speeches from the principals of both schools. They were effusive in their praise for the project and the benefits it had brought not just to the children but also the wider community in Portstewart. They acknowledged the sheer effort from all those involved in enabling the project to the tremendous success it had been.
Project leader, Louise Gilmore, spoke about how her vision of both schools working together had taken seed at a CPD course in the previous year and how that being Rolls Royce Science finalists had realised this. She spoke about how her original idea had been cultivated by the Marvellous Movers planning team and had grown and flourished. She thanked the children for their enthusiasm and unwavering dedication to the project and advocated the benefits of our schools working collaboratively.
Rolls Royce Ambassador, Tony Sweeting, spoke about the ambitious nature of the project and how he could see the progression of the children’s ideas from planning through to final presentation of the Marvellous Movers. He felt that the future of engineering and design was safe in the hands of our next generation if what he had seen, here in Portstewart, was an indication of the innovation and creativity that would shape our future.
Following the speeches, the exhibition was declared open with School Council and Eco-Schools representatives from both schools acting as ambassadors. They accompanied small groups and individuals around the exhibitions explaining the different stages of the project, identifying the different year groups’ work. They explained how the demands of the project changed as the pupils got older. One ‘ambassador’ was overheard telling a group;
“It is important to recognise that some of these designs from the older pupils are done to scale. The maths we used was really very advanced.”
The choice to take a professional approach to the display of the children’s work brought a different dimension to the project. The public venue, in Flowerfield Arts Centre, elevated the children’s work to a completely different level. For the children there was a real sense that this was real life, grown-up and innovative. They could see that this was a potential career that was open to them, something they would like to do. They could see that ideas, their ideas, could become reality. Our pupils had such a sense of ownership and pride in the project, in the knowledge and skills they had gained and in the friendships, they had developed.
The air of positivity and the rush of goodwill that was extended to the children and staff in equal measures made the exhibition an amazing experience for all involved. There was such pride for everyone involved – pride in getting over the line and delivering a memorable experience for participants and viewers alike.
The legacy for the children is their understanding and enjoyment of STEM – of designing, creating, testing, modifying and evaluating. Interestingly, throughout the project, the Arts have been a key teaching method, helping to “hook the interest” of children who otherwise might have lost interest in what they could have perceived as being a very science-based project. Through the very natural incorporation of the Arts, more of our pupils than we could have believed were totally invested in the project. This extends the project from STEM into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), fusing even more aspects of knowledge and learning. Incorporating Arts widened the projects appeal and has created an impression, among our pupils, that STEM / STEAM subjects are “really cool!”
The children have also gained in their understanding of reusable and recyclable materials and in their awareness of energy efficiency. They are excited about the use of renewable sources of energy and are advocates of taking responsibility for their energy and resource consumption. One mother commented that her daughter was attempting to reorganise her schedules for after-school activities so that they wouldn’t be wasting petrol. She said;
“You know, Mum, it’s up to us to look after our world and little changes add up to big changes.”
The friendships that the children have made, within Portstewart, have been a delight to witness. Working together creates a stronger sense of community for both the adults and the children. Even the volunteers who helped with the project have recounted incidents where pupils have waved and spoke to them, outside of school. This project has created a really harmonious buzz within the community. The children already have their eyes on “What’s now?”... “What can we do next?”... “When can we get together next?” and they will ensure that collaboration continues.
Maura Hughes, NSLC trainer, was absolutely delighted at seeing how the concept of enquiry-based learning was embraced and the children were placed at the centre of the learning process.
“I was absolutely amazed at the variety and creativity of the stages involved from initial designs to the finished models which I saw. The concept of using reusable and recyclable materials as well as powering the vehicles using renewable forms of energy ensures that the children will be very aware of how to be environmentally friendly and bodes well for the future.”
Mrs. Anna Macaulay a parent and local business women commented; “Real engagement, real teamwork, real results!”
One pupil commented; “I’ve loved every minute!”
A teacher from Dominican College, Cathy McGowan, who helped arrange the mentors and is also a parent said; “What a fabulous project – as a parent it was wonderful to watch how much the children got from the experience.”
Local mayor, Maura Hickey, who had witnessed the early stages of the design process was keen to view the finished product. “What a mind-blowing experience for me. The talent is amazing from both children and teachers.”
The Planning Team...
Needless to say, the planning team were all involved with setting up the exhibition. Miss McGoldrick was in charge of PR and made contact with the BBC’s Northern Ireland education correspondent Mr. Robbie Meredith who featured the project on the BBC NI website:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-39432978. Mrs. Quiery co-ordinated and set up the display of children’s work, mapping the flow of the exhibition to mirror the project process from explore and investigate to create, test, modify and evaluate and was helped by a team of very willing and dedicated parent helpers from both schools. The parents from each school got to meet and work alongside each other through the preparation for the exhibition, combining their efforts to pull together the event for the entire community. Dr. Greene assisted by Miss Gilmore were involved in cataloguing the children’s work to ensure that each child from both schools was represented in some way in the exhibition through a design sheet, evaluation, photograph or working model. Mrs. Shaw was involved in writing this month’s blog and in preparing pupils for their ambassadorial role during the exhibition. Whilst Ms Murray and Miss. Pillow were involved with videoing the exhibition and hosting invited guests. During the busyness of exhibition preparations Miss Gilmore and Ms Murray were honoured to represent the Marvellous Movers project at an Enthuse awards ceremony held in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, celebrating excellence in Science teaching across Northern Ireland.
Final evaluation of project.
Wrapping things up!