The Imagineerium aimed to ‘coach the habit of invention’ into children and young people. It ran for five years from 2014 to 2019 and involved over 600 Year 5 pupils from 21 Coventry primary schools, plus 34 teaching staff.
This school-based programme linked engineering and science with the practice of invention through an art-making process. It has been recognised as a unique and effective form of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths) education.
In each project children were framed as ‘young imagineers’. They were invited and supported by professional artists, engineers and teachers to realise a particular commission, including creating a kinetic performance vehicle to follow Godiva for the Festival of Imagineers in 2014, re-creating the tractors from Roald Dahl’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, and making machines that reflected moments and ideas in Coventry’s history to be installed in a new heritage park at Charterhouse in the city.
Children worked in groups to imagine, design and make a part-working model of their idea, which they then explain and ‘pitch’ to a panel of professionals including engineers, artists and specialists relevant to the commission.
The pupils were actively involved with, and inspired by, others. Central to the success of the project was giving pupils access to new resources, spaces and ways of working in imagining and making.
Statistical evidence gathered through research by Dr Jo Trowsdale, University of Warwick, argues that the project develops children’s confidence in their own creativity and capability as learners, and specifically their understanding of science and technology (Trowsdale, McKenna and Francis, 2019; 2021).
Qualitative evidence suggests that the character of the project design, including elements such as physical activity, articulated as the TAME outline, is central not just in learning and understanding knowledge, but in children’s interest in and appetite for future learning challenges and their view of and belief in themselves (Trowsdale 2014; 2016; 2020*).
The project built towards a stronger partnership model with teachers and gave professional development opportunities to generate longevity for the project in schools. This has led to Teach-Make, a project that supports teachers to develop bespoke projects, using the principles of The Imagineerium.
*Trowsdale, J. (2020) Art-Making as a Site for Education. PhD thesis, University of Warwick
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