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How UNBOXED inspired secondary pupils UK-wide by combining the arts and STEM

In March this year, just as the UK was emerging from lockdown, the UNBOXED Learning Programme embarked on a mission – to engage millions of young people in combining STEM and the arts to imagine more positive futures for us all. 

The Learning Programme, available to all secondary schools and colleges across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, is part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK – 10 projects bringing together scientists, technicians, engineers, mathematicians and artists in creative collaboration. 

Unique learning experiences

Throughout the course of the year, 1.7 million young people took part as UNBOXED Learning toured the country in a roadshow, delivered in-person workshops, created online learning experiences and gave them the opportunity to visit an UNBOXED project. 

Each learning experience is designed to engage young people in immersive, real-world learning, open their minds to careers combining STEM and the arts, and inspire them in using their creativity to affect more positive futures. 

Adel Al-Salloum, who heads up the UNBOXED Learning Programme, said: “The learning programme presented inspired and inquiry-driven opportunities to unlock learning, fuel curiosity and develop new skills in relation to STEM and the arts. It’s been a joy to witness what happens when young people have the space to engage creatively with real-world experiences.” 

Here are some of the highlights from the 10 projects: 

  • About Us – a spectacular multimedia show exploring 13.8 billion years of history, inviting school pupils aged 4–18 to write a poem and/or create an animation project on the theme of ‘connectivity and the universe’. The team is now creating a series of free educational videos for GCSE students inspired by poems commissioned for About Us, with each video exploring a different aspect of the project. 
  • Our Place in Space – a scale model of the solar system, over more than 8km, that young people will soon be able to visit at Ulster Transport Museum. It has just launched a Minecraft Education Adventure, enabling pupils to journey through the solar system, stopping off at each of the planets and exploring historical events back on Earth. 
  • Dandelion – a ground-breaking programme involving growing cube – metre-squared vertical farms designed especially for the project. Almost 90,000 children from 468 schools got their hands dirty and got growing this year. 
  • SEE MONSTER – a North Sea rig transformed into an art installation. It welcomed hundreds of children on board and continues to welcome those who couldn’t make it to Weston-super-Mare through its 360 tour and learning resources
  • GALWAD has resources for schools on its website and has delivered a full week of live lessons that invited pupils to consider a question central to their story: ‘If we can’t imagine a positive future, how are we going to build one?’ 

One particularly innovative project is Dreamachine’s Life’s Big Questions, an interactive series of five questions that can be answered by classes in one part of the UK and compared to the answers of classes in other parts. These intriguing questions – including ‘Can I believe everything I see?’, ‘How do I know time is passing?’ and ‘Are people the same all over the world?’ – explore how the brain and senses work together to help you understand the world.

Teachers can find Life’s Big Questions and other resources at Dreamachine schools

“What drew me to the UNBOXED Learning Programme was how its various projects, and the resources available, showcase what can happen when creativity and STEAM are combined.”

Lauren Wallace, Physics teacher and STEAM Lead from Bishopbriggs Academy

Lauren Wallace, Physics teacher and STEAM Lead from Bishopbriggs Academy, took part in the UNBOXED Learning Programme and sees cross-disciplinary collaboration between science, technology, engineering, arts and maths as an integral part of her students’ development. 

“What drew me to the UNBOXED Learning Programme was how its various projects, and the resources available, showcase what can happen when creativity and STEAM are combined,” she said. “The variety of the UNBOXED programme offers teachers a chance to add excitement, real-world learning and innovation into lessons to inspire students.

“To thrive professionally in a future workforce, students must develop an appreciation of how all the STEAM subjects can interact to produce new innovations – and vitally, must also recognise the fundamental need for creativity in order to make this happen.” 

Secondary school teachers across the UK can find the full suite of UNBOXED Learning resources, perfect for inspiring students on the power of combining STEM and the Arts, at Tes Teaching Resources or by searching for “UNBOXED Learning” on TES. 

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