Pilot for The Elusive Ms Higgs:a detective fiction of elementary truths

Lead Research Organisation: Brunel University
Department Name: Electronic and Computer Engineering


The pilot project for the development of "The Elusive Ms Higgs: a detective fiction of elementary truths", will develop and evaluate a number of physics-based narrative scenarios with pupils in selected secondary schools. In particular, we will engage with pupils from low-income families (FSM), black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds and girls - all groups that have traditionally not engaged with the subject.

The scenarios are based on key aspects and challenges overcome in the process of discovering the Higgs boson, and will require the active use of scientific method and physics principles by pupils who will be introduced to the task through the genre of a detective mystery. This is a non-traditional approach to teaching both particle physics and the scientific method through which we will attempt to reach the target groups.

At the same time, we will determine the feasibility and effectiveness of developing these scenarios into an immersive and participatory theatre piece as an alternative pedagogical method for the teaching of scientific subjects that are usually taught using very traditional methods to school pupils aged 12 - 14 years old. We wish to determine how such an approach can be used to promote engagement with science by groups of pupils who do not normally engage with these subjects beyond compulsory science education either through an absence of role models or for other more complex socio-cultural and economic factors. Through the evaluation of the impact of this approach on school pupils, we aim to identify the key factors that promote engagement with the subject being taught and in so doing understand how we might develop a full scale immersive and participatory performance, which in turn can be used as a model of practice to enhance pupil engagement with other science subjects.

Planned Impact

Marketing strategy:

The success of this project clearly rests, at least in part, on the successful marketing of the events. The project will be fully integrated into Brunel University's marketing plan and will be fully supported by Brunel marketing. In particular, the project team will work with members of the Brunel marketing team who have previously been responsible for the successful marketing of the STFC-funded Girls Allowed! project run by Dr Cole and who have extensive experience in marketing and running STEM outreach events on campus. To promote this event to schools, marketing materials will be prepared that can be sent to schools in the local area. We plan to attract 6-7 schools around Brunel University, located in Uxbridge, West London/Middlesex.

Dissemination of project and resources within the Public Engagement community:

The project team are keen to share their findings with the public engagement community, as well as to benefit from the experience of others. A website will be prepared to market the event. Once the results of participating in the event are known, the website will also be used to disseminate the findings. A suitably-qualified student will be paid to develop the website initially, which will be hosted by Brunel University. It will then be maintained by the project team and the University web team. As Brunel University London is fully committed to Public Engagement activity, evidenced in its plans for the developing of new onsite facilities for this purpose and through the setting up of a Public Engagement Advisory Group, the investigators are confident that the website will be supported as an ongoing project.

In addition, Dr Cole is an active member of the Public Engagement community, through the Institute of Physics, Brunel University and grassroots organisation, ScienceGrrl. Through her connections within this community, Dr Cole will seek opportunities for the project team to present their project and its findings at relevant meetings. One such example might be requesting the opportunity for the project team to present at the next IOP Physics Communicators group AGM.


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Title Introductory film for Ms Higgs event 
Description As part of the Ms Higgs events running in the summers of 2015 and 2016, students watched an introductory film to set the scene for the rest of the event. The film was initially made in 2015, but was re-make during 2016. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The film was shown to all students who participated in our events in 2015 and 2016. The original film was also made available on the event website. The latest version of the film (the one made in 2016) is available on YouTube. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5TQhCbbH3w
Title Introductory film for Ms Higgs event 
Description This is the original version of the introductory film that was shown to participants in Ms Higgs events in 2015. The film was re-shot during 2016. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact This film was an integral part of the events that took place in 2015, giving context to the participants' experience. As such, its impact independent of the rest of the event is impossible to determine. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxWhRI1yt9s
Title The Elusive Ms Higgs event 
Description This was an immersive theatre event that school children participated in during the summers of 2015 and 2016. This event included the films already added in this category. There was also a script written for the rest of the event, although as the actors involved had to interact with the students, it was more of a briefing for each actor than a formal script, requiring a lot of improvisation. We also designed the sets and lighting (there were 3 main sets). The content of the event was significantly re-worked between 2015 and 2016, based on feedback from the original event in 2015. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Feedback data is still being evaluated for publication as part of a larger paper about the project, but the students who participated in the event were generally very positive about it and indicated longer term interest in the subject as a consequence (follow-up work done by teachers in school after the event). 
Description We have developed a half-day immersive theatre experience based on the hunt for the Higgs boson. We ran, in total, two events, with the second benefitting from feedback provided by participants in the first event. The second event was a two-day event which consequently reached a larger number of students in our target groups (those that are typically underrepresented in physics).

We are continuing to analyse the data we have collected from event participants and expect to present them publicly in the next few months.
Exploitation Route We hope that the format we develop could be used by others to run similar events.
Sectors Education

Description The Elusive Ms Higgs event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 36 year 9 pupils attended the first immersive theatre event based around the hunt for the Higgs boson (July 2015). We received positive feedback that this innovative approach to engaging pupils works.

45 year 9 pupils attended the second event over two days in July 2016. We originally expected a total of 72 pupils in this year, but 3 of the 8 schools who were to attend unfortunately had to cancel because of a public transport strike. We received more positive feedback from this second event. In this case, the feedback was more detailed and has been analysed, with the intention of documenting the results in a journal publication, which is currently under preparation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
Description Theatre and Performance Research Association conference (Worcester, UK) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Mary Richards, Co-investigator on the grant, presented the project at the 2015 Theatre and Performance Research Association conference at the University of Worcester. It was presented in the Performance and Science working group parallel session. The purpose of the presentation was to share knowledge with others interested in interaction of theatre with science and in particular to discuss the initial findings from the analysis of feedback collected from the first event, which ran in July 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://tapra.org/archive/conference-2015/