Our City on Mars - exploring conditions in Nottingham and the red planet; what we need for a good life here and in the cosmos

Lead Research Organisation: Ignite Futures Ltd
Department Name: Programmes Office


Our City on Mars builds on the exploratory project supported by the WonderMatch programme in 2018/19 which enabled partners in Nottingham to work across disciplines, to identify a future collaboration between arts and science and to work with communities in an area of Nottingham which faces considerable challenges in economic stability and employment opportunities.

Our aims are:

To create an education programme that inspires young people in their excitement and understanding of the science of astro-physics and the solar system;
To bring different levels of expertise and knowledge together through an interdisciplinary approach, across the arts and STEM subjects, to demonstrate how collaboration adds value over the sum of individual inputs;
To use the 'holding form', the metaphor, of Our City on Mars, to engage the interest of children in what conditions are essential for life on another planet, and thereby to reflect on conditions for living in societies in North Nottingham;
To create a model of engagement and education that can be replicated and delivered in other learning contexts; to contribute thereby to the strategies and case studies of the Nottingham Cultural Education Partnership, CHalleNGe;
To create learning resources on the topics of the solar system that are customised for the partner schools, in particular to create resources that are based on knowledge maps and progression;
To raise public interest and understanding of Science in general and Astro-physics and the solar system in particular, through the Bulwell Arts Festival and the Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity (FOSAC) and the Real Science in Schools Symposium.

The longer term impact of the project will be larger numbers of children and families in our target area of delivery with raised appreciation of the role of STEM subjects in their education and cultural lives;
Children and families will have increased their science capital as a result of this project;
And public understanding of science in our target group will also be measurably increased.

The project will also be a model of partnership working across both Nottingham Universities, colleges, community development organisations, creative education charities, other voluntary organisations, business, industry and civic authorities. A commitment to closer working collaborations across the STEM City partnership has been agreed in a structured approach for public engagement and this project would be an early illustration of that commitment.

Planned Impact

The project Our City on Mars comprises three phases of creation, celebration and distribution of resources; in addition we intend to take full advantage of the STFC Interact conferences.

Throughout the course of the project we will create learning resources from the activities with the children in six primary schools and the Year7 group at Bulwell Academy; the schools are in a supportive network in the Bulwell Education Action Zone (EAZ). The primary schools already meet regularly to discuss projects and resources they can share, the resources here will form a natural extension of their co-operation.

The teachers have expressed a concern that learning resources on topics such as space and the solar system should not be year specific but open enough for them to tailor schemes to the needs of groups and individual children. They are keen to develop ways to share resources - both content newly created as part of the project, but also the work they individually do so they can upload their own ideas and share what works in their classrooms.

The teachers have also told us to take 'Progression maps' and 'Knowledge organisers' as frameworks for schemes of work. They said they were interested in subject resources as opposed to Year group resources; but wanted a plan for vocabulary (that could be linked to specific year groups) with a hierarchy of vocabulary that builds through the subject area, and where possible, fitting activities to national curriculum 'skills development' .

We will build the structure for that to happen across the EAZ.

The resources will then be shared across the citywide partnership of the Cultural Education Partnership the CEP, ChalleNGe. Cathy Mahmood is the Director of the CEP.

The achievements of the project, the artwork, essays, models and installations will be celebrated in two public Festivals - the Bulwell Arts Festival in July 2020 and the Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity in February 2021, including the Real Science in Schools Symposium on Thursday 11 February 2021. This event takes place in the Nottingham City Council House and has grown to be a centre piece for the education programming of FOSAC attracting attendance from civic leaders and education policy makers.

Resources will be posted on web and social media.

One of the Co-Applicants, Prof Michael Merrifield, also has a relationship with the local BBC radio broadcaster and a regular opportunity to broadcast news of astronomy and space exploration; as indicated in the objectives and project summary, we will seek to take advantage of these opportunities to share progress on the project, including we hope the opportunity for young people to join a broadcast.

Finally there are a number of Science Communication events and conferences to which the project can be reported. Ignite! and Rick Hall are members of the British interactive Group (BIG), and the Festival of Science and Curiosity is also a member of the UK Science Festivals Network. We will also attend the regular Interact conferences to report and describe the successes of the project, again depending on timing and location with the possible attendance of partners.

Rick Hall is also co-vice-chair of the Education Working Group of ECSA the European Citizen Science Association, and whilst Our City On Mars is not strictly speaking a CitSci project, it is founded in the principles of curiosity, creativity and community engagement, and extends models of Public Engagement. We expect lessons of community engagement to be available from the project to be shared at ECSA seminars, webinars and conference.

This in addition of course to the expected evaluation and reporting to STFC.


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