The aim of the this project was to take a one hour long workshop into local schools to show how art can be used to explore and explain scientific concepts.
We consulted with research scientist Andrew Axon, Liver research group, Newcastle University to understand the mechanisms used by viruses to reproduce. Once we understood the principles, we reduced them down into a format we could take and explain to primary school children.
Each workshop lasted one hour and involved around 30 children. We needed to engage them before explaining the science, and did this by showing a computer animation of a virus attempting to take over a cell - but without explaining it to them first. We then asked the pupils to imagine what was happening. We then offered an analagous explanation of an alien (virus) taking over a factory (cell) in space (the body). Having fired their imagination they drew and cut out their own aliens to animate this story.
We then revealed that the story was in fact about how viruses attack healthy cells and hi-jack their reproductive mechanisms. Once they understood this they were able to make the link between viruses they encountered (i.e. chicken pox, the common cold, and verrucas) and how they worked inside the body. Even the reception class were able to grasp the general concept.
Using animation and story-telling, we were able to successfully explain a complex biomedical process clearly to young children in a way that was engaging and age-appropriate.