‘Project in a Box’ is a collaboration for our times, an example of how researchers, university outreach staff and schools can come together quickly to address the systemic inequalities in education exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Invited into the project by Lancaster University’s engagement team, ImaginationLancaster`s Community and Public Sector cluster has both facilitated the development and contributed to a resource designed to engage and connect young people who find themselves isolated at home by the pandemic.
What is the Box? It is fun and playful. It’s string and stickers and chopsticks and blue-tack: the Box is Imagination’s involvement in physical form. An array of materials and tools support open-ended exploration and creativity, which is a way of looking at the world that local schools worry is being suffocated by current circumstances. The Box is more than the physical resources, however. In consultation with schools and with educators involved in the development of the Morecambe Bay Curriculum, Imagination Lancaster and Dr. Diane Potts from the Linguistics Department designed ‘prompt’ posters that accompany the Box and which further encourage exploration. The ‘prompt’ posters orient children to 4 different ways of thinking about what they’re doing; explore, build, tell, and test.
Children’s connections with their school, with their community and with each other are also central to the design. ‘Project in a Box’ encourages young people to share their creative activity by making videos, sending postcards and taking photos, in-fact they can show their creations however they choose. The results of their playful activity will be shared with their teachers in school and with their friends and families providing new connections and strengthening existing ones.
The children will become part of the design team as the project moves forward. They will co-design the future materials, tools and prompt posters with teachers and academics. The initial posters were generated from ideas gathered from a number of faculties and areas of research across the University.
As well as being part of the co-design team the children and teachers of schools in the area including Morecambe Bay and Ryelands will be contributing to some exciting research being carried out by Imagination Lancaster and the University’s Linguistics faculty that focuses on community engagement and connecting children.
This is also contributing to our research in Imagination, understanding the way the boxes and prompt posters are used will help us create more effective, fun and productive ways of engaging with children nationally and internationally.