Children’s theatre show developed with School of Engineering goes on UK tour

Actors Hannah Goudie-Hunter & Aleysha Jade in “Curious Investigators” © Grant Archer
Actors Hannah Goudie-Hunter & Aleysha Jade in “Curious Investigators”

Lancaster University’s School of Engineering has helped to develop a young children’s theatre show which is currently touring the UK.

“Curious Investigators” aimed at 3 to 7 year olds can be seen at local venues including The Dukes Lancaster, Brewery Arts Centre Kendal, and Carnegie Theatre Workington, as part of a national tour supported by the Arts Council.

The interactive performances are highly visual, theatrical storytelling, engaging children with problems, encouraging curiosity and inventive use of children’s STEM knowledge, via two female characters, “Scribble” and “Clipboard”, who are sorting through the recycling when they discover a very unusual egg. Whose is it? And how can we protect the unborn chick?

“Ridiculously superb” and “very funny” are among some of the comments from the audience.

Dr Irene Wise from The School of Engineering is a Schools’ Liaison Officer who worked with award-winning theatre company One Tenth Human to develop the production.

She said: “Part of the purpose of the shows is to raise awareness of what engineering is, that it's everywhere and in everything. Engineering is not part of the national curriculum and very few primary school teachers have a STEM background.

“By reaching out to a younger audience, there's the chance to challenge stereotypes and inspire curiosity-led interest in the engineered world around them.”

Curious Investigators is also being performed at seven primary schools in Lancaster, Morecambe and Barrow with funding from IMechE (Institute of Mechanical Engineering) and IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology), plus additional support from Lancaster and Morecambe College.

Dr Wise said: “Feedback through children's drawings and responses to questions reveal that this type of storytelling, combined with interaction and freedom to solve a problem through creative thinking and imagination raised their awareness of what engineering is and the skills required to be an engineer.”

A follow-up schools’ workshop facilitated by Dr Wise, with support from engineering students and researchers, involves the children designing, building and testing a way to move a lost egg safely through a journey to return to its nest.

Engineering students also have the opportunity to talk to the children about why they chose engineering, and to show them something they're working on such as a 3D printed wind turbine or a computer controlled circuit.

Dr Wise said: “Engineering outreach from the School of Engineering aims to challenge perceptions and increase understanding that engineering involves creative, problem solving, collaborative challenges with real world applications.”

The show was commissioned by Big Imaginations and supported by the Backstage Trust. Schools workshops in Morecambe Bay are supported by Lancaster and Morecambe College plus an Engineering Education Grant from the IET and IMechE.

Full tour dates, trailer and photographs here:

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