Curiosity Forest 2017

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As unlikely as it sounds the festival I dreamt up and created in a three week time-line with no funding in 2015 is about to return for its third year.

The 29th of September 2017 will see the Curiosity Forest open its doors for the third time, and will be the second year that the festival will run as part of Explorathon. At the end of September Universities across the continent take part in 24 hours of its most creative public engagement as part of European Researchers Night; Explorathon is Scotland’s coordinated effort.

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This year the content is entirely from PhD research teams from Scottish universities and will be free for the public to attend and interact with bespoke-designed games and challenges. Friday night will contain all the brilliant activities on display across the weekend as well as tales from our Research Raconteurs who will spins yarns about rare languages, systems of trust and question why we question things. The Lates event will allow adults to grab a glass of wine under a tree canopy (indoors, of course) and get hands-on with cutting-edge research from 6pm til 9pm.

Doors open on Saturday’s family event at 10am and will allow audiences to fire lasers using their voice, make blueprints of the natural world and learn how to fly a drone in the Arctic and that’s just for starters! With no tickets required and the event being free of charge, families can come and go as it suits them until 5pm. The Curiosity Forest will transport you from the centre of town to a woodland where science and art are at your fingertips.

Audiences will also be able to pick up a free copy of EU:Sci magazine on both days. The new issue is about the future of science, not to be missed.

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The Curiosity Forest will take place in the Charteris Centre, 138/140 The Pleasance, Edinburgh EH8 9RR.

Friday 29th September 6pm until 9pm - research activities and storytelling, bring your ID for the bar.

Saturday 30th September 10am until 5pm - research activities for families.

Photo credit: Chris Scott

Explorathon 2016 - reflections

This year for me has been building up to producing a Curiosity Forest that has a legacy. Working with Beltane Public Engagement to connect researchers, provide training opportunities and invite them to take part in public engagement events.

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Having worked with a range of researchers over three training sessions in the run up to this years event I really felt that the Curiosity Forest was building a community. The researchers I worked with were diverse in their respective fields of study but united in their enthusiasm and creativity. I couldn't have been happier with the process when I realised a room full of PhD candidates were throwing themselves fully into making sock puppets for our public speaking training. It really was a sight for sore eyes.

Widening training opportunities meant that volunteers for the event also included masters and undergrad students as well as a retired scientist and storyteller. It was fanstatic to have a huge range of talent present across the weekend.

The partnership with Beltane and Explorathon came from my reaslisation that adults could benefit directly from the Curiosity Forest without needing to bring children. Watching parents interact with activities last year reminded me that outside-the-box-thinking events should not be solely for children and their grown-ups. Friday 30th September included all the researchers you could have asked for, snappy storytelling, hands-on activities, colouring-in and event a science ceilidh.

Saturday and Sunday reverted back to a family-friendly audience while still encouraging adults to engage in science and art. As the weekend progressed from an Explorathon (European researcher based) event into a Fun Palace (community arts and science) we saw more activities from non-researchers including storytellers, our own illustrator, Blair Drummond Safari park, Glasgow Science Centre and the RSPB. Blending current research with more familiar scientific outreach worked well and provided a nice balance to the day.

Over the course of the weekend five hundred and eighty eight people took part - which was brilliant of course. Though I know next year we can get even more people involved in the event and I look forward to welcoming back this years exhibitors, meeting news ones and continuing to provide training opportunities that encourage us all to play with science.

An enormous thank you goes out to everyone who helped over the past few months, visited, exhibited or helped make a woodland.

 

Photo credit: Chris Scott

European Researchers and the Curiosity Forest

What have an indoor woodland, Edinburgh's most engaging researchers and I got in common?

We are all part of European Researchers Night 2016.

This year I am delighted to announce that the Curiosity Forest will not only cater for families as it did last year but also provide an night for adults to see the forefront of current research.

The Curiosity Forest is part of three confirmed events for Explorathon - Scotland's addition to ERN. As well as research in the woodland there will be events in Ocean Terminal for Leith Labs and at WHALE in Wester Hailes.

On Friday 30th September between 5pm and 9pm audiences are invited to Edinburgh Methodist Chuch, Nicholson Square for a chance to explore and learn. Researchers will be providing the full programme of events that evening including short-snappy story-telling, games and hands-on activities all relating to their work.

As part of the preparations for this event I will be running training sessions for researchers to help them develop activities, stories and talks tailored to the Curiosity audience. I am thrilled to be working with such a diverse group of participants in a truly creative way and look forward to updating you all on our progress together.

If you are a researcher and would like to take part but havent registered a note of interest yet please do so here

The Curiosity Forest 2015

"Everyone is an artist, everyone is a scientist" 

Highlights from the Curiosity Foreston 3rd October 2015 as filmed by Straightcut Media. This is the project I came up with as a response to the UK wide Fun Palace events by creating an indoor woodland full of free arts and science events for families in Edinburgh.

The moto of Fun Palaces mirrors my gloriously mixed career path. As a facilitator, theatre-maker and science communicator I have engaged communities across Scotland and abroad. When I was introduced to the concept of creating a free community event celebrating art and science for my local community it felt right for me to make my own event under the Fun Palaces UK banner.

Inspired by other Fun Palace makers in Edinburgh I created a miniature festival in just three weeks. Turning Tech Cube, Summerhall place into an indoor woodland and filling it with art and science activites for families. Even with a limited capacity we had families queuing (and waiting patiently, thank you) out the door. Over three hundred members of the community came to take part. The Story Glen offered poetry, animal stories, music therapy and a science ceilidh workshop. Across from the Glen families could; make their own Lush bath bombs, help Heriot Watt map the grey squirrel population with their craft skills, make masks with the Ecology Centre, Find out about fossils with the Cockburn Geology Museum, perfect pocket puppets with the Festival Theatre, play in the shadow forest or chill over colouring-in with illustrations from artist Gemma Valentine.

 

This year the festival will be bigger than ever. Spanning two days, in a larger venue and more content than ever before. On the 1st and 2nd of October 2016 the Curiosity Forest will open its doors once more to let families inside the outside; celebrating art, science and culture. If you would like to be involved running one of the activities, have an idea for a story-session or other creative element then get in touch.

 

wordcloud of audience feedback from the 2015 curiosity forest

wordcloud of audience feedback from the 2015 curiosity forest