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Master Class: Poetry & Creative Learning with the MasterCard Scholars

Thu, 18/05/2017 - 09:50



I’ve been delivering writing workshops for a long time now, most regularly at the Scottish Poetry Library to people who, though at various points in their writing careers, have poetry on the brain. Since starting as Projects and Engagement Coordinator for the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), it has been interesting to think about how my skills as a writer and writing teacher could be of use in my new work which has the wider focus of encouraging and exploring creative learning, innovation and collaboration across the University of Edinburgh.

One of my early meetings after starting here was with Johanna Holtan who used to run the Festival of Creative Learning which I now look after. She is a powerhouse and the job she has moved on to is running the University’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Programme, which ‘supports the brightest and best African scholars with great potential but few educational opportunities’. When Jo found out that I am a poet, she asked if I would deliver a workshop for some of her scholars, and I was delighted to accept.

Jo mentioned that the scholars were having a visit from the poet Upile Chisala, and while I wasn’t able to attend her reading (which I was very sad about as I knew it would be amazing and from the reports of the scholars it certainly was), I wanted to respond to Upile’s poetry in my workshop. Jo works on the project with Stephen Kaye who sent me over some of Upile’s poems, and these were the starting point.

It was such an inspiring session, and all of the scholars produced work which was original, authentic and thrilling. We started by reading out a selection of Upile’s poems together and discussing them, then we did free writing with prompts like:

I am beautiful because…


I celebrate myself because…


I am a fire because…

We then wrote poems, shared them with one another and celebrated one another’s creativity and original vision. I think only one of the scholars was a poet who had written, performed and won awards before, along with her many other activities, so for the others I suspect the exercises were somewhat more unusual but they were all brilliant at diving in and having a go, and what each one wrote was really special.

It is encouraging to realise that poetry workshops can be used to work with people from various backgrounds (academic or otherwise) in this way, as I have always believed that reading and writing poetry is for everyone. Not everyone will do it all the time, and not everyone will be published, but everyone can enjoy and learn from poetry, and gain insights about themselves and how they communicate their inner life and work. We are already planning a poetry workshop as part of this year’s Beltane Annual Gathering, looking at how researchers can incorporate poetry workshops into the teaching and sharing of their work, and I’m hoping we can use poetry in other areas as well, as do other academics working at the IAD such as Daphne Loads. Daphne has a book coming out in which she explores engaging with poetry and other writings as a way into thinking about teaching practice and teacher identity. Due out in 2018, Rich Pickings: Creative Professional Development activities for University Lecturers, is to be published by BRILL (formerly SENSE).

Poetry can seem like a foreign language to people when they are not used to it, but one of the great things about it is that it is our own language used in new and exciting ways which are often even closer in form and structure to how we think, feel and dream, and ways we can all understand if we open our minds to the forms. Often when we try to communicate with one another we run up against the shocking realisation that not everyone thinks the same way we do, even though we’re all humans in bodies with minds, and yet if we embrace the diverse ways we think and express ourselves rather than closing ourselves off, we can learn so much. This is something poetry teaches.

Resilient Researchers

Fri, 28/04/2017 - 13:15

A great blog post from our IAD colleague Sara Shinton on resilience (including a discussion of what resilience actually is!)


First of all a huge thank you to the speakers at the Resilient Researcher event which I was involved in today. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, resilience is my word of the year so I was really pleased to be able to work with two sponsors, SUPA and the IOP, to put on a day of talks, discussions and (best of all) live music to help some of our researchers understand and develop their thinking around this idea. It was a huge pleasure to work with Anne Pawsey from SUPA and the School of Physics and Astronomy on developing and delivering the day.

It was amusing that most of the speakers started by admitting they had looked up the word as part of their preparation. This echoes my own experiences of writing a guide to resilience for the IOP last year (in my pre-Edinburgh existence). My favourite definition was…

View original post 277 more words

Festivals, Festivals Everywhere!

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 13:17

credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Edinburgh is widely regarded as a world-leading festival city with a colossal programme of events running throughout the year. Beyond the official calendar promoted through Edinburgh Festival City there seems to be a never ending stream of diverse, engaging and exciting festivals appearing…everywhere! It is encouraging to see many of these festivals thriving and returning year-on-year.

At the Institute for Academic Development we loved delivering the first Festival of Creative Learning for The University of Edinburgh and have been dedicating time recently to explore the successes and growing edges of the curated week to inform future improvement and development. Having carefully combed through all the wonderful and constructive feedback we are beginning to shape a cunning plan to implement some changes. We want to provide even more opportunities and support for staff and students at the University who embrace the challenge of organising and delivering events throughout the new academic year. We will share all of this with you once the embargo* has been lifted, but in the meantime we would like to highlight a few other festivals the University is involved with that have attracted our interest lately.

Festival of Museums at The University of Edinburgh, 19th-20th May 2017. Part of the nationwide Festival of Museums with events taking place across University buildings.

Festival of Open Learning, summer 2017. Taster, introductory and short courses offered by the Centre for Open Learning.

Festival of Social Science, November 2017. A week-long celebration of social science with events held across the United Kingdom. Applications to organise an event are being accepted until the deadline on 4th May 2017. Guidance for potential University of Edinburgh applicants can be found here.

Our Festival Pop-up programme continues throughout the year, so if you would like support with arranging an event that meets our aims and values before February please contact us. We are also open to receiving guest blog post submissions should you have something to share that you feel our audience would enjoy.

*there’s not really an embargo, I’m just pretending to be a covert operative today as we had a VIP visiting our building earlier.

The Awards: the results are published

Fri, 24/03/2017 - 10:00


On Wednesday 15th March 2017 we acknowledged the efforts of everyone involved in the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning with an award ceremony and thank you reception at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI). The event was incredibly well intended by event organisers,attendees and partners, all of whom received a  beautiful Festival of Creative Learning stainless steel water bottle as a token of our thanks for their involvement in #FCL17.

We received 131 nominations for nine awards, which made the task of shortlisting and deciding the winners and runners up for each category incredibly difficult. We frequently found ourselves debating whether we could just give everyone an award, but eventually concluded nobody would thank us for keeping them there a week while we presented them all.

Now, as we are rounding up our Festival “decompression and future planning” week, I am pleased to publish the results for all who were unable to attend the event. Feel free to applaud your efforts and those of others as you scroll through the images below. All photography is courtesy of the marvellous Mihaela Bodlovic.

Click to view slideshow.

Thank you once again to everyone involved. Be sure to look out for pop-up events throughout the year and get those thinking caps on for ideas you could pursue as a pop-up yourself or for #FCL18! Contact us to discuss your creativity in more detail.

Pop-Up Event | Law and Artificial Intelligence Hackathon

Thu, 23/03/2017 - 10:00

Artificial Intelligence by GLAS-8, under a Creative Commons license

Is the future here? Not a long time ago when one came across a term “artificial intelligence”, one’s first thought about it was probably a sci-fi kind of concept where human-like machines perform mundane tasks. In the last decade, the technological developments, such as the use of smart technologies in the era of the Internet of things, have proved that once unimaginable hi-tech solutions can become a usual affair of our everyday lives.

Likewise, the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence has steadily influenced many industries. The approaches and methods of indexing and analysing information have advanced to the point that machines are potentially capable of replacing humans.

The legal field has not escaped the influence of advancement in technology.

The legal landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade with advances in technology, the launch of new types of law firms and more international firms than ever before. Notably, while there is still much to develop, artificial intelligence may be a game-changing innovation in the legal market.

Even though questions about the potential of artificial intelligence in the legal field have received a significant amount of academic attention, there is a still a lack of discussion among stakeholders. When practical tools that use artificial intelligence are developed, the questions of ethics and liability arise. Moreover, these developments mean that we already have entered a phase where machines do at least some work of lawyers.

Are we ready to accept the future and do we know what the full potential of artificial intelligence is? Will data scientists be employed along with lawyers by law offices in near future? This would mean that both lawyers and data scientists would need to learn to speak one language. Therefore, it is crucial to bring future professionals – Law and Informatics students – together to think about how artificial intelligence can transform the legal industry.

The event – Law and Artificial Intelligence Hackathon – which take place on Friday 31st March 2017 in the Outreach Centre basement, Holyrood campus, will deal with some of the questions discussed above. The event is open to Law and Informatics students, but anyone can join in for the panel discussion.

There is an opportunity to take part in the panel discussion with three distinguished speakers from the field. David Halliwell is Director of Knowledge and Innovation Delivery at Pinsent Masons LLP. Akber Datoo is the founder and managing partner of the legal data consultancy, D2 Legal Technology (D2LT). Jimmy Vestbirk is the founder of Legal Geek, the biggest LawTech startup company, and the co-founder of F-LEX, an on demand paralegal service.

As an added value, students will have an opportunity to develop some practical ideas at the workshop and pitch their ideas in front of a jury. The workshop has already been sold out but Law and Informatics students are encouraged to join the waiting list.

Get your tickets for the panel discussion or join the waiting list here.

Liva Skolmeistare


Meet Eat Drink Think

Tue, 21/03/2017 - 11:26

A great blog post on very interesting (and award winning!) event for #FCL17

A World of Words - Lucinda Byatt

Robbie Bushe from University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Open Learning organised this great event at the end of February as part of the University’s Festival of Creative Learning. It was held in collaboration with one of Edinburgh’s newest and most innovative restaurants, The Food Studio, brainchild of Benedict Reade and Sashana Souza Zanella. The restaurant was started in November 2015 and has garnered praise and The List’s Newcomer of the Year award in 2016.

Meet Eat Drink Think was run on three consecutive evenings and the purpose was to highlight the contribution of Europe and Europeans to Scottish food and culture. Each evening four university tutors from the Centre for Open Learning gave short talks on various aspects of food and culture, and the menu served by Food Studio was inspired by the subjects of these presentations.

MEDT photo

Alongside me were Carina Dahlstrom-Mair, John Gordon and Pasquale Iannone.  Carina started the proceedings with a lovely talk…

View original post 402 more words

Pop-up Event | Human Rights Objects & Photography: Looking at Human Rights Practice from New Angles

Mon, 13/03/2017 - 13:46

20th Genocide Commemoration at Camps Kigali, 2014, Rwanda, by Astrid Jamar

This Thursday 16th March, Astrid Jamar (Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP), Law School) and Laura Martin (Centre for African Studies) are pleased to invite you to a workshop which will be experimenting with creative teaching methods that involve the use of objects, photographs and academic texts to explore human rights and transitional justice. It will encourage participants to combine artistic and analytical skills to look at these disciplines from new angles.

Extensive human rights and transitional justice research underlines frictions between policy and practice. Many institutions are unable to assist individuals most impacted by these violations. Our innovative workshop aims to impact on students’ learning experiences by encouraging them to think beyond normative discourse and consider what human rights violations really are, what they mean to different individuals and how to engage with conflict-affected societies.

By using photographs, the workshop will encourage participants to think beyond standard learning practices. The participants will discuss issues raised in these pictures and how the selected academic quotes connect to the images. Throughout these discussions, the use of objects and images will underline ethical issues often obscured in traditional text-based teaching methods. It will encourage students to think critically and pragmatically about their future professional environment.

Registration is required so please sign up here. Priority will be given to students whose studies are related to transitional justice and human rights.

The workshop is a pop-up event which is part of and supported by the Festival of Creative Learning.

Astrid Jamar

I’m a Perfectionist… Get Me Out Of Here!

Thu, 09/03/2017 - 09:30

Mindfulness by Darragh O Connor, under a Creative Commons license

“Are you a perfectionist? Does this cause you problems?” Clearly there are a lot of students who answer yes to these questions as our event was fully booked with a long waiting list. So if perfectionism causes you difficulties, take heart – you’re not alone!

The workshop was designed to involve a lot of active learning and talking with other students. For the first exercise we shared in pairs the positive aspects of being a perfectionist, as well as the problems we experience, then fed these back to the whole group. Perfectionism isn’t something we have to get rid of from our personalities; it’s possible to keep perfectionism in balance so we can reap benefits. Participants mentioned that perfectionism can lead not only to achieving a high level of performance, but being well-organised and reliable, and feelings of satisfaction and greater involvement in whatever they’re doing.

How to overcome the problems though, which students said include stress, procrastination, dissatisfaction, loneliness, and low self-esteem because of unhealthy expectations?

We talked a lot about focussing on the idea of making progress rather than achieving perfection. In order to avoid procrastination we can break down tasks into small, manageable parts, focussing on working steadily through these, and rewarding ourselves for setting and achieving realistic goals. We also looked at moving on from ‘all-or-nothing thinking’, which sees everything that is not as good as we want it to be as a ‘failure’. We practiced changing a negative thought, such as ‘I did badly on that assignment’ to one which recognises difficult feelings but also any positives and pointers for making progress: ‘I was disappointed in my mark, but I got some positive comments for that assignment as well as some feedback about how to improve in future.’ This is an example of re-thinking ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity. We can turn any experience into a great opportunity by asking ‘what can I learn from this?’

In between the discussion exercises, Ali Newell from the Chaplaincy led us in mindfulness exercises that help relieve stress, including a sitting meditation and tai chi (simple mindful movement). No special equipment or clothes are needed for these exercises and it’s possible to do them as a lovely start to the day, in breaks from working, or to relax before going to bed. The Chaplaincy also offers free lunchtime mindfulness sessions (see below). We ended the workshop with some singing for fun – also an excellent stress-buster, very good for physical and mental health.

One of the things participants found very valuable was the chance to discuss how they would put their learning from the workshop into action. I was delighted by the positive feedback. We may run this event during the Festival of Creative Learning next year, and in the meantime, if you have problems with perfectionism, do look for help (e.g. from your Personal Tutor or Student Support Officer) and try some of the suggestions given above.

Rachel Howell

Web resources:


Stress-busting mindfulness at the Chaplaincy:

Capacitar Tai Chi 1.10-1.40 pm Tuesdays

Mindfulness 1.10-1.50 pm Thursdays

Yoga 1.10-2.00 pm Fridays

All in room 1 at the Chaplaincy Centre. All free. All welcome.

Our unappreciated world – See and Inspire Art Exhibition

Mon, 06/03/2017 - 15:59

As part of the Festival of Creative Learning (FCL) I once again organised art to be exhibited in the Crew Building (King’s Buildings). This year I tried to really test people on being creative and …

Source: Our unappreciated world – See and Inspire Art Exhibition

CLAD THE WIKIHOUSE! Reflections on a week of creating, learning and keeping warm

Thu, 02/03/2017 - 09:35

Credit: Civic Soup CIC

Our event provided a platform for participants of the Festival of Creative Learning to work together in the construction of a protective cladding for a small community office/art space (Wikihouse) in Glasgow. The Wikihouse is part of an ongoing Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) Project Office initiative and was assembled in the summer of 2016 for and by the children of Baltic Street Adventure Playground (BSAP) in Dalmarnock.

In this cladding phase ESALA Projects Office supported design collective Civic Soup (a team of recent graduates from the University of Edinburgh and Karlsruhe) to work in collaboration with industry partners BAM construction and CMS cladding. The design gave the local children a creative outlet by colourfully spray painting PVC panels which will allow them to establish an ownership of the finished building.

Clad the Wikihouse! gave participants a practical, physical, collaborative and creative platform to learn, supported by the Festival of Creative Learning. Together we created a beautiful and weather-tight space which is safe and comfortable to use for the local community. The project would not have been possible without the help and enthusiasm of everyone who partook in the process and the finished building is something we can all be proud of.

A day by day reflection:



Credit: Civic Soup CIC

Everyone was full of excitement to get started on site. Our first task, as would be the manner every morning was to acquaint everyone with the team, the site, each other and the day’s activities. Inside the Wikihouse BAM had invited a plasterer to teach the team how to progress with the internal finishes. The team took turns to break from the timber cutting outside to start constructing plasterboard box-outs around the windows and start taping and plastering all the joins. With all the structural timbers cut by the end of the day the team de-briefed and reflected over a well-deserved hot chocolate. This was a valuable opportunity for the design team to gauge the success of the day as we reflected and shared what we had all enjoyed learned and what could be improved for the team taking part.


Having cut all the timber we needed for the canopy, our aim for Tuesday was to have the
canopy fixed to the Wikihouse. As the bones of the canopy were going up before our eyes, the local kids started to arrive. We let them loose spraying the roof panels with some fresh paints provided by BAM, which resulted in the addition of a velociraptor and a butterfly to the vibrant range of patterns already on show. Wrapping up the day at 4.30pm in our soggy work wear, we headed back to Edinburgh ready for a warm brew and an early night.



Credit: Civic Soup CIC

On Wednesday, we spent an intense day on site with a dynamic group of volunteers. The team from BAM construction set up their mobile scaffold and climbed onto the roof, where they started affixing some PVC panels beautifully decorated by the kids from BSAP. Meanwhile, some of the group focused on plastering the inside of the building. On the outside, we made progress on cutting and attaching battens to the sides of the building. Later in the day, we were able to attach some plywood panels onto the battens, starting to weatherproof the building.


Working with a new team everyday was intense and challenging, demanding a certain time investment that allowed for people to gel. Thursday was a day that proved the importance of visual results and progress in order to motivate a group in collective action. Earlier in the week, the workshops mainly consisted of crafting and preparing individual components; often tedious. However, Thursday was a day of coming together to rapidly assemble and fix components and the roof became more colourful by the hour as the children’s graffitied panels were offered up to be fixed to counter battens. Logistical issues throughout were overcome by the hard work and will of a team of volunteers that wished to see their contributions made meaningful through the completion of varied goals and objectives. As a learning process for the Civic Soup team, it begs the question of how these moments of activity can be better spread throughout workshops. In future projects, how might they be used as a tool for bringing people together through shared experience, momentum and a willingness to give?


There was a very positive atmosphere on site today. The weather had turned around, and despite it probably being the coldest day, it was very sunny throughout. For the first time the safety fence surrounding the construction site was taken down and Alan (playworker at BSAP) prepared a fire nearby. Marshmallows were handed out and we had a place to warm up. This led to a more fluid workflow, greater integration of the kids that were now gathering on the site and an appreciation of the space as a whole. However, it also meant more supervision and responsibility, as all the tools were now exposed and potentially causing hazards. When the last panel went on there was a lot of pride and relief. Even though there was still a day’s worth of work to do, it was great to see the Wikihouse so close to finish, looking very similar to the design plan on paper.

Overall this entire week has taught us an invaluable amount of new skills. It has helped us as a team to draw closer, whilst making new friends and connecting to a great community.


Credit: Civic Soup CIC

Laura Haylock, Billy Morgan, Cameron Bray, Calum Rennie, Silvan Gottschall

Colouring the Past: Photos

Tue, 28/02/2017 - 10:28

With thanks to the Festival of Creative Learning, ECA Textiles, our volunteers, and our participants.

Source: Colouring the Past: Photos

Colouring the Past: Indigo

Tue, 28/02/2017 - 10:17

As Part of the Festival of Creative Learning at the University of Edinburgh, we hosted  two workshops on colour! Day One was focused on indigo; Day Two on madder and weld. Both days’ workshop…

Source: Colouring the Past: Indigo

When there’s not enough time in the day (Part 2)

Tue, 28/02/2017 - 09:31

I want to continue to catch up, because so much happens every day that I don’t want to forget a thing. In my last post I caught you up to Thursday. Friday deserves its own post. Friday was a …

Source: When there’s not enough time in the day (Part 2)

When there’s not enough time in the day (Part 1)

Mon, 27/02/2017 - 14:10

You know it’s been a successful trip when there is never enough time in the day. Every day on this trip has been full and interesting, no matter where I have been. And I have been to some pla…

Source: When there’s not enough time in the day (Part 1)

Day Three and Time to Catch Up

Mon, 27/02/2017 - 10:20

So. I thought I would post every day here, but by the time I got back to my hotel room last night I was so wiped out that I just couldn’t bring myself to make sense. I guess I thought I was o…

Source: Day Three and Time to Catch Up

The Mathematics Bake Off Results!

Mon, 27/02/2017 - 10:08

The first event I attended at the Festival of Creative Learning was wonderful! The coming events have a high bar to meet, both in the enthusiasm and the knowledge displayed by the students. Althoug…

Source: The Mathematics Bake Off Results!

Festival of Creative Learning: Beyond Boundaries

Fri, 17/02/2017 - 12:06


It’s just over two months since I started as Projects and Engagement Coordinator for the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh. It has been a fascinating and joyful time, and I’m especially excited as the Festival that I am looking after is taking place next week.

It’s called the Festival of Creative Learning, and this is the first year of the Festival proper, though it has evolved from something called ‘Innovative Learning Week’ which ran for 5 years (learn more about ILW here).

After an intensive period of development led by the previous Festival organiser, the brilliant Johanna Holtan, the Festival of Creative Learning emerged, and it’s a privilege to be able to continue all the good work that has gone into making the Festival what it is and to think about how it can continue to grow in future.

The Festival aims to provide space for staff and students at the University of Edinburgh to play, to experiment, to innovate, to collaborate and, dare I say it, to fail. How precious, how rare it is to discover this sort of space – where the emphasis isn’t on how many seats we fill, how many tickets we sell, how many answers we get right, but rather on truly exploring and pushing boundaries, communicating in radically new ways and leaping into the dark to find out what’s there.

Our goals are to help staff and students create innovative, experimental and collaborative ways of learning in a safe space, to give people the training and support they need to design and run events, and to celebrate the work of all our event organisers and the discoveries we make together along the way. By its very nature and commitment to openness and diversity, the programme covers an enormous range of disciplines and activities, and we encourage everyone to peruse our events calendar to get a sense of the depth and breadth of the events on offer.

Rather than running each of the events ourselves (our fabulous but small team includes my colleagues Lucy Ridley and Silje Graffer), we seek proposals from staff and students, distribute funding, provide a platform and communications umbrella for the events and aim to empower our staff and students to get the most out of what we provide. We hope that the Festival is a learning experience not just in terms of the research being conducted but also in events design and management, imparting vital skills to organisers that they can make use of in future employment, study and enterprise.

Much work is being done to explore the future of learning and teaching, and learning that involves doing and which empowers students rather than treating them like inanimate vessels to be filled is on the forefront of what appears to be not only the most effective but also the most enjoyable means to growth. We want to celebrate the idea that we learn better when we are enjoying ourselves, when we are treated with care and respect, and when we are encouraged to use our imaginations and to play.

The Festival will continue to develop, and we’ve already gathered a long list of ideas about ways to make the Festival even more useful, expansive, innovative and attractive (and do get in touch with your own suggestions), but first our team is going to visit as many of the events as we can in person to see the extraordinary experiments that our organisers have brought to life. We hope you will take the leap as well and join us for at least one of our events next week, and consider developing an idea for a Festival Pop-up event throughout the year or for an event for the Festival of Creative Learning 2018. In the meantime, keep an eye out for our hashtag #FCL17 on social media, where we’ll be telling stories and posting photographs all next week.

You can read more about the aims and values of the Festival here, and you can book tickets for our events here. Many of the events are aimed primarily at staff and students at the University, however the following events are open to external attendees and can be booked via Eventbrite: Introduction to Massage in Schools Programme, Manifest Destiny: A Multidisciplinary Forum on Mars Colonisation, Design for Wellbeing, Biffa tour: How does recycling work?, Learning Language Through Theatre, Making History: a Feminist Craft Project, ‘Camelot, tis a silly place’: Popular Culture and Scottish Heritage Castle Trip, Tech Art Collaboration Workshop and “The Birds and the Bees” Board game.

Here’s to learning without boundaries, in ways that celebrate the creativity inherent in each of us.


Jennifer Williams

Projects & Engagement Coordinator

Institute for Academic Development

Featured Event- The Birds and the Bees Card Game

Thu, 16/02/2017 - 09:30

Happy World Penguin Day by Christopher Michel, under a Creative Commons license


Do you love watching penguins swim and play when you visit the zoo? Do you enjoy honey in your tea? If we don’t take action to protect species like honeybees and Galapagos penguins, these experiences might not be around for much longer. As team member Sonal Katyal passionately remarked during the early planning stages of our project, “I want my daughter to be able to see all of the beautiful creatures we have in the world today. I want her to experience the wonders of nature.”

A love for nature and the environment is what initially drove us to create a card game about environmental conservation and endangered animals. We wanted to raise awareness about these important issues and inspire people to become more environmentally responsible citizens, so that future generations will still be able to enjoy all of the wonders of nature that we have today. At the same time, as a team of Science Communication masters students, we are always looking for new and exciting ways to communicate science to a wide array of audiences. And thus, “The Birds and the Bees” card game was born!


Bee by Adam Gold, under a Creative Commons license

We have two different versions of the card game, one about Galapagos penguins and one about Hawaiian bees, both of which are endangered species. Our card game includes fun, cute animal facts like “Galapagos Penguins bow as a show of friendship and sometimes give each other gifts!” In the game, participants act as an endangered animal (either a penguin or a bee) and have to use the cards in their hand to overcome the obstacles and threats presented to them. It will require an element of creativity and reasoning, as participants must be able to justify how their cards can combat the obstacles they face. For example, when faced with the “Moulting!” card—(“You are moulting and can’t go swimming for 5-10 days”)—a person could use their “Preening” card (“Strengthen a bond with some mutual preening”), arguing that they will make a new friend to catch food for them. Anything goes, as long as you can tell a story behind your decisions!

We want the card game to be as straightforward and accessible as possible, so no prior knowledge about science or the environment is necessary! The game is suitable for anyone who can read – just arrive with an inquisitive spirit and a willingness to learn a new game. We will be creating an eco-friendly immersive environment in which to play the game, complete with animal soundtracks and living plants! Going along with our goals of sustainability and environmental consciousness, we have also created the game pieces from recycled materials. The game should only take about 20-30 minutes and we will be set up all day in the Potterrow Dome (in Bristo Square) from 12:00 to 19:00 on Friday 24th February, so feel free to stop in anytime!

Our environment is filled with amazing forms of life (penguins and bees, to name a few!), and everything is deeply connected: each species has a special role that allows our ecosystems to work. So we have to take care of each other if we want to continue enjoying the wonders of our home!

Molly Osborn


If you like the sound of this event you may also be interested in: Board Game Jam: The Expansion, Design for well-being: modelling villages for 21st century, Bees to Bugs, See and Inspire Art Exhibition

Featured Event – Equality and diversity in the work place: a reflection on reality with Ben Lyon, from Transport for London

Tue, 14/02/2017 - 10:28

Equality by Roger Jones, under a Creative Commons license

Equality and diversity issues in the workplace have been hotly debated for many years… and yet, there seems to be no shortage of possible solutions to the many difficulties that individuals face, whether in terms of access to work, to carrying out tasks as part of their roles and to reconciling these with family duties or personal circumstances.  Whether this is to do with gender, social milieu, disability or other health conditions, a common conundrum remains: how can we live healthy and productive lives where we can cultivate our professional aspirations and at the same time maintain a happy, serene and accomplished personal life?

As a woman, these questions have always been close to my heart: it is not just about the “glass ceiling”, but generally and more deeply about living a full life as a professional, a spouse and a daughter.  Having lectured now for more than 11 years, I have discussed these same issues with students umpteen times… and it just so happens that one of my best, brightest students ever is now deeply involved in helping individuals grapple with these questions so that they can truly live this “full life” in their own workplace.

I have known Ben Lyon for many years: he was one of my undergraduate and later masters’ students at the University of Liverpool where he graduated with an LLB and an LLM.  We have since kept in touch and I can say with full confidence that he has made me truly proud: he is not just a very accomplished professional. He is also a person with a deep social conscience, who is very passionate about gender equality and who has translated his commitment and his passion in his current role.

Ben is a real role model in my opinion, a person who has harmoniously reconciled his life as professional in a large and complex organisation such as Transport for London with his civil commitment to these important principles.  I am extremely pleased that he has accepted our invitation to speak in Edinburgh on Wednesday 22nd February as part of the University’s Festival of Creative Learning.  His example will no doubt ignite discussion and hopefully offer a model for other students to follow.

Arianna Andreangeli, Senior Lecturer in Competition Law, Edinburgh Law School.

If you like the sound of this event you might also be interested in: Making History: a Feminist Craft Project, Wikipedia Editathon: Gender, Global Health and Justice, Dash Kapital: Neoliberalism, Gender and Victimhood in Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Rediscover Edinburgh – orienteering for health

Featured Event – Mathematical Bake-off

Thu, 09/02/2017 - 09:30


I am the organiser of the Mathematical Bake-off: Understanding mathematics by baking at the School of Mathematics on Monday 20th February, 12-2pm. During the workshop, you will have the opportunity to present your own cake (or any other baked goods) related to mathematics. It can be an illustration of the Pythagorean Theorem, a depiction of the Schrödinger equation or your favourite fractal. The connection can be symbolical or metaphorical, your creativity decides! You will also listen to other presentations and researchers will tell you about their revolutionary research. If you have a competitive spirit, I want to let you know there will be a competition for the most creative work with a prize! And yes of course, we will eat the cakes afterwards. For anyone interested, we will have a session 15th February from 5-6 pm in Room 3211, James Clerk Maxwell Building, King’s Buildings, to give you inspiration and get you started with your fabulous cake. Please send an email to to sign-up.

Originally from Sweden (yes, we invented IKEA) I moved to Edinburgh in September for the accelerated Mathematics program. I have always been keen on trying to get people understand how interesting and important mathematics is and I joined the Mathematics Outreach Team in the autumn. We brainstormed about what events the School could run for the Festival of Creative Learning and one of the ideas that came up was mathematical baking. I remembered I gave one of my mathematics teachers a kind of artwork with gingerbread formed of numbers and integrals, so I thought I have to organise this event! Thinking about the aims of the Festival I thought it would be a tremendous idea to engage staff members. Science is about communicating what you have discovered to the broad public and by organising this event I will give researchers the opportunity to share their interesting research. Mathematics is also considered an abstract subject but by using baking this abstractness will hopefully be less intimidating. Sure, I admit it may be hard to explain mathematics just with a cake, but if you truly understand your area, you should be able to explain it as simply as possible. One example of an area of mathematics that immediately came to mind was topology. Topology is a branch of mathematics where we are interested about properties that remain the same after we stretch and bend the space, for example, a teacup can be deformed into a doughnut. In this workshop, you will have the opportunity to understand the notion of genus by looking at different cakes.

It is the first time I will have run this type of event. The success of the event is dependent of the creativeness of the participants, so I will not know until the day whether there will be any amazing cakes…so please come along and join other enthusiasts for a great time! I hope to see you on the 15th and/or 20th February in James Clerk Maxwell Building.

Daniel Eriksson

If you like the sound of this event you may also be interested in: Knitting and Knot Theory, Escape with Fermat’s Lost Proof, The Eyes and Ears of Hyperloop, iGEM Sandpit, Meet Eat Drink Think