Atelier Labs wins Falling Walls Engage 2023

Attenborough Arts Centre has been selected as one of 20 winners in the Science Engagement category of the international Falling Walls Engage awards for its Atelier Labs programme. The programme sees artists collaborating with the University of Leicester’s Outreach Team, School of Chemistry, SEN school staff and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Falling Walls Engage is the global platform for Science Engagement hosted by the Falling Walls Foundation and supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. They believe that public trust and involvement in science plays a central role in addressing global challenges, achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and contributing to the overall wellbeing of society.

Their mission is to connect and support established and emerging Science Engagement stakeholders to generate mutual benefits for science and communities all around the world by creating unique opportunities for exchange, collaboration, and capacity building for current and future practitioners, as well as institutions, and the public.

Bob Christer, SENsory Atelier Programme Manager at Attenborough Arts Centre, was chosen as a winner for his Atelier Labs programme alongside candidates from across the world. Atelier Labs grew from the idea of using art to empower young people with SEND to become researchers, explore the world around them, make and test their own hypotheses and embed learning through tangible experiences.

The project forms part of a five-year programme called SENsory Atelier, which works with nine SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) schools in Leicestershire. The initiative's purpose is to explore how art and creativity can develop foundational learning skills applicable to wider curricular areas.

The approach is heavily informed by the work of Reggio Children in northern Italy and Sightlines Initiative and House of Imagination here in the UK. It treats young people as collaborators in their own education, rather than empty vessels that need to be filled with knowledge.

The pilot programme was delivered by Artist Rachel Scanlon, Chemist Asmaa Abdalla, Nether Hall School and was funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Royal Society of Chemistry, and has since gone out to win Gold at the HEIST Awards 2023 in the ‘Best Widening participation Initiative’ category.

Bob Christer, SENsory Atelier Programme Manager at Attenborough Arts Centre, said: “We wanted to give disabled young people and those with special educational needs opportunities to engage with chemistry in a way that is not usually available to them, giving them real-world experiences of chemistry principles and interactions with a real chemist.”

Bob Christer will be attending The Falling Walls Science Summit 2023 in Berlin as one scientific work from each category will be awarded Science Breakthrough of the Year 2023. The three-day event unites experts from various scientific disciplines to explore ground-breaking research. As a global platform for scientific exchange, this annual event serves as a catalyst for innovation, fostering interdisciplinary dialogue, and promoting breakthrough thinking.

The summit will take place 7–9 November 2023.

To learn more about the project, watch SENsory Atelier – Atelier Labs at Nether Hall School with Rachel Scanlon and Asmaa Abdalla.