Human brain and mosaics: the SLE Pilot in Ireland

The SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices (CÚRAM), in cooperation with the Ballybane Library, the students from the Galway Community College, and the local artist Alison Mac Cormaic, have contributed to an incredible artwork that combined creativity with an investigation of the human brain functioning and related diagnostic tools. The activities were set against the backdrop of the Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. The goal was to boost student engagement at the Ballybane library, which had decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing this declining involvement of students, CÚRAM established a Learning Ecology within the library premises to rejuvenate interest in its resources, including the dedicated Maker Space.

28 transition year students from the Galway Community College gathered in the library and participated in compelling activities focused on examining the dynamics of the cell nuclei connecting in the brain – thanks to engaging hands-on experiences with microscopes. Following this analysis, the students could translate their observations into artworks, creating 30 mini mosaics under the supervision and guidance of Mrs Mac Cormaic.

The artworks will become a permanent exhibition in the library’s newly-renovated Maker Space, and will be inaugurated by the Deputy Mayor of Galway, Councillor Donal Lyons on 14 March 2024. 

The Learning Ecology served not only as an opportunity to teach students about the science of the brain in an engaging artistic manner but also as a means to reintegrate them into library activities and highlight the significance of connections. Just as students learned about how brain cells connect and represented this process artistically, they also learnt about the importance of community connections.

Pupils represented artistically the brain cells observed in the microscope – photo taken by CURAM

At its heart, this Ecology is the living embodiment of the STEAM Learning Ecologies project’s mission: embracing the power of connections to create wonders beyond imagination. Just as brain cells connect in the brain to create insightful thoughts, the students connected again to the library to learn more about the science of brain. In a similar way, the Learning Ecologies aim at creating inter-connections between a variety of stakeholders to improve STEAM education for students.

The great value of this particular Ecology is also well-testified by the feedback given by the Ballybane Library staff, who commented:

‘We were delighted with this unique opportunity to connect with Galway Community College transition year students. By collaborating with CÚRAM and the library staff, the Galway Community College students, through the medium of art, under the excellent guidance of Alison Mac Cormaic,  are taking ownership of their local library and leaving an eternalfootprint in the shape of the resulting artwork, a mosaic to enhance the walls of our Maker Space.‘ 

Following the end of the activities of this wonderful Learning Ecology, Deputy Mayor, Independent Councillor Donal Lyons unveiled the incredible learning artifact at Ballybane Library on 18 March 2024.

Have a look at the YouTube video showing the inauguration of our mosaic!

The video was created and edited by the University of Galway.

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