Dec 13 2023 Posted: 09:00 GMT

"Most people, most of the time, learn most of what they know outside the classroom." George W. Tressel (1926-2019)


December 13, 2023: In a rapidly changing world, educational expectations are evolving at an unprecedented pace, and the need for a new approach to learning has become essential. To that end, CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at the University of Galway, along with 12 other partners, are part of a new Horizon-funded EU project entitled STEAM Learning Ecologies (SLE), which aims to develop open schooling-enabled science learning paths for all in formal and informal learning environments.


Open schooling is an innovative concept that goes beyond traditional classroom boundaries and envisions learning as a lifelong endeavour that extends beyond the school building and regular school hours. This project aims to drive policy change in science education on a national and European level.


In the coming months, 11 pilot Steam Learning Ecology (SLE) projects will occur across Europe. CÚRAM is the national coordinator for Ireland's project entitled 'Intertwined' - Mosaics of the Community Brain  - a collaboration between CÚRAM,  Ballybane Library, Galway Community College and artist Alison Mac Cormaic.


An SLE begins when an individual in society identifies a problem and seeks like-minded partners who wish to work together to solve this problem. Ballybane Library want to rebuild their connection with teenagers by using their STEAM (Science- Technology- Engineering- All other subjects- Maths) Maker Space. This community-based library runs many exciting and diverse projects for all age groups.


CÚRAM are supporting the library to build a partnership with the transition years in Galway Community College and artist Alison Mac Cormaic. Over a few months, these partners have been working together to create a STEAM-based mosaic, which will be installed in the Maker Space in Ballybane in 2024.


Through a co-creative approach, partners arrived at the idea of exploring perceptions and different viewpoints – looking at the same thing from far away and up close and how those viewpoints can inform attitudes and opinions. The vehicle for this exploration is the creation of a science-based mosaic with the support of artist Alison Mac Cormaic. Alison works primarily in the mosaic medium, has created many public commissions and is an arts educator.


This project kicked off in October 2023 with a visit to 'Superhuman' – CÚRAM's new medtech exhibition housed in Galway City Museum. Students were invited to sketch objects of interest and participate in a workshop to design a device related to the brain and Parkinson's Disease.

Staff and students also visited the Centre for Microscopy and Imaging at the University of Galway and were supported with their scientific and technical expertise. They viewed found objects: heart, brain, miscellaneous body cells, flora and fauna, and other items under the microscope. Again, students sketched the results. This was followed by a workshop with the School of Philosophy around the idea of perspectives, beginning with looking at a famous image of a piece of pepperoni, which a renowned scientist posted on social media, stating it was a view of Mars from space. The workshop raised questions such as 'Is it wrong to focus on the detail?' and 'Does seeing more make us change?'.


Subsequent workshops are taking place in the Maker Space in Ballybane Library, where students and staff will each create an individual mosaic, which will be combined to form the finished art piece. Topics covered will include an overview of brain diagnostic tools, examination of scans after activities such as dancing, listening to music and taking drugs, and a history of mosaics.  


Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: 'CÚRAM is delighted to join the Horizon-funded EU project' STEAM Learning Ecologies' as a national coordinator for Ireland. Our public engagement programme, notably our Art and science residency, is vital to our research centre's commitment to engaging diverse audiences. It is significant for us that this new project  - Intertwined- with Ballybane Library, Galway Community College and artist Alison Mac Cormaic is operating on a European scale and working towards creating new science education models.


Lisa Martyn, Manager of Ballybane Library, commented, 'The staff of Ballybane Library are 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 eternal footprint in the shape of the resulting artwork, a mosaic to enhance the walls of our Maker Space.'


Olive Flynn, TY Coordinator for Galway Community College, said, 'This collaboration is an amazing opportunity for the students of Galway Community College. It has encouraged them to become active participants in the local community while rebuilding their relationship with the Ballybane Library and utilising the Makers Space to its full potential. It has afforded the students the opportunity to gain exposure to an environment where the artistic and scientific communities synergise to co-create a mosaic for the entire community to enjoy. The project has allowed the students to improve communication, teamwork and critical thinking skills in a fun and creative way.'   


This project will be showcased across Europe next year, beginning with a presentation in the European Parliament in January 2024. CÚRAM will support the implementation of 10 more SLEs in 2024/5 – if you as an individual, a school or an organisation are interested in getting involved or finding out more, please email




Useful resources:  Galway Community College (


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