The Creative Science Centre

History and development

In 1985 a new form of carbon was discovered - Buckminsterfullerene. Around 1990 a relatively simple method was developed to make it in gram quantities and allowed the field to blossom. In 1996 the discoverers were awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Two years before the Nobel prize was awarded school pupil's were already making C60 in their own labs ! The school involvement in the Buckminsterfullerene story was the birth of The Creative Science Centre at Sussex.

Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) are major factors in our lives. The shear scope and diversity of SET is as remarkable as the effect it has on our lives. Considering the time and resource limitations that naturally exist our schools and colleges do a very good job teaching the theoretical and experimental backgrounds to science and technology. However, in order to show the amazing usefulness and mechanical advantage that science gives humans, we really need to try and find many more resources to teach science in action. What is more, we need people to experience this for themselves - this way theoretical ideas become 'realised'.

Science Centres provide a fascinating array of demonstrations and hands-on activities that inspire and aid learning about science. However due to time and facility restrictions an essential element - creativity - is often missing, or at least very limited. What is essential is a process where people can gain an experience of SET first hand. This must include Schools, colleges, universities but most importantly it must also include as wide as possible links within the whole of the community. The Creative Science Centre is an experimental small-scale attempt at addressing and realising this. Its aim is to give people an experience of science, engineering and technology by helping and guiding them to creatively design experiments and make things in science for themselves.

It seems to me that to be a happy we need to find what we are good at, do it to the best of our ability and in the process try and help others in some way. The CSC is my attempt at trying to reach for these ideals. Through it I exercise my imagination and I feel that I am contributing something worthwhile. I am also making use of all the educational training from my schools, colleges and universities as well as skills learnt through my own efforts at home and with friends. If there is a perfect job for me then it might be this one!

The CSC activities tend to be about innovation and adaptability rather than about learning course or syllabus based material - the CSC is about making things through science. The aim being on science design. In this sense the CSC is creative by its effect on the people who experience its activities. They will be given the opportunity to go in directions that are not possible, or perhaps practical, elsewhere. It is likely that the result of this will seem 'creative' partly because of the limitations of current science experience elsewhere and also because it naturally brings in ideas and influences from outside the field for use in the projects.

Creative spirit is something very precious and needs to be cultivated. I have found that these creative moments occur most readily during the projects, especially when there is openess between the various members of the group and a there is scope for 'playing' with ideas. One such moment was 'captured' (at least on film) during a recording session using their homemade mixing desk at the Angmering School (see the first picture in the series of five on the Angmering School Recording Studio section of the web site). I believe these moments' probably occur more often in the arts subjects because they are actually actively encouraged, for example, during debate sessions. This is rarely given the opportunity to arise because of being so firmly set onto a course structure. It may be that we lose a lot of science students in further education because of this. I am not suggesting that these creative moments are something new in education, it is just that this type of educational experience is very much lacking in our experimental science education.

The CSC activities are wonderful examples of something 'scientific' that can be seen to be shared with the community. I have presented many talks and exhibitions intended for the general public / community and my work has stimulated TV and press articles. The CSC has attracted interest from community institutions such as the WEA (Workers Educational Association) and Fresh Start (Centre for young offenders, Worthing). There are many benefits to the schools, school pupils and other 'students' involved in the CSC projects. For example; learning to work in groups, learning valuable transferable skills, emphasis on creative and imaginative solutions to problems rather than exam skills, the use of the university facilities, working with skilled university staff as well as a natural introduction to 'university life'.


Dr Jonathan Hare University of Sussex, Brighton.

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