In 2014, the MakeBelieve Arts team ran a touring show of Journey to the Centre of the Brain, our theatrical exploration of the human mind, how it works and why it makes us feel the way we do. This year, we’ve run another two tours, visiting schools all around the country from children in Year 2 all the way up to Year 7. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, we wanted the show to give young children an understanding of how their brains function in a thought-provoking and engaging way, making the science behind emotions and cognitive processes accessible to everyone; even the teachers found that they learned a lot from the performance!
Having moved our main hub to Corsham in Wiltshire we were keen to lay down local roots and to tour rural areas. This we managed to do, visiting schools who have not had quality educational theatre before. The tour took us to Wiltshire, Somerset, North Devon, Dorset and thanks to the films being seen on the website, the island of Guernsey.
Journey to the Centre of the Brain features nine-year old Zac, on the night before a big test. Having not prepared himself with revision, he gets anxious, wishing that he could fly away and not have to worry. During the night, he finds himself transported into his own brain, where he meets with the various sections: Neo Cortex, Hippocampus and Cerebellum, who teach him about how they work and communicate to process ideas and feelings.
Responses from pupils have been wonderful, and the show has clearly helped them to learn in an exciting way, which inspires them to share this knowledge with others. One Year 5 pupil was proud to report that they had taught their mum something about the brain: “she didn’t know about the Neo Cortex”. It’s here that the show is most effective: teaching young pupils about rather complex scientific ideas in a way that they can understand, as well as how it affects them.
“They realise the strength their brain holds… [the show explains] how this relates to their learning”, said teachers watching the show earlier this year. They also saw the value in the show for themselves, finding an understanding of how different teaching techniques are important in reaching all learners.
Alongside the show, we released a number of accompanying films that discuss various parts of the brain in detail, using catchy songs, humour, acting and animation to engage young viewers with the content. Pupils found that the short films inspired a number of imaginative discussions, such as: “what’s the most important part of the brain?”; “what would happen if you didn’t have a memory?”; and “if you had little people inside your brain, what would be inside their heads?”.
Day Out in a Balloon was the most popular video, as after seeing all the films explaining how the various parts of the brain work, this final episode shows exactly how the
Amygdala, Temporal Lobe, Neo Cortex and Hippocampus work together to handle situations. By examining events and concerns that affect young people, the films help to relate emotions and ideas to real-life issues they may have dealt with before, helping to explain exactly why they feel the way they do.
We’ve been thrilled with the response to the show and we hope that everyone has learned something about themselves and others through it!