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UoP’s ‘Freaky Friday’ Collaboration with Local Schools is a Monster Smash

The workshop outlined the wonders of higher education

On the 27th of October, the University of Portsmouth collaborated with local schools for an event oriented on design and technology, and the potential avenues the university could offer for pupils. The event served as a pillar of inspiration and information, giving 11-15 year-olds a sense of direction, and the guidance to steer them in the direction they want to go. With the help of the student ambassadors, who are comprised of those that already study at the university; Sam and Gav, founders of creative space The Maker’s Guild, and a school of engineering students undergoing a university approved self-employed placement, including myself, the young pupils were certainly not short of company.

“Event coordinator Claudia Bradshaw ensured a safe space for the collaboration to complete creative crafts, which certainly boosted social and technical skills.”

Not only were the pupils able to access academic information, the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends existed. Whether the children were extroverted and comfortable in a group setting, or whether they were introverted and shy, event coordinator Claudia Bradshaw ensured a safe space for the collaboration to complete creative crafts, which certainly boosted social and technical skills.

Credit: UoP Outreach Facebook

The importance of events that allow children to collaborate, seek advice and envisage themselves in the future is clear. Zimmerman et al, in their experiment ‘Self-regulated learning and academic achievement’, concluded that those who have specific goals, both short-term and long-term show more success than those who do not, nor those who had abstract grand goals, such as ‘to simply be successful’. The Freaky Friday had various activities such as the abstract creation of insects using minimal resources, and Make a Monster. Make a Monster is an activity that symbolically represents design and engineering courses and design and engineering workplaces. The product life-cycle was replicated by the children: they were split into sub-teams, conducted research, and created the components. At the end, they came together to assemble their creation: a seven-foot cardboard monster with 30cm hands!

“Creativity is a domain with high risks and high returns.”

University can be an optimum environment for personal and academic development. You can earn a qualification, and a better qualification leads to better jobs. In fact, most workplaces that pay higher salaries require graduates as a minimum. What’s more, there is higher job satisfaction among those that have studied at university. On the other side, university allows for students to make friends with a diverse range of people, from different walks of life, and parts of the world. Such friends can be instrumental in career development as students can network together to create ‘the next big thing’. Although the benefits of university seem clear, it was emphasised to the children that it is not the only way to go; other paths can be just as rewarding.

Freaky Friday was a taste of all of that, should the students possess enough drive and motivation, they could be in the same position the founders of the Maker’s Guild are now in. Sam, Gav and Ming (who wasn’t present) all studied creative subjects at university, and are now reaping the fruits of their labours: they have created a workshop with machinery, oriented around woodwork. There are student discounts available, and the space is in the cultural heart of the city, the Portsmouth Guildhall.

Credit: UoP Outreach Facebook 

Creativity is a domain with high risks and high returns. The problem with those that possess higher levels is that to be able to monetise creativity, the overcoming of the 99% failure rate must occur. And that’s not the least of it. Dutch scientist of pedagogy and family relations, Bakermans-Kranenburg (BK), hypothesises with the dandelion and orchid theory. Dandelions are emblematic of strength through adversity in multiple domains: the plant can flourish anywhere – similarly to the children who possess this temperament. The other hand holds the orchid children; as with the plant, they cannot flourish in any environment, they need a specific kind of care and attention. In BK’s study, orchid children were highly externalised; they had ADHD, a cause for disruption and a cause for their mothers to regress their efforts since so much energy was required.

When the mothers doubled down on their approach in activities such as reading, a peaceful time that had been dismissed as impossible, the children shifted their dynamic from being extremely difficult to showing enjoyment. Moreover, the children showed declines in their proclivity to misbehave. Had the mothers not changed their approach, the bad behaviour would have continued and developed into youth delinquency and crime. Although Claudia, Sam, Gav, the student ambassadors and I are not mothers, we contributed as much as we could to the care and support of the children, inspiring and informing them of what they could be should they choose a creative career or not.

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