Illustrating the role of marine life in human health with a large-scale mural for local primary school

Front row: Some of the 5th and 6th class students from St Nicholas Parochial School, Galway, who are co-creating a mural for their school wall as part of the 'Tiny Sea Life, Big Cures” project. Back row from left to right: Dr Sarah Gundy (CÚRAM), Alison Mac Cormaic (teaching artist), Wendy Lynch (Principal St Nicholas Parochial School), Deirdre Grace (Teacher St Nicholas Parochial School), and Dr Noírin Burke (Galway Atlantaquaria). Photo: CÚRAM
May 25 2021 Posted: 11:30 IST

Students at St. Nicholas' Parochial School in Galway will imagine, design and create new medical devices inspired from marine life that may aid human health

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway and Galway Atlantaquaria have been delivering engaging virtual workshops with St. Nicholas’ Parochial School in Galway, together with teaching artist Alison Mac Cormaic. The “Tiny Sea Life, Big Cures” project will culminate in the creation of a large-scale mural on the school building that will be completed this summer.

An understanding of the role of marine life in human health is at the heart of the workshops. Educators are discussing marine life in Ireland and the importance of conservation from Galway Atlantaquaria, while CÚRAM researchers are teaching students about marine sources of biomaterials and how they can heal the body.

Inspired by the scientific material investigated from the aquarium and CÚRAM, artist Alison Mac Cormaic will teach the students how to imagine, design and create models for devices that may aid human health and recovery. In addition, guest Lecturer Enda O’ Dowd will introduce the Medical Device Design course that he coordinates in the National College of Art and Design Dublin (NCAD).

Teaching artist Alison Mac Cormaic explains: “We designed the workshops to encourage maximum creative input from the 5th and 6th class students at St. Nicholas’ Parochial School. In the art section of the workshops, they draw for design, using their imaginations to think like medical device designers and develop different ideas. Their drawing and design skills are used to imagine brand new products that have never been designed before - who knows where all this creativity might lead!”

Alison will create a permanent mural on the outer school wall incorporating students’ designs. Through this cross-curricular co-creation process, students will become aware of their locality and its link to scientific achievements, conservation, and the role of the artist and scientist in our community.

Project collaborator Dr Nóirín Burke from Galway Atlantaquaria, says: “The research and innovation happening in CÚRAM is truly fascinating. Working with everyone in this programme, exploring ways in which our health can benefit from the ocean, and considering our role in the ocean’s future has been a pleasure. This is also of particular interest now as we begin the UNESCO Decade of the Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. We are also super excited about seeing the student’s final art piece, which will help share this project with the wider community, through families and the public.”

Ms Deirdre Grace, 5th and 6th class teacher at St. Nicholas’ Parochial School, says: “This project has been a real learning experience for the students, they are highly engaged and motivated to learn more about the topics, and they are thoroughly enjoying the experience.”

CÚRAM is focused on creating devices that help patients living with chronic illness and runs a very active and varied public engagement programme called 'Breaking Barriers' that aims to engage artists, filmmakers, teachers and the general public in creating new ways of accessing scientific knowledge and research. 

Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: "We are always looking for ways for our researchers and members of the public to collaborate and create a better understanding and awareness of our research and its importance for society. This collaboration with the National Aquarium, National College of Art and Design Dublin, Alison Mac Cormaic and the wonderful staff and students of St Nicholas’ Parochial School has been hugely successful and is something we will be building on in the future and hoping to replicate with numerous schools around the country."

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