UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology

The SAW Trust inspires with science-art workshop

On April 20th 2016, SynthSys hosted the SAW Trust to deliver a one-day training event for their innovative approach to teaching science to children using the power of words and pictures.

A group of 20 teachers, scientists, poets and artists went ‘back to school’ to learn the SAW Trust’s innovative approach to teaching science with a view to applying this in schools over the coming months.   

SAW 2016

In what is the Trust’s first training event north of the border, Jenni Rant (SAW lead and scientist) and colleagues Mike O’Driscoll (writer) and Chris Hann (poet) the workshop explained how a blended programme of fun hands-on science experiments coupled with imagery, poetry and art can convey in a meaningful way often complex science by harnessing a child’s natural curiosity and creativity. The results speak for themselves (check out the SAW website for fantastic case studies).

There was very enthusiastic participation in themed activities during the day all around the topic of colour pigments including some ‘kitchen’ chromatography, DIY poetry, magic ice cubes and a flurry of paper, scissors, paint and crayons. It was all very therapeutic!  

We often refer to ‘the arts’ and ‘the sciences’ as distinct yet there are probably many more similarities between their practice and practioners than we might realise: Creativity, exploration, research, experimentation, analysis, as a few examples, can apply equally well to both. Together they can work together to bring colour and life to science and help children find their own way of exploring and understanding the world around them.

At the end of the workshop a team consisting of teacher, scientist, artist and writer got together to plan a themed workshop for five primary school classes in the Edinburgh region. In the future we hope to share best practice with others so we can reach even more children across Scotland.

The organisers would like to extent their thanks to James Howie of ASCUS for his help in making connections to local artists and writers that made the event such a success.

About the SAW Trust

You can find out more about the SAW Trust at and follow them on Twitter @SAWTrust  The SAW Trust was founded by Anne Osbourn @AnneOsbourn1 a practising scientist and currently Associate Research Director and Institute Strategic Programme Leader, Plant and Microbial Metabolism at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. She has an international reputation for her work on plants and plant diseases. She is an ardent advocate of science and scientists engaging more fully with society. Her passion is inspiring children about science, and she is fascinated by the processes of creativity and exploration that underpin both scientific and artistic endeavour. 

Feedback from the day

It’s really exciting to be part of this excellent initiative and I really enjoyed our training day together.

It's lovely to learn from a range of disciplines/ professions and I very much look forward to trying a SAW project in school

Truly wonderful day yesterday - very inspirational and exciting.


Magic ice cube art
DIY chromatography
Getting creative now!