The ‘Thinking Cap’ Workshop: A Collaboration of Heads, Hats and Crafts

Camilla Woodrow-Hill, Psychology, University of Manchester (2020 Cohort)

Have you ever thought about what neuroscience, hats, health and creativity have in common? On starting my PhD in September I signed up to be a Widening Participation Fellow for the University of Manchester. This role meant communicating science and research to school children of varying ages, focusing in particular on those considered to be in ‘widening participation’ areas. This means focusing on students from groups that are currently under-represented as students at the University of Manchester. More information on this can be found here:

Of course 2020 was a bit of a weird year, so it was unclear whether we would be physically going into schools to run talks and workshops as Fellows in previous years have done, or whether we would be doing everything remotely. In the end all the work I did was remote, but that definitely didn’t diminish its value.

One of my assignments was to create a workshop for Primary-school children that could be run online or in-person in the future. I collaborated with my supervisor and built upon last year’s Quizivity – a quiz which combined hat-wearing and neuroscience – to develop a workshop for KS2 students.

We also collaborated with Stockport Hat Museum, known as ‘Hat Works’, which is the UK’s only hat museum, and interference-art, a group of artists, to create the workshop. As my PhD is in Cognitive Neuroscience, the workshop we developed aimed to incorporate neuroscience, hat-wearing and creativity. After all, hats helps us protect our brains in a variety of ways, and what better way to reinforce learning than through creativity?

As a team we developed a workshop narrative and discussed which materials we wanted to see in it. Each team produced their materials and content and I set about compiling it all into a coherent story. Everyone involved in the collaboration developed at least one video for students to watch, which was then either followed by a quiz, to test student’s learning from the video, or an activity, to cement what they had heard.

The workshop now has a combination of brain facts, hat-wearing and heaps of creative activities for students to get involved with, which can be run by teachers or parents online or in-person. Older students can also work through it by themselves.

Without the collaboration with Hat Works or interference-art the workshop would never have turned out as professional and exciting as it is! The museum’s comprehensive hat-wearing knowledge led the way for a creative activity – ‘make your own hat’! Interference-art then made some incredible resources about how to actually go about making a hat (I would’ve been stumped!), and generally made the workshop look fab. On top of that, the experience of collaboration was incredibly rewarding. Discussing neuroscience with people external to academia actually reinforced how much I know. As PhD students, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by how much we still don’t know. Sometimes reflecting on how much we do know is really encouraging. Everyone said they’d learnt something about neuroscience from our workshop, so perhaps we should be advertising it as suitable for all ages!

We’ve been tracking the impact of the workshop and so far the workshop has been accessed by 89 people spread across the UK, from Edinburgh to Kent, comprising teachers, parents, students and researchers. The Thinking Cap is completely free to use and can be shared. You can access it here by filling in a short form:

Our Collaborators

Hat Works Museum:


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