By Seonaid Murray, Coordinator – Creating Connections and Moon Base Projects, The Black Box Trust

In this blog, Seonaid talks through the planning so far of Creating Connection’s COVID-19 Community Innovation Grant funded event. This piece has had minimal edits to help keep the content genuine and as the writer intended.

Moon Base Projects are for and by people with learning disabilities and run by The Black Box, Belfast. We will be running our ‘Moon Base Biodiversity Project’ with our Creating Connections group who meet every Tuesday afternoon.

Throughout lockdown, our projects have been running online – using the digital platform Zoom.

Many of our group are socially isolated all of the time and did not want to delay in staying in touch with everyone over the last few months. We are delighted we managed to continue our workshops and activities with no break in delivery over lockdown. We’re also really proud of how everyone has adapted to using new technology and meeting online.

We applied for the BSA COVID-19 Community Innovation Grant funding because we are interested in learning more about science, how it relates to us and how it can help us understand more about our environment. Our group are all very inquisitive, creative, imaginative and love to explore new activities and topics. At Moon Base, we encourage everyone to ask questions, make sure that their voice is heard and that everyone has an opportunity to express themselves creatively in a safe, positive environment. This sounded like a good fit for the BSA funding.

Top left: A Creating Connections group performance at Culture Night festival – the theme was Love to Disrupt.  
Top right and bottom left: Wildflowers the Creating Connections group planted in Clandeboye Estate in Bangor last year as part of an outdoor festival.
Bottom right: Creating Connection's Moon Music group performing at The East Side Arts Festival – a New Orleans Style Parade!

Throughout lockdown, we have all realised the importance of looking after the natural world more than ever. As we all ‘slowed down’ it was the natural world that kept going. Our group have enjoyed watching programmes like David Attenborough’s Planet Earth: A Celebration which included a brilliant collaboration with Hans Zimmer and Dave the Rapper. This is part of our inspiration for our ‘Moon Base Biodiversity Project.’ The sights and sounds of the natural world around us and the importance of understanding, respecting and conserving it.

Our project will include three nature walks led by Jim Bradley from ‘The Belfast Hills Partnership’, four science workshops with Creating Connections and one music workshop creating ‘Sounds from Nature’ with our Moon Music group.

On the three walks, we will be trying sweep netting, looking at pitfall traps and Jim will teach us about scientific sampling.

We will also be using science packs to enjoy at home that will include some reading and listening to for the group to discuss – for example, Diary of a Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.

Our goal is to create a ‘Moon Base Biodiversity Map’. Including all the different plants and animals we can see in our gardens, through our windows and in our local communities. When we begin to make our biodiversity map, the group will be led by two local artists. There will be a physical map and an online version with sound.

The pandemic has had a detrimental effect on our group members mental and physical health and this project will encourage us to be outside, relaxing in nature and learning new skills together.

We are also interested in delivering our project within the context of COVID-19 and how we can adapt in an interesting and innovative way. As we work with people with learning disabilities and underlying health conditions, we have already been testing out delivering our projects online, using Zoom, over the past few months. We have tentatively met up for two 'real life' walks and are confident that we have all COVID-19 regulations in place (masks, sanitiser, social distancing, risk assessments, etc.).

At present, we feel the three walks planned for our Biodiversity Project should still be able to go ahead, but we have some measures in place if that is not possible. For example, we could meet as a smaller group. If that is not possible, we are going to have a 'virtual walk' with Jim. He will either film a short video for us - showing examples of local biodiversity - or he will be physically on the walk, on his own, with a camera. Similarly, we have one face-to-face session planned to begin to create our biodiversity map - if this is not possible this workshop will take place on Zoom.

We can’t wait to start our project, thank you to the British Science Association for this exciting opportunity!

What are ‘Community science inspirations’ blogs about?  

Earlier this year, the British Science Association (BSA) partnered with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to provide grants up to £2,000 for community organisations to run activities and projects between 1 September – 30 November 2020.  

The mission of the ‘COVID-19 Community Innovation Grant’ scheme was to support community groups to explore and trial new, alternative ways of running science-related activities for audiences under-represented in science in the wake of COVID-19.  

Over the next month, we will be sharing blogs written by grant recipients to inspire prospective British Science Week 2021 applicants, demonstrating how community science engagement can be done despite uncertainty.   

For more ‘Community science inspirations’ blogs, visit here.

Apply for British Science Week 2021 Community funding!
Applications for British Science Week 2021 Community Grants are NOW OPEN- offering £500 to £2,000 grants for community groups that work directly with audiences who are traditionally under-represented and currently not engaged in science activity. The deadline for applications is 5 pm, Monday 9 November 2020.