Over the summer term, Achieving Aspirations saw us working with 45 Year 9 students from the Hope Academy in Newton-Le-Willows. As part of the Academy’s wider programme with Achievement for All, we were asked to support the cohort in exploring the futures they wanted for themselves – and the skills and achievements they would need to make these come true.

And on July 3rd, after we’d spent several weeks at the Academy, the students and their teachers visited us at our home in the Baltic Creative Campus to design and produce the 105 triangular panels that would make up their Dome of Dreams.

We’ll be going back to Newton-Le-Willows this term to support the students in constructing the spectacular, two metre high geodesic dome in the chapel – and in designing and delivering presentations on their work for peers, staff and parents/carers/families.

Science workshops

But this is by no means the first geodesic dome that we’ve built  – in fact, it’s our tenth, in three different sizes! No matter what size, though, each dome is made up of 105 triangular panels – which are then combined to make 10 hexagons, 6 pentagons and 5 trapezoids. But why do we bother going to all this trouble? Because the design process itself gives students an opportunity to reflect on their learning, on their past, present and future ... because the process promotes, at one and the same time, both independent learning and team-working ... because the domes allow every student to display their work in exciting ways ... because, having both exterior and interior spaces, they provide four dimensions for learning ... and because they offer additional opportunities to consider, not just maths and engineering, but science and PE too (having the same structure as both one of the strongest forms of carbon and a football)!

“The levels of engagement and behaviour have been fantastic – and this programme has provided us with a range of interesting activities to inspire collaborative teamwork!” (Director of Learning, Broughton Hall High, Liverpool)

So what about some of our other domes ...?

As part of their exploration of Keeping Warm, Year 4 pupils at English Martyrs (Sefton) built a 1.5m high dome that doubled up as a display for their work and an igloo! And, at an event for parents/carers/families, it formed a backdrop for their dramatic poem, “Life on the Tundra”.

Before moving into their new premises, Hope School (Liverpool) didn’t have enough space for a larger dome – so we built a table-top version with them instead (about 1m high). As part of the school’s very first Launch Day (a springboard for new, half-termly topics) students designed panels to illustrate their perceptions of The Arts. And it remained in pride of place in the school hall long after the next Launch Day was over!

The two foci of Global Dimensions Week at the Oldershaw School (Wirral) were India (Year 7) and China (Year 8). Alongside working with staff in planning ways to explore these countries, their cultures and their influences through maths and DT, we trained a cohort of Year 12 in ways of interviewing their younger peers to discover what they already knew. Armed with all this, we spent a day with the whole Year 7 and another with the whole of Year 8 to design two 2m high domes.

Creativity and Opening Minds at Broughton Hall (Liverpool) saw us working with staff as they prepared to re-fresh their Key Stage 3 creative curriculum – then spending a whole day with the whole of Year 7, part of which saw students creating another 2m high dome that looked at “People and Places”. 

At the North Liverpool Academy (Liverpool), and as part of the Year 7 Enrichment Programme, we once again worked with an entire year group – supporting students as they created a Liverpool Dome, a dome exploring the city’s history and culture. Once put together, the Dome provided a spectacular installation in the Academy’s magnificent atrium.

Back in St Helens, at Newton High (one of Hope Academy’s predecessor schools), we trained a group of Year 9s in becoming IAG Ambassadors – a role that saw them, after exploring their own futures, advising both fellow students and staff on the various Key Stage 4 pathways. A crucial element of this was yet another 2m high dome – which the students themselves carefully designed  to ensure that a cohesive “map” could be seen. As the school didn’t have a big enough floorspace to lay out all the panels, we were delighted to invite them to our then premises in the Contemporary Urban Centre (now, coincidentally, home to the North Liverpool Academy’s new Studio School!).

Funded by Culture Liverpool, as part of the 2012 Titanic commemorations, On the Lookout saw us working with primary and secondary pupils across the city – using drama and art to remember some of the individuals involved in the tragedy. Priming schools for the Giant Spectacular, a visit to Liverpool by three enormous puppets for three days of street theatre, we also delivered CPD to staff from participating schools – CPD that culminated in the construction of a 0.8m high Titanic Dome in the Merseyside Maritime Museum.