Education Associate Nina Swan updates on the pilot project with Graveney School
Over eight days in June and July 2009 The Opera Group and The Institute of Psychiatry worked with staff and Year 8 and 9 pupils from Graveney School in Tooting, London on the theme of Alzheimer ’s disease. Working closely with the music and science departments of the school the project explored the science behind Alzheimer ’s disease and used this to inform a piece of musical theatre created by the participants. This was then performed to a group of Year 7 pupils and parents in school.
Key to the success of this project was the relationship with the Institute of Psychiatry and the involvement of the school’s science department. The young people visited the Institute, had a lecture by Prof Lovestone and colleagues on the causes of Alzheimer ’s disease; were shown human brains, both healthy and with Alzheimer ’s disease; experienced a brain scan in a fake MRI scanner and also watched some experiments with various proteins used in the diagnosis of Alzheimer ’s disease. They spent a day in-school devoted to science, led by the school’s head of department, performing experiments, diagnosing brain images borrowed from the the Institute of Psychiatry and discussing the ethics of using animals in Alzheimer’s Disease research.
The understanding of the scientific causes and social effects of Alzheimer’s Disease then formed the basis of the performance piece, as well as the pupils’ own testimonies from family members or friends affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.
The resulting performance was a sensitive portrayal of what the young people understood about Alzheimer ’s disease, its effect on the individual and how the disease affected those around them. A film of the project will be available to download in September 2009.