A day in the life: Darren Fearnley talks Health Heroes


By: Darren | Date: 24/03/2014

Darren is writing as part of #MuseumWeek – Twitter’s first week dedicated to all of the great museums around the world!

As part of National Science & Engineering Week, we at Eureka! took on the task of delivering a brand new workshop for its duration called ‘Health Heroes Dragons Den’. Taking cues from the television programme ‘Dragons Den’ and medical history, this was a show in which a room full of school children were given a shed load of money (Eureka! bank notes, not real money. We are a Charity you know!) to become ‘Dragons’ then magically taken back in time through the cosmos of their imaginations to meet three health heroes who, in a series of dodgy accents and scientific experiments, were there to plug their product or idea for how diseases could be prevented and combated.

Creating the workshop

In the creation of this show, the Eureka! office staff (namely our play and learning team, Jenny Parker, Jenny Goodall, Liz Smallman and Ben Healey) came out with the initial ideas of a health themed workshop in meetings just under a year ago. Then they were riding a wave of information on the subject through Google searches and nosing through books looking for doctors, biologists, surgeons and nurses who have impacted the medical profession, and various demonstrations that could be used to explain the various health heroes’ theories and ideas. And all of this of course taking into consideration the national curriculum needs for the classroom. After gathering research they then narrowed it down into what’s useful for a dramatic script, which is then handed out to us, the enablers. We then have a rehearsal period of three days in which to bring the words of the scripts to life!

How did Health Heroes work?

The workshop is delivered by two enablers, taking on the different identities of health heroes by a way of a voice and costume change as we are transported into the bodies of a germ obsessed Frenchman (Louis Pasteur), a Scotsman with a mould problem (Alexander Fleming), and a strong-willed, lamp-wielding Englishwoman on a cleaning mission (Florence Nightingale). Also, a supporting cast of a Victorian surgeon with a blood lust (Robert Liston) and Creepy Tudor ‘wise woman’ with some rather morbid cures for a headache (apparently the noose of a hanged man can stop a headache dead in its tracks!!!).

Two coat rails are placed both side of the stage with the costumes and props prepared. The children are brought into the theatre space and told how in the next 45 minutes they have to listen carefully and will be asked to vote on which health hero they like the best by investing their Eureka! bank note into their ideas or products.

Louis Pasteur at Eureka!

Louis Pasteur at Eureka!

Introducing, Louis Pasteur…

The first health hero the children meet requires the children to switch on their imaginations and travel back in time to 19th Century France; to meet milk swigging, germ obsessed Frenchman Louis Pasteur, who explains through an experiment how disease is caused by germs and how they are spread by the simple shaking of hands from one person to another.

He then tells how he needs the money from the audience so he can create various vaccines to protect ourselves against disease.

Florence Nightingale is not amused!

Florence Nightingale at Eureka!

Florence Nightingale at Eureka!

A quick jump and a skip over the English channel to Victorian London and the audience are then met by a crazed Victorian surgeon still stuck in his old ways of how to perform an amputation using an already blooded knife, saw and bandage from a previous operation (not to mention using whiskey as a form of anaesthetic), but Florence Nightingale is not amused and promptly tells him how his dirty appearance could cause infections and explains how dirty hospitals are making patients worse not better. She asks the audience to give her money to clean up the hospitals and set up a school for nursing.

Time to meet Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming at Eureka!

Alexander Fleming at Eureka!

A little more of the child’s imagination is needed to jump further along in time to a messy laboratory in the highlands of Scotland; Alexander Fleming arrives late after taking a lengthy vacation from his work as a biologist to find mould growing on the bacteria that he’d been working on. Asking the audience to have a closer look at some of his petri dishes he explains that the mould has a germ killing power and he wants to make some ‘mould juice’ (otherwise known as penicillin) to try and fight infection in the human body and that’s why he wants their money.

Who’ll win the investment? Decision time!

Now the audience has listened to each Health Hero it’s their time to vote. Each child is given a Eureka! bank note and asked carefully to consider who is worthy of their investment.

Health Heroes workshop winners

Health Heroes workshop winners

This show was delivered by Eureka! Enablers 21 times over the space of 6 days and the results are as in! As clearly shown on this chart – Florence Nightingale should feel very proud.

So, the runaway winner was Miss Florence Nightingale. The children were asked to give reasons why they voted for their said Health Hero; one girl said she voted for Pasteur because she’d just had her vaccination another said they had voted for Fleming because they had Penicillin and Nightingale had impressed many by her mission to clean up the hospitals. We did end the show explaining how each one of the health heroes did amazing things for medicine and health and without them we’d still be stuck in a Tudor England frame of mind – thinking bad smells cause diseases!

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