Creative connections

Look – and you shall see the connection

A simple daily walk sparks off all sorts of connections for Andrew Tidswell, who ponders the link between curiosity and creativity.

Curiosity not optional

I recently saw a TV interview with the Physicist Professor Brian Cox where, in reference to the creation of vaccines during the pandemic, he said, ‘curiosity isn’t optional it’s essential.’ This really resonated with me, especially when I then reflected on some amazing examples of curiosity that I am privileged to be reminded of on my daily morning walks.

Lawrence Oates

Just two minutes from my front door I reach Meanwood Park in Leeds, and my walks here usually begin on land formerly owned by the family of Lawrence Oates. His incredible curiosity led to him becoming a key member of Robert Scott’s doomed expedition to Antarctica in 1912, as they attempted to become the first humans to reach the South Pole. Sadly, for Scott and his men they were beaten to the Pole by Roald Amundsen’s team and tragically they all perished on the return journey. Oates himself is famously remembered for his brave act of self-sacrifice when, debilitated by frostbite, he walked out into a blizzard never to be seen again. According to Scott’s diary, his last words were “I am just going outside and may be some time.”

Sledges to spacecraft

This tale of a thirst for adventure and curiosity about what lies undiscovered forms the starting point of the ‘From Sledges to Spacecraft’ Unit in Discovery Education’s STEM Connect product. We make the link of human endeavour from this expedition to the journey to Mars and the need for innovation to realise these missions. We challenge students to design a prototype for a craft that would land on the surface of Mars and protect its occupants.

The memorial to Lawrence Oates on the site of Meanwoodside, the family estate.
Creative engineering

As I continue my walk, I pass through areas of former industrial land, of mills, tanneries and quarries, long since re-claimed by nature. However, in the now verdant woodland, some remains of Scotland Mill can be found, and it was here in the 1790s that Matthew Murray patented a process for ‘wet spinning’ flax which revolutionised the linen trade world-wide. Murray went on to be an engineering pioneer in other fields most notably in steam engine production. The Middleton Railway, Leeds, where his engine, the Salamanca, operated, still runs to this day and stands as a memorial to this great industrialist. Curiosity and the ability to iterate designs was at the heart of the first industrial revolution and is still essential as we move forward into the information revolution.

Contuniung need

Clearly the use of fossil fuels, needed for the steam engine, now provides significant challenges for humanity. We explore the need for renewable energy in several ways throughout STEM Connect, including building solar cookers and designing renewable energy systems. This is all part of how STEM Connect is underpinned by the UN Sustainable Development Goals ensuring that children are working on solving real problems that face us all globally.

Remains of Scotland Mill – including the huge stone slabs used to anchor heavy machinery.

Just above the remains of the machinery in Scotland Wood sits Bywater farm, where a young Andy Goldsworthy worked as a labourer in his teenage years. It was these same woods that helped to form his ideas that led to his amazing global success as a pioneer of ‘Site Specific Sculpture’ and ‘Land Art.’ He creates incredibly beautiful works in locations around the world using natural ‘found’ materials, which are then captured as photographs. His work is exhibited globally and is in itself sustainable, like the forms of energy we look to pioneer.

Different response; same stimulus

Creativity is an inherent part of human endeavour and curiosity, and the arts are an essential part of any curriculum. STEM Connect includes a wide range of art activities throughout, as part of the ‘Content Connections’ feature. These activities apply art, social studies, maths and literacy skills in the wider context of the challenges focused on in each Unit. The Art Connections for example enable students to develop and celebrate their artistic skills and see how these are relevant and important in a STEM world.

Bywater farm, overlooking Scotland Wood – where Goldsworthy worked as a teenager


Andrew Tidswell is Director of International Professional Development and Partner Learning at Discovery Education

Contact Andrew at

M: +44 (0) 7468 476 142


Further reading:

STEM Connect Information

Cobis Webinar – June 2021 recording of a webinar, delivered by Andrew Tidswell, entitled “Connecting the Local to the Global in the New Age of Enlightenment”

Continuity of Learning Episode 1 – STEM – part one of a three-part video series, presented by Andrew Tidswell, exploring teaching and learning ideas designed to enable students to develop essential problem solving and thinking skills.


Feature Image: by Lars_Nissen from Pixabay