Meet the Gene Machine was a Wellcome Trust supported drama and discussion event, designed to stimulate debate into the social and ethical issues of advances in medical genetics. We developed the event in association with the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE).
Meet the Gene Machine was first devised in 2003 by Ben Johnson and Frank Burnet. In 2006-2007, the drama was rolled out across the UK, teaming eight science centres with local schools. Ben wrote the original script which was later redeveloped by the wonderful playwright Toby Hulse, who went on to work with Graphic Science on another drama debate ‘Smarter UK’.
Targeted at KS4 and KS5 students, the drama is set in the near future, and features a scientist with a new invention, ‘the gene machine’, appearing on a day-time chat show. The drama is followed by a facilitated discussion.
The project also comprised a continuing professional development component, featuring teacher training and specially devised resources for use in the classroom. Graphic Science developed a series of activities to support the facilitated discussion and designed a training programme for partner science centres, which included training for presenters in performing the drama, running the associated activities and also delivering the specially devised twilight CPD session for teachers.
Members of Graphic Science also developed the accompanying teacher resource pack. The pack featured background information; tips for running debates in the classroom and follow on activities for use in the classroom (complete with guidelines, equipment lists, technician sheets and fully alterable student handouts). The resource pack was provided in hard copy, as a CD and is also downloadable online.
Meet the Gene Machine was a great success and several of our partner science centres incorporated it into their permanent workshop provision. It is still running today in: At-Bristol; Glasgow Science Centre; Science Oxford; Thinktank and W5.