PRINT | DIGITAL

In progress – Marie Neurath: Science education resources for primary schools

‘… I spent even happier minutes elbowing small children aside at the activity table where I was tasked with numbering in the right order the pictures showing what happens in a bird’s egg, based on four frames from a children’s book that shows Marie at her best – explaining complex concepts in easily understood ways.’

 Stuart Jeffries review of our education resource sample at our Marie Neurath: Picturing Science exhibition in The Guardian, August 2019
Full article

We are collaborating with the University of Reading’s Department of Typography & Graphic Communication on a project to raise the profile of children’s books produced by Marie Neurath and her team at the Isotype Institute between the late 1940s and early 1970s. The theme follows on from the Isotype revisited research project (2007–2011).

Objective

The aim of this project is to build and improve on existing science teaching resources for primary schools through presenting the visuals of Marie Neurath’s children’s books in a format which is effective in the 21st century classroom.  

These materials also aim to support primary school teachers who may lack science expertise in some areas through the illustrations’ simplified and accessible visual language.

Research

According to the Institute of Education, reading for pleasure is more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education

To encourage this we proposed two ‘storytelling’ characters who could provide a narrative and sense of fun to the materials, while also helping to weave the range of subject matters together.

We were excited to discover that the University of Reading’s archives include prototypes of unpublished books featuring two characters called Iso and Typie. We are now in the process of bringing them back to life.

Iso & Typie

These characters needed to have a reason to exist within the slides. We introduced the concept that Iso and Typie could function as a prompt for children in the class to ask questions. This breaks up the content and encourages engagement and conversation with the class.

Instead of being placed in the images they exist within their own pop-up window, often composed in a way that interacts with the visual. This prevents distorting the original materials while also adding an element of surprise to their appearance.

Symbols

Symbols are used to represent the different types of interactions:

Circle = Bullet point or small pop-up which does not populate the whole screen.

Rectangle = Fullscreen window, often containing a photo or diagram alongside greater depth of information. Because the narrative of the slides works without opening them, the pop-up windows allow for slight deviation from the core content and cross-referencing between the different subjects where relevant (for instance, between Habitats and Forces).

Structure

The resources have been co-designed with primary school teachers to ensure they align with the national curriculum. Topics are categorised into themes such as habitats and forces and light. Within these overarching themes we have come up with playful sub-themes that lend themselves to storytelling such as ‘hide and seek’, ‘mystery’ and ‘moving along’.

The slideshows are concise and self-contained so that they can be compiled in any combination according to the needs of the teacher. Each one starts with an overview of the topic and gradually goes into greater detail. Text is broken up into short sentences which directly reference to the narrative of the image.