Children’s education and learning experiences are key to well-being in a variety of ways and in this regard, it is argued that the cultivation of social, emotional and ethical skills, knowledge and dispositions are as foundational as academic abilities to democracy and quality of life (e.g. Cohen 2006; Nussbaum 2006). Instilling curiosity, discovery, imagination, critical reasoning and collaborative practices are deemed to be significant capabilities for democratic citizenship and children’s learning about their connection to others, the environment and the future (Barratt Hacking et al 2007).
In this paper, we elaborate on these themes by drawing on a research evaluation study of a novel collaborative learning project in the West of Ireland involving expert scientists and artists working with children and their teachers to stimulate a more creative teaching and learning environment. The project, known as the “BEAST! (Baboró: Environment, Arts, Science and Technology)” Project worked with a sample of 9-12 year old children in primary schools across Galway city and county (West of Ireland) over a three year period to support better outcomes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. The overarching aim of the project was to explore the possibilities and realities of designing a ‘low carbon’ future and its impacts on biodiversity and sustainability and in doing so create new ways of learning about science and the environment for primary school children. The paper however draws out the wider messages for children’s engagement, social and ethical development and the role of schools and teachers in using art to not only to teach science and technology subjects but to broaden ‘capability’ opportunities. It argues that the cultivation of creativity provided children with the opportunity to perform and practice citizenship and the opportunity to become active agents of change in their local communities.