Sally McHugh

Sally McHugh is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her current research explores how creative and constructionist computing can be designed and deployed to enhance children’s learning with their local cultural heritage in formal and informal learning environments. As a Fulbright-Creative Ireland Museum Fellow to The Exploratorium: The Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception in San Francisco, she  conducted a place-based learning (PBL) project within the Museum’s Fisher Bay Observatory.

What does your research / work do for citizens?

“My PhD explores how creative and constructionist computing can be designed and deployed to enhance children’s learning with their local cultural heritage in formal and informal learning environments.

I conducted a place-based learning project at the Exploratorium in San Francisco within the Museum’s Fisher Bay Observatory. My project, A Sense of Place, carried out weekly with San Francisco youth focused on their engagement with the local. Youth engaged with the creative arts to express their understandings of place.”

What problem are you trying to solve?

“In the context of the Exploratorium research we explored place through the creative arts. The findings suggest youth developed a deeper awareness and understanding of their place. Research has found deep engagement with place can empower youth and lead to civic awareness and action.”

Where did you go on your Fulbright Award and why?

“I went to the Exploratorium Museum, San Francisco for a period of three months. I chose to apply to Exploratorium in San Francisco out of three museum options because the city itself appealed to me. San Francisco’s location on the bay and its reputation as a sanctuary, creative and bohemian city appealed to me.  I wanted to embrace the culture of San Francisco and the creative Arts scene.  I am an amateur visual artist and poet so the city was a draw.”

Have you had a chance to engage with your Award sponsor?

“Creative Ireland sponsored my award. They are working towards making creativity more mainstream in the life of the nation, in the personal and working lives of the Irish people. Creative Ireland’s programme excites me greatly as amongst other things they are involved in projects that combine history with creative arts, heritage and place. I was able to incorporate their objectives of developing creativity with young people  during my time at the Exploratorium.”

What were the chief learnings from your Fulbright Award? What are you able to do better now?

“I developed the confidence to carry out an individual self-directed project with youth from different cultures, and to liaise with different stakeholders.  I gained organisational and curatorial skills and learned from experts in a large museum.”

“My Highlights:

  • The museum gave me freedom to carry out a project of my choice and I was fully supported by departmental staff.
  •  I built fruitful personal relationships with museum staff. I joined the Yoga and the Knitting groups in the museum and made friends through these groups. I developed relationships with people from different cultures, interacted with and learnt from them.
  • I had a chance to embrace the city of San Francisco itself and its creative Arts scene. I attended art classes, dancing classes and writing courses, talks and workshops. I went to the theatre, enjoyed street festivals such as the Chinese New year and St. Patrick’s parades, checked out the city’s famous art murals and visited the other city museums. My aim was to develop my creative self for personal fulfillment reasons and to enrich future research projects with youth.
  • I built strong relationships with people from all walks of life, from where I was living, through the weekly classes I attended and through friends and connections of the museum staff.
  • The trip enhanced my understanding of social justice issues, local and national through visiting places, attending talks etc. in this large American city. I volunteered at a homeless shelter and developed empathy for people from different cultures.
  • I could constantly explore, through walking tours of the different communities and exploring the city on bicycle. I was eager to learn more about different communities in San Francisco.
  • I loved travelling within the States. I visited Huntington Beach and Yosemite in California and attended a Fulbright Seminar on North American musical heritage in Nashville
  • I had many opportunities to challenge myself – the experience of going to a new place, organising myself in a large city, embracing the creative arts scene, carrying out my project successfully. I felt I accomplished a lot in the short time I was there and that I am brought home valuable learning for future creative projects and/or research with youth.”

The application period for 2020-2021 Irish Awards is open from 28 August – 31 October 2019, visit our Awards page to apply!