Since 2004, we have been using MESS Days to include children in the evaluation and design of technology as part of our academic work.

You can find out more about what MESS Days are and the benefits of these sessions below:

What is a MESS Day?

Mad Evaluation Sessions with Schoolchildren (MESS) Days provide a way for the ChiCI group to easily access to children and gives pace for exploratory work with children, in terms of research. MESS days are events that are characterized in the following ways:

A method of including children within research projects to gain authentic, reliable results that support project outcomes.

Children will participate in a variety of fun activities that can be used to gain insight into how they interact within the following:

– Games
– Design
– Technology
– Experiments

Each session usually takes place for either a half-a-day or for one lesson. Specifically, they last for around 90 minutes to two hours, depending on the project.

Sessions either take place at the chosen school, or the class(es) will travel to the University of Central Lancashire where rooms will be organised by the researchers conducting the session.

They are aimed at including children between the ages of three and sixteen. Each session would focus on a class of a particular age group, like (8-9) or (12-13) year olds, rather than a class with varied age ranges.

They are aimed at including children between the ages of three and sixteen. Each session would focus on a class of a particular age group, like (8-9) or (12-13) year olds, rather than a class with varied age ranges.

MESS Day Schedule

  1. When the children arrive, they will be seated. The researchers leading the session will introduce themselves and, if held at the University, will go over any essential health and safety checks (e.g. identifying fire-exits).
  2. After that, the overall topic being covered in the session will be introduced.
  3. Next, instructions for each of the planned activities will be explained to the class. The class will be prompted to ask questions if they are unsure of what to do.
  4. Upon confirming that children understand what they are asked to do, the class will be split into smaller groups (approx. 4 – 6 children each). Each group will take part in the activities in a different order. This is so the Researchers responsible for their specific activity will find it easier to interact with the children, as it will be easier to interact with fewer children at a time.
  5. When the groups are decided, the children can get stuck in with the first activity!
  6. Once an activity is finished, the groups will rotate around the classroom to the next activity. This process is repeated until all (or most, depending on the schedule) activities have been completed by each group.
  7. Finally, the children are asked to sit and are thanked for their participation in the session. Each child will receive a certificate for taking part and will be prompted to leave the room.

How we Benefit from MESS Days

  • It makes the Academic Work of our Team Possible – Over the duration of the standard school term, there often comes a point where our researchers, visiting academics or students on taught courses need access to children for their projects. Without children, our projects findings would hold little value.
  • Results can help Improve Product Design – Project results are often released as publications, which are accessible on our website by external researchers and industry experts. Project findings from these publications can be used to influence the design of future technology that is created for the use of children.
  • Child Participants Improve the Reliability of Project Results – All our projects require some form of data collection to support project hypothesises. By including more children in the participation of research instruments (i.e. MESS Days), we can gain more data which can help identify patterns in results. Having access to higher quantities of data allows us to draw accurate conclusions.
  • Easy Access to Large Demographics of Children – Contacting individuals, like parents and guardians, for permission to allow their children to participate in projects can be time-consuming while yielding a small number of participants overall. By contacting schools, it takes less time to organise these sessions while increasing the chances of a high participant count (30+ children) as the whole class would be involved.

How Teachers Benefit from MESS Days

  • The Whole Class gets Involved – Rather than selecting a small group of children from a class, we find it more beneficial to involve everyone as it improves the reliability of the results we collect. It also means no one feels left out from the activity, which could be considered special by the children.
  • We Organise the Topic and Activities – Teachers do not need to worry about organising any additional lesson content as everything will be handled by the researchers conducting the session.
  • It is Fun AND Educational – Each session, depending on the project, will host between 4 – 8 activities which provide a fast-paced, interactive experience for the children. These activities also aim to teach children how to interact and understand a variety of technologies.
  • Perfect to Fit into the School Day – The duration of sessions can be flexible. Usually, they either last for half a school day or within the timespan of 1 or 2 standard lessons. This makes it easier to fit into the average school timetable.


What space is required?

If the session is held at the University, the ChiCI group will rearrange the lab room layout so that it feels familiar to the children that visit. We want children to feel as comfortable as possible.

If the ChiCI group are travelling to a school, ideally two rooms would be made available so that louder activities do not distract from the quieter activities. However, if only one room is only available, we can make it work.

Are the class Teacher(s) involved in these sessions?

Although the session would be led by the Researchers, Teachers can also be present to help assist students with any concerns. Again, having familiar faces around will make the children more comfortable.

Is it possible to view any projects that we have participated in?

We encourage participating students, teachers and parents to view our project results. It can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months for the results of our projects to be published. Eventually, the project information will be published on the website under the “Projects” link.

How many Researchers take part in each session?

In an average session containing a class of 30 children, we would typically have between 6 – 8 researchers take part.

Get in Touch!

If you are interested in getting your class or school involved in a MESS Day, please get in touch. We might have a project appropriate for you!