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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Ideas for drama and theater integration with Stem?

Ideas for drama and theater integration with Stem?

Related Tags: STEM
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I have been both a science and math teacher for middle school as well as middle/high drama teacher for 10 years. I would like to use theater conventions and long form improvisation to get kids up out of their seats to learn about stem subjects. Any suggestions you have would be great.

I would like to take the show on the road offering interactive dramatic stem experiences that integrate hands on science with a narrative through line. I am seeing assemblies, artist in residence, after school programs or camps.

As far as levels go I can teach to any level although at the high school level I would need to employ someone to be a science advisor.

Thoughts?

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Joan Weber's picture
Joan Weber
Director, Education Division, Creativity & Associates

Good for you!

Integrating drama and theatre into STEM subjects is a great way to bring them alive. I recommend that you take a look at starting with process drama. The teacher creates a "theatre world" in which students interact in character. For STEM, students could choose to portray scientists from history (or inventors, or engineers or whoever). The students complete a character worksheet where they put all their research material, like education, family, socioeconomic conditions, home, etc. Students can build costumes and prop pieces to the degree that you want. You could stage a convention for the scientists (or inventors, etc.) and all the students go into character at their table, where visitors can interact and learn about the accomplishments of the character. What makes it acting is that the students have a full understanding of who their character was, what their personality might have been like. To prepare for the world exercise, students can improvise scenes beween characters based on scenarios that the teacher creates. Students can practice walking and talking (play with dialects) as their character. One great activity is called "hot seat." A character is seated in the front of the room and the rest of the class plays reporters at a press conference. The actor needs to be able to answer the questions in character. It's a great assessment tool.

I hope this helps. I'll add some more later and let some others know about your questions. Good luck!

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

I really like this idea! I'd encourage students to think "inside" the character or concept they're trying to play. If they're supposed to be personifying osmosis, for example, they'll need to ascribe human characteristics to that process- which means they *really* have to understand the process. Sounds like fun- and learning!

Jeff's picture
Jeff
Theatre teacher middle and high, ESL, Sped, gen subjects middle

Hi Laura and Joan,
Thanks for the ideas! The Osmosis idea is a great one. I feel like for middle school kids you could have them personify processes both physical and biological like you said for Osmosis, or molecular bonding, or cell division and genetic transcription. These could be made into dramatic games. The challenge would be making the rules easy enough for teachers and kids to use and learn quickly, while still being good analogues to the process being represented.

At a high school level I have often thought of having kids personify things like rules of general and special relativity, quantum mechanics and newtonian physics and then explore the gray areas where they don't seem to jive with one another. It would be a way to get the kids to start to think about possible explanations for the disparity between the three. I am not sure how to flesh these out. Any thoughts?

As far as process drama Joan, hey I am practitioner of this form. I got my drama ed masters at NYU and we studied under Johnathan Neelands and Warwick Dobson. I simply love the idea of putting historical figures together from science to interact.

The science convention is a great idea. It is not one I have considered. I really like the time travel hook that it suggests. The sort of 'what if' Niels Borr and Galileo met. That is an exciting way for kids to find connections throughout scientific history and different fields of study.

I have also considered doing historical recreations that suppose and sort of re-create the moment great discoveries were made. For instance the moment Einstein realized splitting the atom could be weaponized. Have kids portray him debating with his wife or a stranger even at diner getting their opinion of what to do with this knowledge of all this raw power.

A final thought I had was writing a process drama that looks at how new technologies affect societies. For instance explore the world of a scientist who has built a receiver for messages from the future in faith that someone would someday in the future surely build a sending device. Who then one day gets his first reply from the future. Let kids play out his life in 1, 5 and 10 year leaps and finally looking back on it all on his deathbed.
Then perhaps, looking at and playing out probable governmental responses, or that of crass capitalism, selfish greed or even altruistic ideals of said scientist or scientists.

Then have the kids play the distant future, maybe 220 years later. How has it been integrated into society since it was made known to the general population. Has it been kept a secret and shelved for the greater good or is it as common as the telephone? How has it affected the direction science has gone in? How has it affected the world stage of politics, conflicts and peace.

I am stretching here as far as I can the areas that process drama may be integrated into all levels of science education. I must admit that even though I am studied in process drama it is hard for me to imagine what theatre conventions I would really be able to use for something like this, so I would love any more feedback on that, you would have Joan in this regard.

Finally, I would love to hear from elementary or middle school teachers more about the how playing out science on its feet may enlighten or get kids more excited about different topics of study. I am thinking global warming is one study that could be played out at any level of schooling. Perhaps evolutionary processes or the rock cycle or the formation of our solar system?

I look forward to hearing more ideas.

Warm Regards,

Jeff

P.S. Science and Drama are both ways of seeing the world and they intersect where people and societies engage technologies and discovery.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

Jeff wrote: "For instance the moment Einstein realized splitting the atom could be weaponized. Have kids portray him debating with his wife or a stranger even at diner getting their opinion of what to do with this knowledge of all this raw power."

I love this idea so much. There's so much you can fold into it. Yes, there's science, but also History, Social Science, and even English if it's scripted.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I also like the idea of showing them TED talks- especially like the one where Jim Watson talks about his life and discovering DNA. It's like The Moth Podcast meets Science Friday, and a great version of personal narrative and presentation skills to make science and discovery really personal.

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