Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using Street Theater To Channel The Lessons Of Molecules

Date:
April 8, 2008
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Molecules, any chemist will tell you, have lots to teach us. Giving voice to the lessons of molecules and other props of science, as the lamentable state of science literacy in the United States attests, is no easy task.

Assistant scientist with the College of Engineering Christopher Babiarz (left) and Madison Area Technical College chemistry and creative writing/drama instructor Holly Walter Kerby (right) perform their "Science-in-a-Box " educational theater skit in the Mechanical Engineering building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as part of the Science Expeditions 2008 event held April 5, 2008.
Credit: Bryce Richter, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Molecules, any chemist will tell you, have lots to teach us.

Giving voice to the lessons of molecules and other props of science, as the lamentable state of science literacy in the United States attests, is no easy task.

But a novel project by a collaboration of scientists and educators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Madison Area Technical College (MATC) is making molecules and atoms the stars of a project to use theater to teach children the basics of science.

The project is really about creating a tool, a model program that can be adapted by teachers and others to channel basic concepts of science to young children. The idea, says Holly Walter Kerby, a Madison playwright and an MATC instructor of chemistry and creative writing/drama, is to adapt the techniques of theater -- theme, character and dramatic question -- to teaching science to young people.

"Those are skills playwrights use and they transfer nicely to science," says Kerby, who developed the "Science-In-A-Box" initiative with UW-Madison environmental chemist Christopher Babiarz. Babiarz described the project at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Designed for younger audiences, children ages 10 and younger, Science-In-A-Box productions hinge on elemental concepts and conveying the process of scientific discovery. As its name implies, a main character is a large box, a convenient dispenser of atoms and other props and, through a slide whistle, dramatic punctuation.

A Science-In-A-Box production, say Kerby and Babiarz, isn't just about spectacle. It is more about conveying overarching ideas about science, and can be tailored to all kinds of science, not just chemistry.

The key, they say, is keeping things simple and fun, and using a dramatic presentation to convey specific ideas. For example, children in the audience learn what happens to water when it boils by acting out the part of water molecules.

Beyond such basic ideas, an emphasis for Babiarz, Kerby and their colleagues is promoting, in a fun and interactive way, the basics of the scientific method: asking questions, making observations, forming hypotheses and conducting experiments.

According to Kerby, many teachers already have an ingrained sense of how to use theatrical techniques to teach, but the Science-In-A-Box model provides a pedagogical framework: "Teachers already have a sense of these tools. We're just formalizing it."

So far, the approach seems to be working, according to Joanne Cantor, a UW-Madison professor emerita of communication arts and the evaluator for the project.

"More than twice as many kids understood the concepts after the Science-In-A-Box performances than before," Cantor says. "They're showing that they get it. The kids aren't just riveted on the fun part, but on the scientific questions and answers."

What's more, Cantor's evaluations show that children walk away from the performance with an enhanced appreciation for science. "They significantly increase their belief that science is fun. The (performance) is teaching them concepts they can appreciate and feel good about."

The ultimate goal of the project, say Babiarz and Kerby, is to create something that can be easily adapted to both the classroom and informal settings such as children's museums, after-school programs, farmers' markets and shopping malls.

"It's not our goal to be a traveling science show," Kerby explains. "People in other communities can put these shows on rather cheaply and without too much trouble."

The main thing, notes Babiarz, is framing the scientific question, and playing out the process of science in a way that helps the very young get the big picture of how science gets done, and that fun can be had along the way.

This research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Using Street Theater To Channel The Lessons Of Molecules." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408120117.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2008, April 8). Using Street Theater To Channel The Lessons Of Molecules. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408120117.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Using Street Theater To Channel The Lessons Of Molecules." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408120117.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins