Science through drama

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By Calvin Dorionteacher and freelance writer

Forget the Bunsen burners and test tubes – explore virtual worlds and physical states by teaching science through drama

space

Invite the children to explore space by building a virtual world of stars and planets

Banish thoughts of scripts and plays and chaotic lessons where teaching objectives are hard to identify. For the primary teacher seeking inspiration, there is a wealth of simple, improvisational drama techniques with which to teach science. As drama is the resource you don’t need to worry about having extra materials and rehearsals – you can just jump straight in!

Storytelling

As a gentle way into science through drama, storytelling activities can look reassuringly like traditional tablework. The brief is for children to tell a story that incorporates the science that they’ve learned in class. The Science Museum outreach team, who visit schools, tell the tale of a stuffed frog named Phil who takes off in a hot air balloon (upthrust), then floats along (balanced forces) until the balloon bursts and Phil falls (gravity) only to be saved by his parachute (air resistance). Stories of this sort can be shared between partners, tablegroups, and the whole class. This activity can then be followed up with written work or illustrated in drawings.

Teacher-in-role

Teachers are exceedingly adept at playing roles: the kindly mother, the strict disciplinarian, the silly playmate. You can use your skill to deliver scientific concepts in a fun but precise manner using an interview activity called ‘hotseating’. Begin by telling the class that they have a visitor: a keen farmer, a lazy geologist, or an excited Phil the frog (depending on the science topic). With the visual aid of a hat or another article of clothing, sit at the front as teacher-in-role. Explain that the children can ask you any questions they want. They are invariably eager to join in. This is science by subterfuge; as you are the focus of attention, you can vary the amount of information you provide as you assess the ongoing discussion. Acting-up as a silly, naughty or grumpy character adds to the fun. For a twist, when revising play an ignorant character. Children will be motivated by a feeling of superiority as they teach you the science concepts they know.

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