Drama is a process that actively engages students in the expression, analysis and sharing of their feelings, perceptions, attitudes and ideas (O’Hara, 1984). Presentations can be used to report on and perform scientific ideas and skills, take on a role and enact it and prepare and perform plays to describe scientific ideas (McSharry and Jones, 2000). A central characteristic of these activities is that they are seen to promote opportunities for interactive dialogue and student-centred discourse (Dorion, 2009). Performance events provide high motivation as well as opportunities for students to develop a feeling of ownership of their learning.
This research was undertaken over two terms to investigate how a primary teacher used the Science Learning Hub in her classroom with 25 year 4 students. The study investigated how Mary (a pseudonym) used the colelction of resrouces Harnessing the Sun. For this research, students were observed while they created, rehearsed and performed their science learning. They were interviewed following the last performance.
Performance promoted opportunities for interactive dialogue and student-centred discourse. To conclude the unit on solar energy, Mary helped the students create a performance of their science learning for other classes. The show they created was performed 11 weeks after the final lesson of the unit, indicating sustained interest in the topic. To create the show, the students needed to distil and reframe what they had learned so they could communicate it in an entertaining and informative way. The students:
- choreographed a Sun dance
- scripted a Sun quiz for audience participation
- explained features of and demonstrated steps to make, a solar cooker
- modelled night and day with a torch and a globe
- scripted and acted out a skit about using a solar cooker
- created a PowerPoint backdrop for the entire presentation.
Eight lessons were dedicated to creating and rehearsing the show. Students chose various roles and responsibilities according to their interests such as costume design, sound effects, script writing and prop maing. Creating a coherent show provided many opportunities for peer feedback. Conversations were lively around which activities would make up the performance as well as what should be included in each act. Mary gave the students freedom around these decisions but she appointed several students as science checkers to ensure that the science being presented was accurate.
Performance encouraged students to express their understandings in imaginative ways
Using the classroom as their stage, the students gave three exuberant presentations of their science learning. Student comments indicated that the presentations were highly motivating, memorable, fun and an effective way for consolidating learning.
The performance helped me remember the whole meaning of solar cooking.
Mary’s students also appreciated performing for an audience. John commented: “I think Room 1 got the science ideas because they asked a lot of questions. They were very interested. It made me feel proud to be showing our learning to the other children.”
Performance provided learning opportunities for students in the audience
Students who came to watch the shows appreciated seeing their peers in a performance and participated willingly in the quiz.
The audience asked pertinent questions about solar energy at the conclusion of the show, for example: Does it matter what size the box is? Why do you need newspaper? What kind of food can you put in a solar cooker? The performers gave the correct answers to all the questions, demonstrating their understandings. The gifting of a solar cooker to the audience class was greeted with enthusiasm. Teachers indicated they would use the cooker with their classes, thus promoting solar learning beyond Mary’s class. Teachers also said that they would seek advice from Room 3, hence positioning students as knowledgeable experts.
Creating a science performance engages young students in science and affirms the broader value of what they have learned. Crafting science learning into a performance for an audience requires students to revisit and reflect on learning. Science performances are a rich forum for interactive and imaginative learning. They are stimulating, memorable and fun.
Students made and used a solar oven. This activity, Making a solar oven, contributed to the students building their ideas about solar energy and cooking.
These articles were part of this case study:
- Adapting learning outcomes and activities for young students
- Linking ideas, activities and lessons
- Making and using an artefact
- Planning a new science topic
- We are scientists
- How wall displays sustain learning
- Students reflect on learning science
Learn more in our recorded webinar Understanding science through drama with Dr Carrie Swanson.
Dorion, K. (2009). Science through drama: a multiple case exploration of the characteristics of drama activities used in secondary science lessons. International Journal of Science Education, 31(16), 2247–2270.
O’Hara M. (1984). Drama in education: a curriculum dilemma. Theory into Practice, 23(4), 314–320.
McSharry, G. & Jones, S. (2000). Role-play in science teaching and learning. School Science Review, 82(298), 73–82.