Atom Surprise: Using Theatre in Primary Science Education

Abstract

Early exposure to science may have a lifelong effect on children’s attitudes towards science and their motivation to learn science in later life. Out-of-class environments can play a significant role in creating favourable attitudes, while contributing to conceptual learning. Educational science theatre is one form of an out-of-class environment, which has received little research attention. This study aims to describe affective and cognitive learning outcomes of watching such a play and to point to connections between theatrical elements and specific outcomes. “Atom Surprise” is a play portraying several concepts on the topic of matter. A mixed methods approach was adopted to investigate the knowledge and attitudes of children (grades 1–6) from two different school settings who watched the play. Data were gathered using questionnaires and in-depth interviews. Analysis suggested that in both schools children’s knowledge on the topic of matter increased after the play with younger children gaining more conceptual knowledge than their older peers. In the public school girls showed greater gains in conceptual knowledge than boys. No significant changes in students’ general attitudes towards science were found, however, students demonstrated positive changes towards science learning. Theatrical elements that seemed to be important in children’s recollection of the play were the narrative, props and stage effects, and characters. In the children’s memory, science was intertwined with the theatrical elements. Nonetheless, children could distinguish well between scientific facts and the fictive narrative.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    An excerpt of the play may be viewed on-line at http://www.madatron.co.il/. A comprehensive description of the play is attached as supporting documents.

  2. 2.

    Only students from the private school were interviewed and answered questions regarding the play itself in the post questionnaire.

  3. 3.

    Each statement could be placed in several categories. For example, “because the play was interesting and funny” was categorized in both the ‘funny‘ and the ‘interesting’ categories.

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Acknowledgment

Ayelet Baram-Tsabari would like to thank the Landau Fellowship for supporting her research. Ran Peleg would like to thank the Papo Fellowship and Mitrani Fellowship for supporting and enabling his research. This research was inspired by the EU S-TEAM project: Science-teacher education advanced methods (no. 234870).

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Correspondence to Ayelet Baram-Tsabari.

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Peleg, R., Baram-Tsabari, A. Atom Surprise: Using Theatre in Primary Science Education. J Sci Educ Technol 20, 508–524 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-011-9299-y

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Keywords

  • Science theatre
  • Informal education
  • Humanistic science education
  • Primary science education