THE ARTS IN MY STEM CLASS?

Reflections and tools from the PERFORM project

Mar穩a Heras & Isabel Ruiz-Mall矇n

Are you a STEM teacher interested in creative approaches to science education?

Are you thinking about discussing ethical and social aspects of research in your science class? Would you like to innovate in your STEM class and are looking for inspiration

As researchers working in the field of science education and interested in transformational learning approaches, we would like to share the experience and reflections generated through an exciting educational project on STEM and arts. PERFORM was a European research project coordinated by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and conducted between 2015 and 2018 in three countries (France, United Kingdom and Spain), in which we explored new science education methods based on the performing arts and the direct interaction between secondary school students and early career researchers. The goal was to foster young peoples motivations and engagement with STEM through direct contact with scientists and the performative arts. Three performative approaches were tested: stand-up comedy, improvisational theatre and science busking. By putting students in contact with the human dimension of science, the project expected to approach science as a practice and help students critically reflect on social and ethical issues in science. You can find more information on the project and its results here and in the video below.

Video: PERFORM in the words of the teachers

One of the goals of the project was also to create training for secondary-school teachers interested in applying creative methodologies in their STEM class, as well as specific teaching materials that could be easily used. As a result, the project produced a teachers toolkit with performance and discussion-based activities that will help students develop key transferable skills, as well as a more reflective knowing of science in which they consider purposes, values and how science becomes reality. The activities are focused on inclusive ways to make students actively participate in the class and work with scientific topics to challenge stereotypes, include human stories and values, and to offer a gender perspective.

Interested in taking a look at PERFORMs teachers toolkit?

In the toolkit you will find three types of tools:

  • Meet the Scientist videos. Five short videos introducing students to real science researchers from across Europe (in French, English and Spanish). Showing these videos to your students should help to demystify what it is like to be a scientist and maybe even challenge some stereotypes! This section also contains suggestions for how to use the videos in the classroom plus background information on each researcher and their field of research.
  • A set of Performing Science Cards offering instructions for a selection of quick, interactive performance-based activities and discussions to support students to explore ethical issues relating to scientific research and its impact on society. Each card is themed around one main ethical question and contains an Illustration, instructions for a performance activity, and Science and Society questions for deeper learning.
  • A practical guide addressing some of the challenges you might face in facilitating ethical discussions in science lessons, offering suggestions to help overcome these barriers and helping you make the best use of these resources and activities in your classroom.
Some of the materials from the toolkit, performing cards by artist Harriet Lee-Merrion and Meet the Scientist videos.
Some of the materials from the toolkit, performing cards by artist Harriet Lee-Merrion and Meet the Scientist videos.

You can access the toolkit with all the activities here. If you are a teacher looking for new activities and interested in approaching science both creatively and reflexively in your classroom, we encourage you to take a look at it. All its resources are designed to support students learning on a wide range of scientific topics across the secondary science curriculum. Enjoy the ride!


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