Embodied, Dramatizing Performances in Science Class: Multimodal Spaces and Places of Knowledge and Identity Construction

We explored the semiotic choices children in grades 1–6 made that nurtured embodied, dramatizing performances in science classes at urban public schools, serving predominantly students of color in a large US city. We studied how such choices in school and home settings (when instruction was remote during the COVID-19 pandemic) were implicated in the children’s knowledge and identity construction and related to available resources and positionings. Multimodality and social semiotics, social practice theory, and positioning theory were the three theoretical anchors that guided the study, along with sociocultural and sociopolitical framings of science education. The study took place in the context of the multi-year collaboration STAGE (Science Theatre for Advancing Generative Engagement) among teachers and university educators designing and studying pedagogies of embodiment as part of students’ engagement in school science. The ethnographic design of the larger research allowed us to engage over a school year with each class. The focus of this study is on classes of three teachers, who collaborated with a teaching artist, using data from video-recordings, fieldnotes, and conversations with students and teachers. The findings point to the generative nature of embodiments in terms of both the knowledge and identities that the children were constructing and the factors that shaped that generativity. These include (a) the resources available, (b) the children’s own particular interests and sources of excitement, and (c) the simultaneous use of multiple semiotic tools that offer different affordances for meaning making. The findings affirm that multimodal embodied performances children design and create in school spaces (classrooms and settings for larger school gatherings, like auditoria) and at home provide opportunities to desettle expected axiological, ontological, and epistemological norms that often dominate science teaching. The power of dramatizing and of performing arts is facilitating the development of connections, solidarity, and feelings among peoples and materials.

Varelas, M., Diaz, A. R., Kotler, R., Woodard, R., Rock, R., Sabitt, Z., Phillips, N., Tsachor, R., Gutierrez, M., Natividad, H., Threewitt, D., & Ellison, J. (2024). Embodied, dramatizing performances in science class: Multimodal spaces and places of knowledge and identity construction. Research in Science & Technological Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2024.2306307