“Science Theatre Makes You Good at Science”: Affordances of Embodied Performances in Urban Elementary Science Classrooms

School science continues to alienate students identifying with nondominant, non-western cultures, and learners of color, and considers science as an enterprise where success necessitates divorcing the self and corporeal body from ideas and the mind. Resisting the colonizing pedagogy of the mind–body divide, we aimed at creating pedagogical spaces and places in science classes that sustain equitable opportunities for engagement and meaning making where body and mind are enmeshed. In the context of a partnership between school- and university-based educators and researchers, we explored how multimodal literacies cultivated through the performing arts, provide students from minoritized communities opportunities to both create knowledge and to position themselves as science experts and brilliant and creative meaning makers. Four theoretical perspectives (social semiotics and multimodality; dramatizing and the embodied mind; dismantling master narratives for minoritized peoples; and the relationship of knowledge production and identity construction) framed this multiple case study of classes of elementary and middle school students who made sense of and communicated science concepts and practices through embodied performances. The study provided evidence that embodied science representations afford students abundant opportunities to construct science knowledge and positionings that support engagement with science, whether performed on a small scale in classrooms, or for the whole school through a large-scale science play. Embodied dramatizing led to opportunities for collective meaning making as student-performers coordinated across various movements and modes in order to represent ideas. Multiple enactments of the same concept nurtured the development of multi-dimensional scientific, sociocultural, and sociopolitical meanings. During embodiments, students positioned themselves and others in ways that allowed expanded science identities to become possible, intertwined with other salient identities. By treating children's bodies as sites of knowledge, imagination, and expertise, integrating performing arts and science has the potential to facilitate the development of connections among ideas and between self and ideas.

Varelas, M., Kotler, R. T., Natividad, H. D., Phillips, N. C., Tsachor, R. P., Woodard, R., Gutierrez, M., Melchor, M. A., and Rosario, M. (2021). “Science theatre makes you good at science”: Affordances of embodied performances in urban elementary science classrooms. Journal of Research in Science Teaching.