Welcome to our tribe of science and drama educators and researchers looking to collaborate, connect and deliver innovative and meaningful learning for students. If that’s you, grab a drink and settle in to explore this blog. We hope we have delivered many ways in which you can learn and start to experiment with these ideas in your practice.
You may be here because you are already on board with combining Science and Drama in practice. Great! If you’re not, also great! We hope we can further your understanding in this space. To get started, why don’t you try the following excerpt from Chapter 1 of ‘Science and Drama: Contemporary and Creative approaches to Teaching and Learning’. And at any time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our emails are on the ‘Science & Drama Team’ page, or you can use the ‘contact us’ form at the bottom of this page.
Peta, Jo & Kitty
Excerpt from Chapter 1: ‘Sparking Learning in Science and Drama: Setting the Scene’ by Jo Raphael, Peta White and Kitty van Cuylenburg.
Science and the arts share much in common, they are both ways that humans experience and make sense of the world. Science, like the arts is “inspired by emotion and passion, shaped by intuition, and finds expression in narrative and aesthetic forms” (Nicholson, 2011, p. 196). They both seek elegance and are both charged by wonder. Consider a photographic image of the planet Earth from space, there is a beauty perceived by both artists and scientists, and it is this sense of beauty that motivates learning (Winston, 2010; Nicholson, 2011). Iconic images such as this can “provoke an openness and a receptivity to our deepest emotional capacities and a connection between those and the dynamics of the broader social-ecological systems in which we operate” (Westley & Folke, 2018, p. 30). Aesthetic appreciation is an affect, potentially prompting wonderings about life on Earth, impacts of humans on the planet, and issues of global environmental sustainability. In the pursuit of new knowledge and understandings, both science and drama require imagination, they play with ideas and employ experimentation in the quest for new discoveries. Both engage with aesthetic knowing, rather than anaesthetic, making use of all senses, rather than dulling them. Humans are living, sensing, feeling beings, we are ‘live creatures’ as Dewey (1934) reflects in his book Art as Experience, suggesting the difference between art and science is simply where the emphasis falls:
… in the constant rhythm that marks interaction of the live creature with his surroundings. … The odd notion that an artist does not think and a scientific inquirer does nothing else is the result of converting a difference of tempo and emphasis into a difference in kind. (p. 15)
With education in mind, Dewey explains that scientific and artistic modes of inquiry, although having different tempos, are both part of the rhythm of learning, and both are necessary for the way they deepen our experience and understanding of the world around us. This is a “a kind of ‘wholeness engagement’ where emotions, intellect, and practice react together simultaneously” (Abed, 2016, p. 170). Wholeness engagement could also describe the nature of Indigenous science whereby Indigenous people have built empirical knowledge of the natural world through long-standing close connection to local areas, or country (Australian Research Council, 2008). Indigenous Scientific Knowledge is increasingly important in contemporary times. For example, detailed knowledge of controlled burning tested over time and passed through generations by Aboriginal people, is recognised as a way of reducing risk of devastating bush fire. It is easy to imagine this Indigenous Scientific Knowledge coming from Dewey’s ‘constant rhythm’ of learning in connection with surroundings, through aesthetic and embodied practice and social learning, with sense of responsibility to the sustainability of nature, and which is often communicated through the arts.
Commonalities in arts and science are also noted by Jung, who defined the ‘artist-scientist’ as one of several human archetypes (Westley & Folke, 2018). The artist-scientist is driven by wonder and curiosity, is a creator and a discoverer, is intuitive, imaginative and an improviser. Creativity and innovation are traits valued in both artists and scientists who require the “courage to imagine the unimaginable” (Turkka, Haatainen, & Aksela, 2017, p. 1). We have already mentioned Hildegard of Bingen, but there are many other well-known historical examples of artist-scientists whose achievements have been made through bringing together these ways of perceiving the world. Leonardo da Vinci was an artist and a scientist, an inventor and a philosopher, and each facet enhanced his ability to go deeper into the other (Capra, 2014). Albert Einstein is less known for his considerable artistic talents than his achievements as a theoretical physicist, but valued his artistic abilities highly and believed they contributed to his scientific discoveries. Einstein saw the power of imagination as crucial and arts and sciences as branches of the same tree (Caglioti, 2017).
There has been a tendency for the arts/humanities and sciences to be seen as ‘two cultures’, and this division is unhelpful for solving the problems of the world (Snow, 1959/2001). The separation of discipline areas is intensified by school curricula with clearly defined key learning areas, their own content descriptions, and achievement standards. Key learning areas like the arts and the sciences are further divided into subjects. These separate curricula are then developed by people who are considered experts in and advocates for that particular discipline. Secondary teachers are registered in two curriculum areas, often with one major area in which they focus their practice. In most secondary schools it is uncommon for learning areas to co-join. The disciplines are sometimes in competition for time and resources particularly within what is often referred to as the crowded curriculum.
Segregating discipline areas may provide a sense of clarity and that could be interpreted as security, for some. However, these ‘silos’ (that are so pervasive in education), can provide a barrier for the kinds of learning that promote deeper understanding amongst diverse learners (Byrne & Mullally, 2016), as discussed earlier in this chapter, a siloed approach does not reflect the complexity of the real world and the spectrum of thinking required to solve problems in our rapidly changing environment–particularly for ‘multipotentialite’ students who have diverse interests and possible careers across their lifetime (Wapnick, 2015).
There has been a movement to add the arts into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) creating the acronym STEAM, the name itself suggestive of a driving and energetic force. A STEAM approach acknowledges that finding solutions to complex problems requires thinking across disciplines, and that the arts can spark creativity and imagination for problem-solving and innovation (OECD, 2019). A meta-analysis of STEAM programs revealed that students experience positive outcomes from involvement in STEAM, including confidence in problem-solving, identity as scientists, entrepreneurship and appreciation of teamwork (Kang, 2019). However, the same study showed that research is needed to inform more meaningful interdisciplinary activities, and in preparing teachers for effective collaboration across disciplines (Kang, 2019).
The examples of science and drama in [our] book grapple with curriculum and the question of which discipline in the curriculum their lessons serve. Sometimes it is the science curriculum, sometimes the drama curriculum, and in some cases both. Often in these examples, the learning moves beyond the disciplines of science or drama to other parts of the curriculum, to what are known in the Australian Curriculum as the General Capabilities, including Personal and Social Capability, Critical and Creative Thinking, and Ethical Understanding (ACARA, 2021). We are interested in the ways that interdisciplinarity (science and drama combined) can spark learning that could not be typically addressed through either disciplinary practice.