Fusion Science Theater developed innovative methods that use principles and techniques from theater and story to create science outreach shows that teach the “big ideas” of science.
Focus on Learning: Fusion Science Theater shows are fun and exciting, but entertainment is not our first priority. Instead, we design shows that use the tools of drama to create a compelling learning experience. Each show teaches one basic science concept that will help children understand and predict events of the natural world. Our most recent show, Will It Light?, targets the concept of conductivity of compounds and aqueous solutions; demonstrations include testing pure water, sugar water, and salt water with a hand-held conductivity apparatus.
Host Characters: In a typical stage play the main character (or protagonist) must face a challenge to “life as usual.” Audience members identify with that character and learn the “lessons” of a play by following what happens to them. We adopt and adapt this configuration to achieve our educational goals. Since we want FST shows to teach science concepts, we make learning this concept the main challenge of the show. And since learning a concept requires a personal experience of conceptual conflict, we present the learning challenge directly to the audience members. Instead of learning through the protagonist, audience members in FST shows are the protagonists. Show performers play the role of “host characters” who invite the audience members to take up the challenge and support their efforts to meet it.
Investigation Question and “Vote Your Prediction”: The challenge is to learn and apply the conceondpt of the show. However, most people aren’t interested in learning concepts for their own sake; they require a reason, a need to know. Each of our shows provides that impetus in the form of a specific question about one specific demonstration. Playwrights called this a dramatic question; we call it the Investigation Question. The very act of asking it makes the audience want to know the answer. To enhance the suspense and raise the stakes, we offer three or four possible answers (including the correct one) and ask the audience to “Vote their Prediction” using paper ballots. Once they vote, they feel invested and want to find if they are right. The much anticipated final demonstration elicits cheers from the audience. This reaction is not prompted by spectacle (the light bulb doesn’t light in Will It Light?), but instead by the excitement, satisfaction, and joy the children feel to finally see the answer and know if they got it right.
Revelations, Models, Filling in the Gaps: Now the audience is eager to learn because what they learn (e.g. the concept of conductivity in the case of Will It Light?) will help them answer the investigation question. We support the learning process by (A) providing more physical evidence, (B) creating a dynamic model of the fundamental concept, and (C) asking them to explain the physical evidence with the model.
Second “Vote Your Prediction”: Before the characters test the pure water and answer the Investigation Question, the audience members are given the opportunity vote their prediction a second time, to correct or affirm their original answer.
Investigation Question Answered by Demonstration: The much anticipated final demonstration elicits cheers from the audience. This reaction is not prompted by spectacle (the light bulb doesn’t light in Will It Light?), but instead by the excitement, satisfaction, and joy the children feel to finally see the answer and know if they got it right.
You can contact us to find out more about our methods. We also offer two method workshops, one on using physical dramatizations to model concepts in K5 classrooms, and another that introduces a variety of dramatic techniques that can be used to engage learning in a community college classroom.