Science is a subject that should have students doing hands-on experiments, collaborative inquiry, and lots of fun discussion. There’s a time and place for reading the textbook for foundation building but it should not be the only thing you’re doing. What better way to get students up, working in groups, and laughing than through doing some Science and Dance activities?
When unit planning I like to go with what I call the “buckshot approach”. I fire as much learning in as many different ways as I can at the wall and hope something sticks. As you get to know your class you can tailor lessons to their strengths and interests; however, for initial planning, I like to incorporate a variety of learning styles, activities, and assessment techniques as I can to keep things fresh and engaging. Students undoubtedly benefit from a kinesthetic-focused activity whether or not they identify as a “kinsthetic learner”.
Bringing complex scientific concepts to life through movement and dance can help visual learners better picture the process being discussed, and helps kinesthetic learners to synthesize and apply their learning in a way they’re comfortable with and enjoy. It helps students think about the ideas in a different way e.g. if I was a mitochondria how would I move? What do mitochondria do anyway?
Below I have some suggestions for Science and Dance activities for a grade 6 classroom, as in my final placement I did do some movement activities in Science and the students loved it (plus it did seem to increase their understanding of the concept). I have one activity, plus Science expectations per strand for grade 6, which should be enough to get you started:
Biodiversity: Nature in Balance Partner Dances
3.5. describe interrelationships between species and between species and their environment and explain how these interrelationships sustain biodiversity
This activity can be done with partners or larger groups. The focus is on relationships (both in the element of Dance and in the Science strand) so it’s important to tell students to pay particular attention to how movements of another person are affected by another in their dance.
Depict in a movement phrase interrelationships between some species. You can have students pick their own animals or give them prompts, either by limiting their choice to specific ecosystems or explicitly giving them two animals. Show through dance (not miming!) how the relationship sustains biodiversity.
You could see a dance with a wolf and caribou or flower and a bumblebee. The important thing is if students pick predator and prey there isn’t going to be any gruesome murder in their dance performance. If a lion is taking down a sick antelope, how could this be done abstractly through movement and use of levels perhaps?
Flight: Particle Dance Party
3.1. identify the properties of air that make flight possible
This is intended as a minds on activity and is especially effective if students have been sitting for awhile and need to stretch their legs. In an open space or around the classroom, have students imagine they are air molecules. Let them choose a movement that is their “baseline” for when the air is neither really cold or hot. Then, describe various changes in the environment that would effect the air and have students to move accordingly.
“It’s starting to heat up in here. Air particles start to feel revved up and energetic! They don’t want to be too close to other particles, they have too much energy and need to expand. Okay, it’s starting to cool down. You’re losing energy and need to huddle together with other molecules for warmth.” (and so on)
Go through a few examples for properties of air to help students review. My placement class had a lot of fun with this activity.
Electricity: Circuit Sequence Dance
3.6 explain the functions or components of a simple electrical circuit
The Electricity strand actually gives us a lot of opportunity for movement activities, especially “cause-and-effect” or “follow the leader” type performances. The expectation I selected here is about the components of a simple circuit, but could be applied to other activities about conductors of electricity or different kinds of circuits.
In groups, communicate through movement the functions of an electrical circuit. It would end up looking like a cascading movement phrase, as the person embodying the battery would start, and then the wire would be “activated” and so on. It would be interested to see how students utilize stage space when creating a circuit, because they could make it look very linear or much more free form and still communicate the same circuit functions.
Space: Galactic Gala
3.1 identify components of the solar system, including the sun, the moon, and other planets, natural satellites, comets, asteroids, and meteroids, and describe their characteristics in qualitative terms
This activity could be part of a larger inquiry project about the planets or other celestial bodies. The project prompt is as follows:
“There will be a Galactic Gala, where aliens from all the planets of the solar system will be attending. Each group will be performing a dance that represents their planet and all the wonderful things it has to offer.”
In groups, students will select a planet or celestial body. They will then conduct research about the planet’s physical characteristics and history so they can decide how they would represent that planet through movement. This is a fun way to fit in a research project that usually comes with the Space unit but give it a twist. It gives plenty of room for students to stretch their legs in the creative process. Mercury has very hot days and extremely cold nights. Is there a way they could represent that dramatic transition through intensity and tempo? If you wanted you could even have students design masks or costumes for Visual Arts they could wear for their dances.
It also gives you an excuse to play Holst’s “The Planets” in class (but really do you need an excuse for that?)
Ultimately, your students may not remember the forces of flight or the different parts of a flower in a few years time, but what they will remember is a Science class that was fun, hands on, and encouraged creativity. Having a curious, risk-taking mindset is important in many fields, but especially in STEM fields. If you can help cultivate the right attitude for your students’ future success then you can feel proud as an educator. Plus, if they learn some sweet dance moves it doesn’t hurt either.
Any Science/Arts integrated activities work well in your classroom? Please leave a comment!