On Thursday of last week, eager 8th graders and their parents gathered inside a large room of The Crossroads School, on a bright sunny morning. The room was buzzing with excitement because today, the 8th grade science classes were presenting their 1st Annual Improv Show! The Crossroads School is just one of 41 schools participating in Arts Every Day’s Schools Program where schools make a commitment to arts integration and arts enriched experiences for their students. For the past 6 weeks, the students of Ms. Santiago’s science classes had been learning all about the different states of matter, stage changes that matter goes through, and also learned about the theater skill called improv. Short for improvisation, this theater technique involves thinking on your feet, adapting quickly to changes, and situational awareness. The students were going to use those skills to “become the states of matter” and to model them as they move through the different phase changes of matter.
For this project, students worked in groups of 3 or 4 and their performance would count as part of their assessment for this particular unit. Each scene would start off with a series of prompts, opening lines, or props that were chosen from cups by the audience members. So each group had no idea what state of matter they would be or what the scene would be until it was their turn to perform. The group was informed on what state of matter they would begin their scene with and would activate their props, interact with each other, and use any other information they were given to demonstrate their understanding of what they learned in their science class.
As each scene progresses, a large card would be held up that would tell the performing group to either increase or decrease thermal energy. At this prompt, the students then had to chose from a number of cards on the floor in front of them to correctly identify the next stage that their matter would be in. Their choices were freezing, condensation, evaporation, and melting. Choosing the correct stage change was part of their assessment! As each state of matter worked through changes in thermal energy, the students has to act out what the molecules would be doing in each phase.
This is where students really got to flex their creative thinking skills! Using their improvisation skills, they acted out scenes where if they started as a liquid, would be prompted decrease thermal energy. The group would then move much more slowly, come closer together and adapt their scene to reflect their actions which show the teacher their understanding of particles when their state of matter is frozen.
Throughout every scene, students were challenged demonstrate improv and theatrical techniques like creating storylines, developing characters, voice projection, and spacial awareness. Interwoven into each scenario was each student’s creativity and sense of humor. Students were having fun surrounded by their peers and family members in the middle of a science test! Ms. Santiago shared that she loves using arts integration to teach new concepts to her students. We applaud the 8th graders of The Crossroads School for their hard work and bravery to stand before their peers and perform! If only every science test could be this fun!