What is a Science Concept Investigation (SCI) Show?
Our Science Concept Investigation (SCI) Shows use theater to promote science. This is not new.. Theatrical forms like stage plays about scientists, chemical demonstration shows that feature spectacular phenomenon, and physical dramatizations (better known as Creative Dramatics) have been used to engage children in science for decades. Fusion Science Theater’s Science Concept Investigation (SCI) Shows are unique in that they combine the aforementioned forms to create shows that are (A) inquiry-based, (B) highly participatory, (C) verifiably educational.
The SCI Shows are designed to be inquiry-based by using the process of investigation as the plot or story. This investigation is launched by an Investigation Question; the answer to this question is the learning objective of the show. Once the Investigation Question is introduced, the rest of the show (including demonstrations and physical modeling) provide the audience with the evidence they need to answer it.
Every element of the SCI Shows invites interaction from the audience. Children volunteer observations, answer questions, participate in call and response, and play the role of atoms or molecules in the Act-It-Out segments that model the show’s fundamental concept. They also vote by ballot to indicate their choice for the answer to the Investigation Question. This embedded assessment allows us to measure the cognitive gains resulting from the show. A pre-and post-show questionnaire measures children’s attitudes and self-efficacy. All of our SCI Shows have a statistically significant impact on children’s concept knowledge, belief that science is interesting, and confidence in their ability to learn science. See our summative evaluation for three SCI Shows on the InformalScience.org site.
The SCI Shows can be presented with simple sets that are easily transported. Three people are required to produce a show—two on stage and one who runs sound and contributes behind-the-scenes support.
Our Science Concept Investigation Shows:
In The Boiling Point two characters, a scientist and a mime assistant, lead an interactive investigation of the investigation question, “What happens to water molecules when the water boils?” The characters introduce models of atoms and molecules, offer possible answers (hypotheses) to the question, ask the children “vote their hypothesis” by marking paper ballots, and perform several demonstrations designed to give the audience the information needed to answer the question. Children are invited to participate in an “Act-It-Out” by donning cardboard “H’s” and “O’s” to perform the “Dance of the Water Molecules,” a kinesthetic model of molecular nature of vaporization. The children are asked to “vote their hypothesis” for a second time before the climax where the answer to the Investigation Question is revealed. Children participate in the show at every stage of the investigative process by making observations, doing hand motions that represent steps of the scientific method, answering questions, and playing the role of water molecules. Assessment of cognitive impact of the show is embedded in the structure of the show.
Run time: 35 minutes.
The Burning Question investigates rates of what affect the rates of combustion to answer the Investigation Question “What makes the Biggest Boom?” Presented as a television game show called “The Question Show,” The Burning Question is performed by show host Marcy Question and the guest scientist, Dr. KaBoom. Segments of the show inspired by the scientific method include “Question of the Day,” “Vote your Prediction,” “The Experiment Zone,” and “Let’s make a Model!” The model features an enactment of the reaction between oxygen and liquid vs. gaseous fuel. The Burning Question also includes the game show theme song and a call and response rap-style song that describes elements necessary for combustion. Assessment is embedded.
Run time: 35 minutes
The Amazing Chemical Circus was Fusion Science Theater’s first attempt at combining the theatrical forms of a stage play, demonstration show, and creative dramatics. It is performed by two actors (the Ringmaster and Squirt) and three teacher/demonstrators who present inquiry-based lessons as the “acts” of a circus. Each act is designed to teach one concept through an Investigation Question, a series of related demonstrations, an Act-It-Out, and Q&A between the teachers, circus characters and children in the audience. The topics taught in the acts are emission spectra (“How to colors come out of atoms?), polymers (What is a polymer?), and combustion (What makes the loudest Boom?). Assessment consists of a questionnaire and concept question about polymers and combustion reactions that are distributed before and after the show.
Run time: 60 minutes
This SCI Demo investigates how the molecular nature of materials affect the material’s “bouncibility.” Children in the audience participate in an Act-It-Out that models the straight-chain and cross-linked polymeric structure of the “Smart/Stupid” demonstration balls. Using this model and associated experiments, they predict the answer to the question, “Which of the balls will bounce higher?” and test to see if they are right in the show’s climax. Pre- and post-lesson assessment is embedded in the show.
Run time: 22 minutes.
In The Glow Show, volunteers from the audience play the role of reactants to model the effect of temperature on the rate of reaction in a Glow Stick. Children use this Act-It-Out to answer the question: (1) What makes a Glow Stick glow brightest? Assessment is embedded.
Run time: 20 minutes