Recently, I had the opportunity to coach a team of students from my school to compete in the Odyssey of the Mind National competition. The long term problem that was tasked to my group of students is Catch us if you can. In this, students are required to create a performance while at the same time using science to solve several task. One dunning task, is the creation of three unique vehicles that are self-propelled. In addition, each toy vehicles is required to activate a physical trap. The track for the vehicle to complete is approximately 6 meters as well. The students tried all forms of toy vehicles ranging from rubber band to a mouse trap. Whats amazing is the knowledge of energy transfer, conversion and types of energy being learnt throughout the journey in these students. The constant trouble shooting allowed the students to learn the boundaries of energy conversion and new creation methods to further improve the consistency of the vehicles.
This made me consider whether art based competition can be a suitable platform to communicate and learn science ideas in children. Does the way in which we teach science determine how students feel about the subject? Kase et. al., (1992) shared that improvised drama can be used as an effective tool for teaching. Through drama, students are able to break away from the traditional method of learning and gain more interest, more value in learning science. In this case, students saw the science through the design of toy vehicles for the competition. Similar findings are shown in Arieli, B. B. (2007) works where drama allowed a more positive classroom environment and help build greater self -esteem in students. Though there are merits in the program, there are constrains as well. A lot of time and effort is placed into the troubleshooting process within the students. It took them approximately 2 months to crystallise the concept of energy conversion and produce three workable products at the end of the day. In class, a lesson such as energy change may take up to at most 2 weeks to learn. But the joy and full comprehension of the concept of energy changes will be better appreciate during the art based competition. This is echoed by the students desire to explore other types of energy changes and design even after the competition.
The competition also requires student to explain how they derive their product, hence another platform to assess student’s understanding and the communication of science. In all, the Odyssey of the Mind competition had certainly gave me a different prospective of students learning and communicating science.
Kase-Polisini, J., & Spector, B. (1992). Improvised Drama: A Tool for Teaching Science. Youth Theatre Journal, 7(1), 15-19.
Arieli, B. B. (2007). The integration of creative drama into science teaching. Kansas State University.
Ødegaard, M. (2003). Dramatic science. A critical review of drama in science education.
Dorion, K. R. (2009). Science through drama: A multiple case exploration of the characteristics of drama activities used in secondary science lessons. International Journal of Science Education, 31(16), 2247-2270.