ImprovPHYSation workshops, led by Nancy Watt and Carolyn Sealfon, combine best practices in improv and physics education to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning and teaching.
Improv is the art form of spontaneous play, creativity and collaboration. Using the fundamental rule of “Yes, and”, the inherently positive rule guides players to agree with the reality that has been created on stage and then add their own contribution to the scene or idea.

Improv allows for an intuitive knowledge and spontaneity that too rarely is acknowledged in the world of STEM. Playful thought, imagination, wonder and curiosity, while fundamental to the rigors of scientific inquiry, often get shrouded in a climate and culture of competition and poor communication. We aim to create environments that allow all curious humans to thrive.

Albert Einstein spoke about the importance of combinatory play. This is the process of combining resources, information and inspiration across different disciplines to create original ideas. As Einstein put it, “Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”
Combining improv with the world of STEM has opened up ideas, innovation and powerful teams.

-Nancy Watt

People learn by doing and playing. I’ve seen this demonstrated over and over, as a physics professor at large public universities, as past Associate Director of Science Education at Princeton University, in various workshops from professional development to performing and martial arts, and through an abundance of peer-reviewed research. If we want to foster scientific creativity, effective collaboration, and comfort with exploring the unknown, improv offers the most powerful toolbox I know.

-Carolyn Sealfon

Most recent workshop:
Saturday, January 6, 2018 in San Diego at the AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers) Winter Meeting

W09: Improv for Physics

In this playful laboratory, we will experiment with applications of improvisational theater (improv) to enhance communication, collaboration, and creativity in physics education at all levels. As learners, teachers or scholars, we do our best work when our minds and bodies, thoughts and emotions are all working together like the sum of aligned vectors. In physics, we sometimes focus so much on people’s valuable mental and analytical skills (the cognitive domain), we can neglect other vital interconnected aspects of ourselves (such as our emotions, the affective domain, and our bodies, the psychomotor domain). Learning involves replacing fear of the unknown with enjoyable exploration. Using tools and techniques from improv, we will investigate strategies to connect people in uncovering solutions to problems, such as nonverbal body language, perceptions of status, team building, listening, stress reduction, overcoming inhibition, and fostering growth mindset. We can explore insights from positive psychology and martial arts rooted in Eastern philosophy, such as the concept of “flow” or “the zone”, that state when one is joyfully immersed in energized focus. All are welcome to join us and challenge assumptions in this camaraderie-filled workshop that is sure to deliver “aha” moments. 

At Johns Hopkins, improv class teaches science-minded students to think on their feet

Engineers have lots of experience with lines, from the structural lines of buildings to the lines of code in software. But a new class at Johns Hopkins University is teaching them about other lines—the kind that might be tossed their way in an improvisational comedy scene.