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.
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.
Resources & Links
Resource pages from past workshops:
Improv for Physics at the AAPT winter meeting
Upcoming Workshops at the Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario (STAO) Conference, November 10, 2018:
“Playing with Sound Science”
Sound resonates across the science curriculum and throughout daily life. Please bring your senses, your portable electronic sense-extenders (smartphone, tablet, laptop), and your curiosity and playfulness to this interactive session. Together we will explore patterns underlying sound and music and uncover some powerful ideas in physics along the way.
MISSION IMPROV-ABLE is a wild ride through space combining curriculum content and improv! The experiential and embodied learning engages our young scientists with their passions and connects them to the listener. Working together to survive the mission, they develop self-awareness, relationship skill building, confidence and response inhibition. The student responds more flexibly & spontaneously.
May 12, 2018 at the OAPT (Ontario Association of Physics Teachers) Annual Meeting
Bridging Implicit Physics Boundaries with Inclusive Improv
As physics educators, we must not only challenge our students’ preconceptions about the physical world but also preconceptions about the limits of people’s math and science abilities. Combining tools and techniques from physics education research and improvisational theatre (improv), we will explore strategies to foster community and inclusivity in physics with activities we can use in our classrooms. We will effectively create a camaraderie-filled laboratory to uncover implicit biases and test assumptions underlying day-to-day interactions.
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.