<%-- Page Title--%> Education <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 141 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

February 13, 2004

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Teaching Science Through Theatre


The old school definition of education in our country was simple: learn it, or fail. The end result was probably a more disciplined generation, but what about the children who just cannot not learn? For those children who need extra attention, or who cannot pick things up by just reading books and listening to lectures, "learn it or fail," is just not feasible. Although issues such as these are not as widely recognised in Bangladesh for a variety of reasons -- the primary one being that education is still not a universal phenomenon and the literacy rate is still extremely low -- steps are being taken slowly to ensure that all children are able to comprehend and adapt to what they are learning at schools. Such an initiative was taken by the British Council during the last week of January when they invited educationist Steve Masure to work with the children of four different schools in Dhaka city.

Founder of the Floating Point Science Theatre, Steve Masure has dedicated fifteen years to improving children's comprehension of science all over the world. To date, he has worked with over 7000 schools. His teaching methods and techniques developed by his team at the Floating Point Science Theatre are used in a number of different schools, including the four schools that he worked with in Dhaka.

"For one week we explored different teaching and learning techniques and their effects on the students" says Masure. "At the end we linked it all together and the students worked hard on putting together a play."

The play, held at the British Council Auditorium on January 30th , featured all the students from the four different schools. They chose to focus on environmental science as the theme for their play, which was titled "Save Our World," or Amader Prithibi Bachao. Students enacted the roles of elements of nature, such as trees, rivers and soil, to show how human beings pollute the environment, and how it affected the world. In one scene, students acted as trees and talked about how humans cut them down, therefore harming themselves and their own environment by killing plants that take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. They also likened pollution to evil witches. They gave clear and concise explanations on the rules of science in a way which is easily comprehensible to children. The play culminated with a song and dance by all the children.

"The idea is to combine science and theatre, which happens to be my two passions," says Masure. "I want to make science fun -- make learning in general fun. Floating Point Science Theatre works towards showing science in visuals, pictures, etc…by using mimes and theatre. Since we do not use tools and equipment, it is even better for the children because they have to use their imagination to take into account all the different properties, therefore having to learn properly, instead of just memorising. Science is always learned in a certain context. A story gives things character, makes it more real. Emotional content also makes it real for children and students to make science accessible for the human mind."

When asked how they felt about the "different" technique of learning, the students' responses were positive.

"We learned much more and understood everything much better with the science theatre technique," says a student. “It was more interesting. It was a system that made it more real. It may not always be possible, but we should try to incorporate it in our regular classes and educational system."

Although it may always not be possible, as the student admitted, this simple wish should be taken into account by the education system of Bangladesh. Better educational techniques and facilities mean a brighter future for the younger minds of today.

It is easy for some people to learn to memorise certain formulas and theories when dealing with science, but is that enough? Even more importantly, is that what education should be based on? Learning by memorising without fully comprehending the meaning is never enough. The importance of education lies in the fact that students must understand what they are learning. Together, Steve Masure and the British Council are taking steps towards a more child friendly educational system in Bangladesh. They are planning on giving teachers in different schools in Bangladesh lessons on how to make learning "fun and more accessible" for students, therefore providing Bangladesh with happier students who go to school wanting to learn.



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