Sometimes the creativity in the world just makes me chuckle. It happened this week as I reviewed the materials for the 2017 Dance Your Dissertation Contest. Yes, dance.
For most of us who managed the dissertation process, any dancing that occurred was at a post-defense party at which we celebrated our academic survival. But the folks at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have other ideas. Their question is, what would the content of your dissertation look like if you danced it? It is answered through videos that must include the researcher (no cheating with Dance Department colleagues!) and should help the audience understand the content of the dissertation. Hard to picture? Take a look at this winner from 2014. If you are intrigued, a quick YouTube search of “Dance Your Dissertation” will glean more examples.
You might be thinking, “That’s clever, but my students aren’t writing dissertations. They are in third grade. Or high school.” But the notion of expressing one discipline using another has many applications. Thinking about how a scientific principle might be acted, danced, played, or painted can help students think about it in new and complex ways. It also can help you assess the depth of their understanding.
But wait, as happens so often when dealing with creativity, there’s more! There is evidence to suggest that highly creative scientists are likely to have a range of avocations, particularly in the arts. Helping young scientists look up from their data and think about varied ways to express themselves may both make their lives more joyful and pave the way for more interesting science as well. Clearly some folks around the world have figured this out. The International Science Center in Singapore sponsors a Science Drama Competition in which students from Singapore, China, Malaysia and Philippines compete in a drama competition infusing Science with theater. I couldn’t find video from that competition but here’s something similar from India to inspire you. Perhaps we need something similar in the U.S. What might your students present this year?