"Theaterz dont teech uz nuffin'"
by Francis Byrne for remotegoat on 15/10/10

Horrible Science had the difficult task of simultaneously entertaining and enlightening a large group of school students; five or six different schools, 170 children. The timing of the show, mindful of the school calendar, was at 1:30pm the week before most students break up for half-term.

Another difficulty was deciding exactly who Horrible Science wanted its audience to be. There are 5 ways in which i could imagine wanting to take a group to see this educational theatre show:

1. To push high ability students further, giving them access to new scientific concepts and models, providing a platform for the expansion and clarification of these that a school cannot usually provide.
2. To engage pupils with science generally and promote learning.
3. To give a half-term reward for hard work which would also break up the longest - and notoriously, most difficult - academic term.
4. To use the show as a stimulus, setting the scene for a classroom or 'science club' project.
5. A mixture of the above four.

Unfortunately, the show did not cater specifically for any of these potential audiences. It declares itself to be targeted at Key Stage 2, (i.e. Years 5 and 6) the box office stating it to be a 'general science show' advising I check the theatre company's website for further details. This hints at my main problem with the show and its writing; it did not have an educational core. An objection that comes from my teaching of secondary school science. If the show were to model good teaching practice it would have been derived collaboratively by the theatre team, primary teachers and teaching and learning consultants from local LEAs. It would; have chosen a clear focus, have follow-up activities for the classroom, be disseminating good practice in the teaching of science, be addressing common misconceptions in key concepts that KS2 children often bring to Year 7, be assessing teaching and learning outcomes etc etc.

Is this too optimistic an outcome for a theatre show? Too much organisation? Too stressful and difficult to do with the money, time and resources available? Welcome to teaching. The production simply wasn't ambitious enough and teaching and learning was a process that simply wasn't engaged with.

After a slow first half the second was significantly more engaging due the 3-D 'boggle goggles' that brought the AV projections to life. Things - bacteria, pieces of faeces etc - flew out of the screen at you which the children rightly loved, they screamed, laughed, threw their expensive popcorn everywhere.... Most of them enjoyed themselves, the came out smiling, laughing, singing. It was fun. But should schools or students pay £9.00 a ticket - £270.00 for a class of 30 - for fun?

If this lesson were graded by OFSTED (1 = outstanding and 4 = unsatisfactory) the best it could expect would be a grade 3, 'satisfactory'.

Call me 'traditionalist' but what's enjoyment got to do with education? Not a lot according to Horrible Science.

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