In my role as Science Helping Teacher for the Surrey School District, I have the privilege of visiting classrooms and seeing some amazing teaching and student learning. Recently I was able to see a grade 1 class engaging in Story Workshop.
I won't be able to do justice to this activity, but the basic idea is to lay out some materials on tables for students to play with. The open play time is fairly unstructured except that students know their play is leading to a story. They are encouraged to play for as long as they like to develop a story using the characters and materials on the tables. When they are ready, students begin to write and illustrate the stories they invented during play.
My first thought on seeing Story Workshop was, "Why can't we do something like this for science?" Open play leading to writing about scientific concepts. So, in my typical professional manner, I am stealing this idea and adapting it. Let me introduce Science Workshop.
My intent is to change as little as possible. The routine of Story Workshop is wonderful and the students are well-versed in the process. All I really want to do is infuse science into the play time.
One problem I found immediately was that science "play" tends to be (and perhaps needs to be) more structured. We want students to be changing variables, establishing controls and collecting data. Hard to do in open play time. But, after leading some workshops last week, I think I am starting to see what this might look like.
Here's an example. One of the workshops last week was about using picture books to teach science. I shared an inquiry activity using Sheep in a Jeep to explore the grade 2 Big Idea: Forces influence the motion of an object. There was a variety of materials on the tables and teachers were asked to re-create a scene from the book. The next stage would be to ask what other adventures the sheep could get into. Participants would use the materials to create a new story for the Sheep in a Jeep.
Basically the Story Workshop framework is the same. But the materials chosen relate to the science concepts being learned in the classroom. Students would still write stories. It is certainly not going to be technical scientific writing or a lab report. But the new adventures would undoubtedly involve forces and motion. Are the sheep launched from a giant slingshot? Parachute of a cliff? Ride a roller coaster? Orbit a planet? Pulled by a giant magnet?
And as students share their stories, they can be explaining what forces are involved to influence motion. Extending their understanding to new scenarios. Science woven into story.