|Quick Links:||Beginning||Purpose||Approach||Present and Future|
|In February of 1991, a group of graduate students in the Physics and Astronomy department at Michigan State University began discussing the possibility of presenting public shows made up of science demonstrations. In April 1991, a group of about 20 students participated in "Science Day at the Meridian Mall" which, in four short hours, attracted nearly one thousand people. The positive response from this appearance was overwhelming, and resulted in numerous invitations to schools and community events. This led to formal organization of the group, the election of officers, consultation with faculty members, and a search for starting funds. ST received a supplemental NSF grant in the summer of 1991 and immediately began designing and building its demonstration inventory. One year later, Science Theatre participated at another Science Day at the Mall; this time, with an array of exciting demonstrations designed and implemented by the talents and creativity of its 35 new members.
Today, Science Theatre has grown to include scientists and engineers from many branches. The group has developed into separate department groups of Biology, Chemistry, and Phyiscs & Astronomy.
| Rather than trying to entice students to pursue careers in science, ST focuses on the issue of science literacy and attempts to instill an enthusiasm and appreciation for science.
The goals of Science Theatre's school visits are:
|Science Theatre presentations take on two forms: modular, self-contained stage shows and coordinated "hands-on" demonstrations. Each encourages a high level of interaction between the audience and the presenters. The stage presentations are designed specifically to involve the audience at every possible opportunity. Further, the tone of the presentations is purposely kept informal, encouraging the audience to ask questions and participate throughout the program. During hands-on experiments, the audience actually performs the demonstrations themselves with the guidance of ST members. The ST philosophy is that the audience benefits more from interaction and involvement than from passively watching even the most exciting demonstrations. Often, this approach significantly reduces an individual's fear of "doing science", and awakens an innate natural curiosity.
Another important aspect of Science Theatre's presentations is the unique grouping of demonstrations into thematic modules. For example, the stage presentations are a grouping of carefully chosen experiments which, when presented together, impress upon the audience a single unifying concept or answer a specific question such as "what is pressure?". When an event is scheduled, the teachers or community leaders are contacted by the presenters who have been assigned to their show so that they may work together to pick which topics and demonstrations best suits their needs. Although many of the modules involve similar equipment, the emphasis is adjusted for the intended audience. In this way, ST creates coordinated presentations which engross, entertain, and enlighten.
Each Science Theatre presentation focuses not only on science, but on the scientists as well. The ST membership is as diverse as it is talented, and as a result provides positive role models for underepresented groups in the community. It is emphasized that ST members are students as well as scientists, which eliminates barriers. Talking to a professor of physics can be quite intimidating for a seasoned student, much less for someone who may have little or no scientific background!
|The majority of Science Theatre activities were originally directed at elementary, middle, and high schools. As the project became more popular, it was noticed that appearances were in much higher demand by elementary and middle schools. This may be due to several factors. Many elementary and middle school teachers are less experienced with science and do only limited hands-on activities in class. Also, many schools do not have access to the equipment that Science Theatre can bring. Science Theatre makes available their inventory for teachers who are interested in science but do not have the resources to do particular demonstrations.
The interest in or dislike of science starts well before high school students take their first chemistry or physics course; therefore, it is important to focus attention on the students of the K-8 system. To reach these students, Science Theatre attempts to visit schools, summer camps, science museums, and any other venue where young minds gather.
Since its founding, Science Theatre has:
|Science Theatre has earned significant response to its efforts, including several awards, special recognition, and invitations to participate in special events. Some of these awards include:|
|Safety, of course, is one of Science Theatre's primary concerns. For this reason, Science Theatre reserves the right to postpone or cancel any demonstration or any part of a demonstration that the ST event staff deems inappropriate or in any way unsafe.|
ACCIDENT PROTOCOL: A sheet outlining what to do should an accident occur is available in the Science Theatre office and provided to all presenters. Part of this sheet is an accident report form, which will be used to list parties injuried and the course of action taken.
If medical care beyond what can be administered on-site is required, then medical attention should be sought at the following places:
|Present and Future|
|In 2009, Science Theatre is comprised of a few dozen student volunteers, with help from a handful of faculty members and staff. An elected Board of Directors meets regularly to determine appearance dates, content, and to oversee demonstration development. Although ST enjoys the support of many of the departments in the College of Natural Science, the organization is run by the students who are willing to volunteer their time and talent in order to make our vision work.
In 2009, Science Theatre will continue to perform for as wide and large an audience as possible, to attract its broadest and most diverse membership yet with participation from all colleges of Michigan State University, and to overhaul and organize its demonstration catalog of nearly two decades worth of documents and materials.
|Acknowledgments and Thanks|
|Science Theatre has come into being solely through the support of others. The following is a listing of many of those supporters who have provided us with funding, supplies, advice, or room to work.
Michigan State University
MSU Abrams Planetarium
Computer Science and Engineering Division
College of Engineering
Physics and Astronomy Department
Division of Science and Mathematics Education
Center for Fundamental Materials Research
Center for Sensor Materials
Office of University Outreach
Office of Receycling and Waste Management
National Science Foundation
Fox Custom Glass
We'd also like to thank all the Science Theatre members, both past and present