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Role-Playing, Inquiry and Food Chains

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Originally appears in the Fall 2016 issue

It’s spring in an urban neighborhood in Seattle and I am attempting to organize 25 very energetic 3rd grade students into an environmental role-playing game. For many of the students English is a second language and they are also primarily from low income households. “So! Yusur, Ahmed, Lacy and Tyler, you guys are the Phytoplankton!,” I smile and give them their bright green pictures. “Don’t move!” The rest of the class clamors for their roles, several are disappointed at not getting to be the Phytoplankton at first, so we negotiate. The students who were willing to be a bit more patient for this round are the scientific observers. They are busy recording sounds, taking pictures and writing notes about their observations of our simulated North Pacific ecosystem.

AT THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL where I teach, the majority of students are from low-income households in which half are learning English as a second language. I created a game to solidify scientific concepts using inquiry improvisation and theater. Many of my students have very little exposure to science and by integrating two subject areas, I am able to allow students to play and learn. Students can role-play different organisms in an ecosystem and act out their interconnectedness through theater and improvisation. It is a fun, engaging and effective way to increase understanding and can be adapted for all age ranges.

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Autumn Doss is a National BoardCertified teacher in Seattle, Washington working primarily in elementary schools with low-income populations. She has 10 years of experience and absolutely loves her job as an educator.

Notes
1. Bradford, M. & Schleich, J. (2012). Residential energy-efficient technology adoption, energy conservation, knowledge, and attitudes: An analysis of European countries. In Special Section: Fuel Poverty Comes of Age: Commemorating 21 Years of Research and Policy, Energy Policy, 49, 616-628.
2. Barthwal, S. & Mathur, V. (2012). Teachers’ Knowledge of and Attitude Toward Wildlife and Conservation. Mountain Research & Development, 32(2), 169-175.
3. Guzzetti, B. & Bang, E. (2011). The Influence of Literacy-Based Science Instruction on Adolescents’ Interest, Participation, and Achievement in Science. Literacy Research and Instruction, 50, 44-67.
4. Zhao, Y., & Hoge, J. D. (2005). What elementary students and teachers say about social studies. The Social Studies, 96(5), 216-221. Goldston, D. (2005). Elementary Science: Left Behind? Journal of Science Teacher Education, 16 (3), 185-187.
5. Newman, W. et al. (2004). Dilemmas of Teaching Inquiry in Elementary Science Methods. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 15(4), 257-279.
6. Mangrubang, F. (2004). Preparing elementary education majors to teach science using an inquiry-based approach: the full option science system. American Annals of the Deaf, 149(3), 290-303.
7. Kollmuss, A. & Agyeman, J. (2002). Mind the gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? Environmental Education Research, 8(3), 239-260.
8. Planet Earth: Episode 9, Shallow Seas https://vimeo.com/123695413
9. Guzzetti, B. & Bang, E. (2011). The Influence of Literacy-Based Science Instruction on Adolescents’ Interest, Participation, and Achievement in Science. Literacy Research and Instruction, 50, 44-67.
10. Kollmuss, A. & Agyeman, J. (2002). Mind the gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? Environmental Education Research, 8(3), 239-260.

From: Elementary
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