Friday, November 4, 2016

INTERPLAY & SCIENCE COMMUNICATION AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL: Becoming the Animal through Use of Creative Forms

TRANSFORMATION OF A CLASSROOM--HOW? These first year college students are fully engaged in body and mind communication information they collected in a homework assignment about animals indigenous to the Emory University's campus. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
Written by Ruth Schowalter, MS Applied Linguistics and Certified InterPlay Leader

InterPlay + Science Communication='s FUN--I'm repeating this mantra regularly, especially when I have the opportunity to teach college students in a science class how to express their data!

This October 2016 signals the third time that I have conducted a two-part storytelling workshop for my husband's first year seminar, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See," using activities from the improvisational system of InterPlay. Each time, I have had the opportunity to refine my facilitation to provide clearer incremental steps to support the students' easeful stepping into the role of an embodied storyteller.

I envision every student finding storytelling "tools" in this workshop that they can adapt to their own personal communication style. My job is to offer ways for them to play around with expanding vocal and physical range as they express scientific information to an audience of one or many. 

In this blog post, I am offering my InterPlay facilitation experience in the form of photos and photo captions. At the end of this post are links to other blog posts I have written about this freshman seminar, as well as other science communication workshops. Enjoy! I appreciate any feedback in the form of comments here or on Facebook.

WHAT IS IMPROVISATION? WHAT IS INTERPLAY? Desks have already been rearranged from rows to a circle around the perimeter of the classroom when students arrive. After being introduced as a certified InterPlay leader, I invite students to define improvisation and how it could relate to science communication. InterPlay, I explain, is an improvisational system that fosters and supports authenticity. I invite the students to always make choices to participate in the InterPlay improvisational activities in a way that feels good to them. Soon they will be asked to use the available space to "create" or "improvise" ideas related to their seminar, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not Know." (photo by Tony Martin)
OUT OF THEIR DESKS AND INTO THEIR BODIES. What does the "whole" communicator  look like when fully engaged--physically, mentally, and emotionally? A simple invitation to stand up, warm up their bodies and then partner with another classmate for leading and following at first brings nervous laughter and then.... (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
THE CLASSROOM TRANSFORMED. Within moments the classroom is electrified as students step into the invitation to "play" with one another. Creative move after creative move appears as leadership alternates back-and-forth between the paired students. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
THE ROLE OF THE PROFESSOR SHIFTS. When the professor participates in these InterPlay activities as Tony Martin (far right) does here, the classroom dynamic shifts with the students.  Students have an opportunity to interact creatively one-to-one with their professor in a give-and-take relationship. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
EXPANDING THEIR METHOD OF EXPLANATION. After warming up physically and vocally "playing" around with telling short nonlinear descriptions, students return to their desks to take turns describing the nature observations they have recorded in their "sit spot journals," a class requirement. During the semester, they must make a minimum of thirty entries from the same "sit spot" on the Emory campus that they have chosen to observe. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
BECOMING THE TREE. Following the activity of describing their "sit spot," students change partners and are asked to stand up in front of their listening partner (or witness). Choosing an animate or inanimate object from their "sit spot," they then "become" it and speak from its perspective. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
DAY 2 OF THE STORYTELLING WORKSHOP--DEVELOPING RAPPORT. What is rapport and how is it created with the listener? We know that our audience is like a mirror reflecting back to us what we ourselves as speakers are creating. This group exercise of leading and following is an excellent way to "embody" that connect between what we "enact" and its impact on others. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
EXPERIENCING NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION. Team "Red Sloth" prepares to move together for this nonverbal exercise. Teammates are asked to assume leadership as the group moves and shifts about the space like a flock of starlings in a murmuration. (photo by Tony Martin)
BODY TO BODY COMMUNICATION. Students experience first hand that communicating effectively without words is possible as each one creates unique movements and other group members follow. The leadership shifts effortlessly as long as a teammate is willing to accept his/her turn when the opportunity accuates. (photo by Tony Martin)
OBSERVATION IS PART OF LEARNING. Team "Red Sloth" observes team "Blue Whale." The process of "embodying" concepts occurs over time and through different practices. Observing others perform activities helps students to integrate their own experiences with the "new" ideas presented. (photo by Tony Martin)

PRESENTING RESEARCH? YES! Does this look like students are having fun? Is any learning going on here? Are both presenter and audience engaged? Is the transference of information occurring? Do you think students are having the opportunity to teach something they know with enthusiasm? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES! (photo by Tony Martin)
WHAT ANIMAL AM I? At the conclusion of our two-part storytelling InterPlay workshops, we gathered in a circle for a guessing game. Each student had researched a different animal indigenous to the Emory campus and had kept their animal "top secret." In this activity, students took turns presenting a behavior and one informational sentence (or hint) about their animal. Everyone repeated the animal behavior and tried to guess the animal. Often several other hints had to be provided before the animal could be identified. The students' enthusiasm, lack of self consciousness, and engaged presence was very rewarding to the professor (Tony Martin) and me, the facilitator.  (photo by Tony Martin)
THE EMORY CAMPUS. Here is the Math and Science Building, the site of our storytelling InterPlay workshops on this sunny fall week in October 2016 on the lovely Emory campus. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
TELLING A STORY FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE! I'm so grateful to these trusting students who allowed themselves to be engaged in improvisational exercises. Here we are embodying a squirrel. Students chose a living animal or inanimate object from their "sit spot" on the Emory University campus to embody in this freshman seminar, "How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See." In the first workshop, I introduced InterPlay babbling and big body stories. I loved seeing the students' confidence grow as they had fun moving from partner to partner. At the end of the class, each student shared what he/she had chosen to embody from his/her sit spot and create a movement for us to repeat. Lots of deer appeared, a fish, two dead trees, a blade of grass, a clam, etc. The movements were inventive and fun to follow!(photo by Tony Martin)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thanks to InterPlay co-founders, Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter for this sneaky deep improvisational system that fosters and supports authentic communication. Deep gratitude to my life partner, Tony Martin, who is an excellent science communicator. He has helped me grow in my communication skills and capacity as an instructor. Thank you for making education and science outreach fun! You inspire me!

Other blogposts about my work with InterPlay and “How to Interpret Behavior You Did Not See”

April 11, 2016

November 6, 2014

Other blogposts on how I use InterPlay for Science Communication and Outreach:

October 2016

March 2016