Physicists from Imperial have collaborated with The Place Dance Conservatoire to create a series of educational dance videos about atoms and molecules (@imperialcollege)

Imperial College London artist Geraldine Cox and physicists from the Centre for Cold Matter have partnered with dance artists from The Place Dance Conservatoire to form a creative and engaging way of explaining physical theories about atoms and molecules through dance. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) Andrew Gemant award-winning artist is passionate about sharing her love for physics with the freedom of expression accompanying different forms of media.

The Andrew Gemant award came with a grant to be used to further the public communication of physics. Geraldine said:

“I’ve always wanted to experiment with dance and contacted The Place Dance Conservatoire, as I’m a fan of their work.” The dance project is a development of the series of atom workshops for children and families she created with researchers from Imperial’s Centre for Cold Matter.

A creative way of learning

Andy Brittain Secondary school teacher

“I really like the dances idea. This would be a good link into physics for some of our students. I will be putting it forward as a joint venture with our drama department next term.” 

Initially aimed at children aged 7-11, the series of 6 dance videos encourages participants to explore the behaviour of atoms and molecules through dance after hearing a short explanation from a physicist. Topics include Brownian motion, atomic spectra and the vibrations and rotations of a water molecule. The goals are to introduce important ideas about atoms using movement exploration, allowing children to learn in a physical way; and to encourage creativity and imagination by highlighting the cross-curricular links between art and science.

Early feedback from teachers indicates that the audience is likely to grow to include secondary school students.

Primary school teacher Paul Tyler said:

“The content is very well explained and the range of scientists delivering the explanations is brilliant. Dance is such a clever way of letting children explore the different concepts and it is wonderfully delivered by the dancers. I would definitely use the videos in class to explain the different atomic concepts and let children explore them through dance. I think primary school teachers will really enjoy using this resource.”

Secondary school teacher Andy Brittain said:

“I really like the dances idea. This would be a good link into physics for some of our students. I will be putting it forward as a joint venture with our drama department next term.”

A dance artist demonstrating molecular movement
Dance artist Akeim Toussaint Buck. Photo credit: Alice Underwood

A fun way to consolidate knowledge

Before reaching the fun dance segment in which participants can bring to life their new knowledge of atoms, there is a short and simple lesson. Each answers an essential question such as ‘how big is an atom?’, ‘where do atoms come from?’ and ‘why do we think they exist?'.

Physicist explaining atoms and molecules
Physicist Isabel Rabey explores the periodic table. Photo credit: Alice Underwood

Then dancers from The Place invite participants to investigate the idea through dance, explaining and demonstrating movement and breathing. Each episode comes with embedded music to accompany movement with an additional Spotify playlist for further exploration. Geraldine highlights that the videos can be used at home or at school: “Teachers can simply play them or adapt them to their teaching plans”.

Geraldine plans to develop more projects with dance for themes such as temperature, magnetism and the Sun. The videos are available to view on The Place's website.

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