Students engage with physics and reach for the stars

Young people created cosmic performances and gave star turns in a dance workshop aimed at helping them to learn about the wonders of the universe.

Dancing like the stars

Students aged between 12 and 16 worked with astronomers from the University of Portsmouth and professional dancers to choreograph routines interpreting scientific topics like galaxies, gravity and dark energy.

The Dance the Universe workshop at Priory School in Southsea was designed by the University of Portsmouth’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) to engage young people with physics. The participants from Portsmouth and the surrounding area also learned about cosmic topics through a variety of talks.

The workshop was open to all young people but started as a possible way to mitigate the fact that female participation in physics drops dramatically during the teen years. Only a fifth of physics students are women beyond the age of 16, despite previous good performance.

A report from the Institute of Physics shows that despite girls performing as well as boys in physics at GCSE, only 1.9% of girls choose A-level physics, compared to 6.5% of boys, while 44% of schools send no girls to A-level physics at all.

Students learn through dance

University of Portsmouth astrophysicist and former ballet dancer Dr Violeta Gonzalez-Perez received funding from the Royal Astronomical Society to run the workshop.

She said: “We wanted to encourage participants to explore physics from a totally different perspective, learning more about their chosen scientific topic and really engaging with the concepts through movement. But of course, just as important was providing them with a fun and confidence-boosting challenge.”

She added: “At the end of the workshop, I was really impressed with how much science the students had learnt, and they really seemed to enjoy themselves too.”

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