Book Chapter

From slavery to scientist: Dramatising an historical story to creatively engage learners in resolving STEM problems


The involvement of children in dramatic inquiry, through activities that introduce how scientists and technologists have worked in the past can ‘set-the-scene’ to engage them in practising STEM skills within a problem-solving situation. Historical stories can potentially provide rich, authentic contexts that engage children in imaginatively and creatively STEMbased challenges. In this chapter we describe how a sequence of dramatised activities enabled children to think about scientific and technological issues that were pertinent in the life and work of George Washington Carver (GWC), an American born into slavery. The children worked in-role, as GWC in dramatised inquiry activities, designing their own methods to investigate soil quality and plant growth and to explore how different plant parts might be mashed, ground, dissolved, sieved, mixed and heated to make different products including ink, paints, pastes, creams and drinks. We describe how an Action Research approach was adopted, using a mixed methods to collect the impact data. Data collected included field notes, informal discussions, interviews and questionnaires. Scrutiny of the data suggested that by participating in dramatised activities, learning became more meaningful for the children as they became inquirers through empathising with Carver’s situation as a scientist and technologist. The impact of the creative pedagogy, immersing children in an alternate, historical context, extended the STEM inquiry affordances made available to them. The interventional project not only increased pupils’ engagement, learning about science and generating original ideas but it also demonstrated how teachers could be creative in STEM teaching. Outcomes from the project suggest seven distinctive affordances which can support creative inquiry in STEM learning contexts.

Attached files


McGregor, Deb
Frodsham, Sarah
Deller, Clarysly

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-07-15

“Copyright © 2022. Users may view, print, copy, download and text and data-mine the content, for the purposes of academic research, subject always to the full conditions of use. Any further use is subject to permission from Springer Nature.”

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of From slavery to scientist: Dramatising a historical story to creatively engage learners in resolving STEM problems
This RADAR resource is Part of Children’s creative inquiry in STEM [ISBN: 9783030947231] / edited by Karen Janette Murcia, Coral Campbell, Mathilda Marie Joubert, Sinead Wilson.


  • Owner: Daniel Croft
  • Collection: Outputs
  • Version: 1 (show all)
  • Status: Live
  • Views (since Sept 2022): 334