Monday, February 7, 2022

Synchronizing Art and Science Activities -- A Guest Post from Bernie Zubrowski

Bernie Zubrowski is an artist and educator whose work at the Boston Children's Museum (including the "Bubbles" and "Raceways" exhibitions) continues to influence museums around the world.

Recently Bernie created a website that shares ideas about synchronizing art and science activities, and he was kind enough to share his thoughts on the subject in the guest post below:

In recent years, the role of the arts in education has gained increasing attention. Some educators have argued for the inclusion of art with STEM subjects now promoting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math). There have been a number of long-term studies that have established the benefits of more art activities in the school day justifying this inclusion. 

Some current approaches integrate art into science or science into art.  A quick internet survey of activities that integrate art and science indicates insufficient time is allotted for art skills, expression, and the development of scientific concepts.  A report by Hetland and Winner (2001) summarized various research on the impact on students learning regarding the transfer of skills and knowledge from the arts to other subjects. Significantly, they advocate for art education as a separate undertaking in itself, because "The primary justification for art education should remain the intrinsic importance of the arts and the skill that they develop." (p. 15).  Likewise, science educators recognize that an in-depth investigation is necessary for students to fully grasp basic concepts.
These considerations lead to a need for an in-depth approach, where skills and concepts can be developed in an authentic manner while there is still an integral connection between art and science. One possible approach is to explore and investigate a common phenomenon, artifact, or organism, where there are parallel synchronized investigations in the art and science class. Light and shadows, mirrors, mobiles, or pond organisms, among others, are examples where there can be synchronized investigations. 

Leonardo DaVinci is an exemplar of this approach. In Walter Isaacson’s biography of DaVinci, he points out that at times DaVinci gave his full attention to exploring phenomena such as air and water movement, without regard to its artistic import. However, these explorations would later shape how he painted natural scenes.

This synchronized approach would have a parallel structure where students in science classes explore the properties of light by developing physical science concepts, and in art classes by exploring the properties of light to create drawings, paintings, and sculptures that express their affective reaction. The explorations in art can result in a personal connection to the phenomenon, adding to the students’ motivation. In science, the investigation can lead to a deeper understanding of a part of the natural world.

In other parts of the website, there is an extended and in-depth development of a rationale for this approach and its pedagogical implications. There are also outlines of investigations showing how Art and Science activities can be synchronized. 

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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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