Media Monday: Arts + sciences = an explosion of creativity

The greatest scientists are artists as well.
—Albert Einstein

In many schools and colleges right now, educators are busily doing demolition work— breaking down old walls between the arts and sciences. Students and teachers are recognizing more and more that the creative process is not that different, no matter what your official academic discipline. Australian educator David Roy calls it a “quiet revolution” happening in classrooms across his continent.

A great example of this art-plus-science trend is happening Wednesday at Arizona State University, where scientists and artists are collaborating on a project called “Science Exposed,” in which scientists and students create diverse projects examining problems in the life sciences through sculpture, dance, and music. For example, in “Sal’s Genetic Tweekery,” dancers explore how salmonella reacts and survives in different environments. The project is led in part by choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Liz Lerman.

Interested in hearing from other educators who are merging arts and sciences education? Take a look at a few recent fun examples here:

Why Teachers Love Using Those OK Go Videos in Class. The massively popular music group is catering to its teacher and student fan base by creating special materials for the classroom in its OK Go Sandbox.

Nashville math teacher Joel Bezaire helps kids understand new concepts by reading aloud from the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, explaining that “The literary hook for this lesson is strong, and kids are really into learning more about primes thanks to the context of the story. The lessons don't always line up this nicely, but so much of what Christopher [the protagonist] writes about regarding mathematics is about flexibility with numbers that it's a really nice match.”

David Roy talks about how teachers across Australia are Integrating Arts and Science in the Classroom, saying, “If we truly want to encourage students in Science, STEAM and not STEM should potentially be the way forward. Only then might we have creative scientific solutions to the challenges our societies face.”

In a Popular Science article last fall, we get a look at Kari Byron, whose work explores How Art Could Help Kids Study Science. Byron says that “Science is a creative field, it’s just more organized. . . . When you take your creativity and you throw your energy into it, it almost works like a drop in a pond, it radiates outward, and creativity begets other creativity.”

Shelley Sperry
Sperry Editorial


Media Monday: Zoom in on culture with Google

Today’s Media Monday is for parents and kids looking for a way to expand and enrich their learning about art, history, archaeology, the natural world, and that big mishmash that makes up our shared human culture. Google Arts and Culture is both an online site and an app for phones and tablets (both iOS and Android) that brings a VAST collection of art, historical and natural objects, museums, parks, and more to viewers through high-resolution images, sound, and 360-degree virtual reality video.

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The idea is to allow learners to get as close as possible to the process of creating batik cloth in Ghana or Leonardo da Vinci’s engineering creations. We can see art, architecture, and historical objects that we might never have the chance to look at and learn about in person, and through these superb images and sounds—all accompanied by expert narration by historians, scientists, and museum curators—we can see much more than we would be able to see even if we were at the museums ourselves.

Kids interested in art can almost touch Mary Cassatt’s brush strokes and colors, and kids interested in dinosaurs can watch The Giraffatitan come to life, as its skeleton is covered with flesh and skin and it begins to walk around Berlin’s Museum of Natural History.

The thing that struck me most when I was exploring the website and app myself is the advantage of the zoom feature. If I were at the London Natural History Museum’s exhibit on butterflies in real life, I couldn’t get close enough to really see the changing colors of the wings the way I can by zooming in on my screen. And as someone who lives in Washington, DC, with easy access to the Smithsonian’s amazing collections, I have to admit that the advantages of using this tool are nothing to sneeze at: no crowds, no waiting, you can stay as long as you like at each exhibit—and they’re all open 24/7.

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Each week new experiments and collections are featured. The Voces Oral History Project, based at the University of Texas, is featured this week. The project documents and creates a better awareness of the contributions of U.S. Latinos and Latinas of the WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War generations.

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Clearly, this will send you down some fun rabbit holes, so allow plenty of time the first time you and your kids dig in. Yes, I did look at the life story of a pickle—I’m not ashamed of it! I especially enjoyed the collections of London’s Museum of Natural History and exploring the art of China’s Forbidden City. For fun, I also watched YouTube creator Ingrid Nilsen talking about the history of ripped jeans and other purposely tattered clothing that goes back to 15th-century Switzerland. And as a huge fan of volcanoes, caverns, and all things geological, one of my absolute favorite collections is a group of videos of park rangers offering guided tours of U.S. National Parks, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

For a little more context about Google Arts and Culture, check out the Library Journal’s review.

Shelley Sperry