If the future of botany education is as uncertain as it appears, how can we ignite excitement and curiosity in young naturalists so they may perhaps become the botanical experts of the future?
Teacher-researcher, Karen Gallas has a suggestion — incorporate art into the biology curriculum.
Knowing that the arts celebrates differences among students instead of pointing them out in a negative light, Gallas (1991) created a research project integrating art activities into a unit about life cycles. This resulted in her students’ successful comprehension of life cycles as demonstrated through student drawings, paintings, poems, reenactments, and stories. Here is how she did it.
Gallas began her life cycles unit by identifying what her students knew about insects and by clarifying what they wanted to learn. She accomplished this during a brainstorming session with students.
She then facilitated their observations of mealworms and caterpillars and their developmental drawings of these wonderful creatures. The 18 eager first graders in her class also reviewed books, studied photographs, and analyzed insect drawings by other artists. Throughout this unit, students shared their artwork with each other, discussed what they were learning, and worked collaboratively to assimilate their new knowledge. The arts experiences Gallas integrated into her unit about life cycles helped students clarify their thoughts about life cycles and allowed them to “recognize the breadth and depth of their knowledge” by demonstrating it in some artistic way (Gallas, 1991).
Gallas’ accomplishments serve as an example of the power of incorporating art across the curriculum. By providing experiences in the arts, she allowed her students to find their voices, articulate their new knowledge, and empowered them to communicate with each other in spite of their socioeconomic, racial, cultural, and learning differences (Gallas, 1991). The act of visualization requires students to observe, compare, discuss, and question, therefore enhancing a student’s ability to think about and to discuss scientific concepts (DeCristofano, 2007).
How can the lessons learned by Gallas be applied to provide young naturalists with a working vocabulary about plants?
Read Gallas’ article and let us know what you think. You are invited to post your comments below.
DeCristofano, Carolyn Cinami. 2007. Visualization: Bridging scientific and verbal literacies. Connect. Volume 21, No. 1 (September/October). Web. <http://cf.synergylearning.org/DisplayArticle.cfm?selectedarticle=666> [accessed 24 Feb 2011]
Gallas, Karen. 1991. Arts as epistemology: enabling children to know what they know. Harvard Educational Review. 61(1): 40 − 51. Web. <http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic33039.files/ArtsAsEpistemology.pdf> [accessed 1 March 2011]