The disciplines of science and art are intertwined in more ways than you can imagine. The benefits of using art to communicate science is articulated beautifully in Communicating Science Concepts Through Art: 21st-Century Skills in Practice by Sandy Buczynski, Kathleen Ireland, Sherri Reed, and Evelyn Lacanienta.
In an article published two weeks ago, Buczynski et al. (2012) explain how it is necessary for the next generation of scientists to communicate using more than words. They explain that the scientists of the future will need to use artistic means of communication that include “illustrating, animating, videography, cartooning, and model building” (Buczynski et al., 2012).
To show how art can be used to reinforce learning in science, they cite the results of their work with students at a college prep academy. Students were taught how to use fundamental art techniques as tools to aid their comprehension of science content.
Buczynski et al. (2012) explain how they and the academy’s art teacher put into practice the five conceptual art strategies identified by Julia Marshall (2010). The academy’s art teacher taught students how to draw, how to observe angles, how to observe positive and negative spaces, and how to observe patterns and textures (Buczynski et al., 2012). Students were also taught how to shade, how to create form and how to apply highlights using colored pencils, graphite pencils, charcoal and ink pens (Buczynski et al., 2012).
The authors then incorporated Marshall’s art strategies into lessons about the human body, the scientific process, science communication through popular culture, and botanical exploration.
Briefly, here are the conceptual art strategies Buczynski et al. (2012) used and how they used them:
- Depiction – Seventh-grade students were asked to apply their new knowledge about “scale, shadow and proportion” (Buczynski et al., 2012) to observe and draw the human body. This strategy was employed to move students away from the usual “stick figure”-type of thinking often observed in science lab notebooks.
- Projection – Students were asked to predict the outcome of a scientific event using hand-drawn images instead of words.
- Reformatting – Utilizing art forms from popular culture, students were asked to reformat scientific content into “a comic book, magazine, advertisement or film” (Buczynski et al., 2012).
- Mimicry – Students were assigned the task of becoming botanists by mimicking how botanists collect information in the field.
- Metaphor/Analogy – Students were asked to create a visual metaphor to describe how the digestive system works.
Buczynski et al. (2012) explain how they evaluated student work and what they learned from implementing each of these strategies. To learn more about their study, visit your local college library to get a copy of their new article or buy this article online for 99¢ from the National Science Teachers Association.
Real-life Science Communicators
This week I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI). As expected, my appreciation for what scientific illustrators do has increased yet again. Scientific illustrators are a significant force in the field of science communication and their contribution to this field knows no bounds. From children’s books, to outdoor sculpture, to magazines, to cultural exchange (take the virtual tour), they make science and the natural world easier to understand through everything they do.
This year the conference theme was Scientific Illustration: Frontiers Past and Future. Featured were presentations about explorers and natural history artists from the past and presentations about how scientific illustration is used and created today in the 21st century.
Learn more about the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators at www.gnsi.org.
Looking for a scientific illustrator to work on a project? Visit Science-Art.com, a resource connecting artists and art buyers in the nature, science and medical community.
The host of the GNSI conference this year was the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). The Illustration Department at SCAD offers a minor in scientific illustration and is doing their part to create the next generation of science communicators. Learn more about this wonderful school and their students at www.scad.edu.
Buczynski, Sandy and Kathleen Ireland, Sherri Reed and Evelyn Lacanienta. 2012. Communicating science concepts through art: 21st-century skills in practice. Science Scope. 35(9): 30-35.
Marshall, Julia. 2010. Five ways to integrate: Using strategies from contemporary art. Art Education. 63(3): 13-19.