It may be winter, but there is no need to wait for Spring to integrate plants and art in the classroom. All one needs to do is follow the example set by biology teacher Pat Stellflue, art teacher Marie Allen and botany professor D. Timothy Gerber. In their paper Art & Science Grow Together, they explain how they created a project that placed plants and botanical illustration high on the agenda for an entire school year.
In a program they call “Plants, Pots and Paints”, Stellflue et al. (2005) integrated the plant sciences with the arts in their work with fourth and fifth grade students. On the science side, their program addressed plant structure and function, growth stages, survival strategies and reproductive strategies. On the art side, their program focused on different media and art techniques. Key to this program was a pottery project (clay pot construction) and drawing (botanical illustration). The disciplines of botany and art came together in a series of hands-on activities in which growing, drawing, painting and dissecting (Stellflue et al., 2005) were the focus.
Using tulips, crocus, iris and daffodils as their primary study subjects, students learned about growth stages, form, function and drawing while planting and growing spring flowers and illustrating their observations.
After a full year of integrating botany and botanical art, Stellflue et al. (2005) observed that students ended the year with stronger observation skills and an enhanced understanding of plants. This became clear to the authors through the increasingly informative illustrations students created (Stellflue et al., 2005). The authors also observed students taking better care of their plants because they had built the clay pots and drainage trays themselves.
Art & Science Grow Together is available online and can be purchased for 99¢.
Stellflue, Pat and Marie Allen, D. Timothy Gerber. 2005. Art and science grow together. Science & Children. 43(1): 33-35
Resources about bulbs, seeds, plants and schoolyard gardens