Does the Art Have to Be Good, Revisited

So, I’ve been reflecting on my use of the arts to teach biology over the past two years.

My goal is for students to learn the science, not for them to become good artists of any sort. And I can’t teach the arts or design to them beyond the ways in which those arts or design are part of my own training.

"Max contrast Brain MRI 131058 rgbce" by Nevit Dilmen (talk) - Own work.

“Max contrast Brain MRI 131058 rgbce” by Nevit Dilmen (talk) – Own work.

I like the use of the arts in learning. The art that’s created doesn’t have to be good art because it isn’t ever presented. For example, students can act out transport through xylem and phloem (the vascular tissue of plants), bring props, include music that’s meaningful to them, and use movement and each other to embody a process that is normally challenging to understand. New, smart scientific questions get asked and answered through experimentation using movement. There’s joy in this learning. And rigor. Shouldn’t these two always go together? If a dance or theatre professor co-taught this exercise, it might be presentable, but otherwise it’s not. Other examples of this type of learning include having students write haikus to gain experience expressing Newtonian physics in their own words, or scientific illustration to encourage close observation.

When the art is integral to the presentation of science, such as the theatre and design aspects of conference-style presentations or scientific presentations to a general audience, student presentations can be greatly improved with the help of some outside resources (acting for science videos – https://stemtosteamihe.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/act-like-you-mean-it/, Edward Tufte’s books – http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/).

Aside from scientific presentations, I’m not so sure that I like the use of creative projects as a way to express science learning or communicate science when some of the students lack an arts/design background. The students with formal artistic training can produce really great things, pieces that show rigor from both a scientific and artistic perspective. Those who don’t have that background tend to create pieces that are weak in both fields, suggesting that the science hasn’t been learned or explored sufficiently. Perhaps that’s because the challenge of creating real art is too great and therefore distracting. Creative assignments for those students may do them a real disservice. They could have spent that effort building science skills instead.

Those are my musings for today. Let me know if you think I should change my mind!

 

Getting the Word Out

Here’s a link to a short article by the Engine Institute, Inc. that mentions my presentation at the New England Faculty Development Conference: http://theengineinstitute.org/moving-from-stem-to-steam

"Eupatorium cannabinum Sturm4" by Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm) - Figure from Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen at http://www.biolib.de. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eupatorium_cannabinum_Sturm4.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Eupatorium_cannabinum_Sturm4.jpg.

“Eupatorium cannabinum Sturm4” by Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm) – Figure from Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen at http://www.biolib.de

I strongly encourage you to check out the work of the Engine Institute, which aims to foster cross-fertilization of art and science in some pretty innovative ways. Their Executive Director is the fabulous China Blue Wong (http://www.chinablueart.com). I hope to feature her here soon.

 

More Me Too

Just a short post to add to my earlier post on the me-too nature of STEAM. I came across a very nice set of slides on STEAM in K12 from a group of educators in Hawai’i (http://standardstoolkit.k12.hi.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/steamwebinar_pdmaterials_203.pdf). They mention one other version of STEAM: STEAM GLASS. The GLASS part of this term refers to Geography, Language Arts, Social Studies.

So, that makes this acronym the second to refer to Social Studies and the third to refer to Language Arts! I present these acronyms so that you might consider other types of integration to create holistic learning experiences at the university level. And it reminds me that I need to write a post about glass blowing…

Glass blowing at the Spanish village art center (Jon Sullivan)

Glass blowing at a Spanish village art center (Jon Sullivan)

Tropical STEAM

Warm breezes. White sand beaches. Rain forest. Tiny frogs that sing you to sleep.

All of this could be the setting for your adventures in collaborative research in art and science this January. The week-long visit to Puerto Rico is run by biologist Dr. Saúl Nava (http://saulnava.com) and visual artist Ms. Stephanie Dowdy-Nava (http://stephaniedowdynava.com), co-founders of the ART + BIO Collaborative (http://www.artbiocollaborative.com). How do you think travel influences art/science research?

Discover_Puerto_Rico_U.S.A.,_WPA_poster_-_park

Discover Puerto Rico U.S.A., WPA poster, ca. 1938

In addition to their travel-study course, the Collaborative organizes art/bio events that often include a public education/science communication component. This organization interests me because its goals align quite nicely with my interests – they aim to build collaboration, develop art+science curricula, and promote a cross-disciplinary, holistic approach to discovery in settings as varied as research labs, studios and public spaces.

Me too!

The idea of STEAM has broad appeal.  So broad, in fact, that lots of other disciplines seem to want in too.

Check out this list of acronyms.  Why does the field of education have so many acronyms?!

STREAM brings in Language Arts in form of  “wRiting” or Reading (http://smartregion.org/2011/04/from-stem-to-stream/http://www.journal-advocate.com/ci_23625741/stem-at-center-stem-steam-and-streamhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/imagine/201103/stem-steam-stream-writing-essential-component-science-education). But weren’t reading and writing essential components of the practice of science anyway? Perhaps they aren’t always included in K12 STEM, but they certainly should be.

Then there’s ST2REAM.  ST2REAM includes reading/language arts again, plus thematic instruction (http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/10/24/09wesson.h32.html). I kind of like the idea of thematic instruction, but I’m concerned that if we add any more angles the science will get diluted. Thematic courses may be a good fit for Interdisciplinary Studies departments.

STEAMIE incorporates “Include Everyone” (http://www.iste.org/store/product?ID=2119). Inclusion is good.

STEMM specifies medicine (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-leadership/wp/2013/05/20/tips-for-hiring-stemm-talent-into-government/). Lots of K12 school districts across the United States have STEMM programs, and the federal government seems to be using this term in some cases.

In STEMSS the second (or first?) S stands for Social Studies (http://www.uwlax.edu/conted/stem/stemssprograms.html). Did you know that there’s a society for the social studies of science? http://www.4sonline.org  Interesting stuff, and a somewhat novel combination of disciplines.

Let’s not forget STEAM where A=Architecture (http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/ready_setwait_stem_or_is_it_steam) or SEA,  which now stands for Science, Economics, and Arts (http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrydoss/2013/09/17/the-innovation-curriculum-stem-steam-or-sea/).

I’ve also seen STEAME where the E stand for Entertainment, but for the life of me I can’t find a reference for it.

The Genius Of Architecture Rewarding At Once The Science And The Practice Of The Art by William Brodie, located in the Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh

The Genius Of Architecture Rewarding At Once The Science And The Practice Of The Art by William Brodie, located in the Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh (Stefan Schäfer, Lich)

This variety of attempts to join other disciplines with STEM reflects a genuine interest in the zeitgeist in the re-integration of knowledge. I suspect that it also reflects the fact that research funds are extremely tight all over –  if funding isn’t available in your own discipline, maybe you can find it in someone else’s!

WHO ARE YOU?

Image

Hermann Berghaus, Map of the World in star projection, 1880. This star projection is a special kind of a map projection.

I have readers from more than 35 countries. I’m quite curious about who you are. Are you involved in education? K12 or is it higher ed? Are you a scientist? An engineer? An artist? What brings you to this blog? What are you doing to implement STEAM in your work? This week’s post is about you! I look forward to your responses. (This is also a chance for you to network, so do share!)

Origami Origami

Origami authentically merges art and design with mathematical theory, algorithms, and technology. Math is central to learning in STEM, and is a language shared by STEM, art and design (http://cjvrose.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/stem-to-steam-report.pdf).

Origami artist Dr. Robert J. Lang of Alamo, California, also a physicist and engineer with expertise in R&D, has written and spoken extensively on these ideas (http://www.langorigami.com/science/science.php). Paper folding artist Michael LaFosse of Origamido Studio (http://origamido.com) in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a biologist by training and uses organisms as subjects for his art.

There are even conferences about this type of work. The Sixth International Conference on Origami in Science, Mathematics, and Education (6OSME) (http://www.origami.gr.jp/6osme/) will take place at lovely Yayoi Auditorium on the Hongo campus of The University of Tokyo (http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/) in August 2014. The conference is currently taking submissions from “art, design, mathematics, science, computer science, engineering, liberal arts, history, education, and other fields and their intersections.” 

Paper cranes, folded as prayers for peace. Peace Park, Hiroshima, Japan. (Fg2)

Paper cranes, folded as prayers for peace. Peace Park, Hiroshima, Japan. (Fg2)

Paper folding is something that interests undergraduates, as evidenced by the origami club at MIT, OrigaMIT (http://origamit.scripts.mit.edu/index.php), so it may suggest a new type of active learning for incorporation into university courses, especially those in math and engineering.

STEAM Ed in India

In her Art Lab Blog, (http://kkartlab.in/profiles/blogs/the-science-art-education-models-of-india-and-the-us-a-case-study)  Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa considered the difference in the educational systems in the United States and India with a focus on STEM and STEAM.

Artist at the 2013 International Kolkata Book Fair, the largest non-trade book fair in the world and the most attended book fair in the world. (Biswarup Ganguly)

Artist at the 2013 International Kolkata Book Fair, the largest non-trade book fair in the world and the most attended book fair in the world. (Biswarup Ganguly)

In her argument she stated that, compared to students in the U.S., Indian students have much more extensive exposure to the arts all the way or nearly all the way through school. In fact, the arts integration is so strong that students don’t experience art and science as separate disciplines. (Do you agree with Dr. Challa’s characterization of the educational system in India?) India has many people with STEM skills. It also has general public that is much for accepting of science than is the general public in the States.   What a great model for STEAM, right?

However, because of our powerful research presence in the States, something lacking in India, she says that folks in that system look with admiration at our more single-minded attention to STEM.  So what to do? Dr. Challa suggests a hybrid approach that result in outstanding researching and excellent science communication. What do you think that would look like?

Goings On About Town

Today I present a sampling of a few arts integration efforts at universities around the United States. I hope you find them interesting!

Undergraduate and graduate students participate in the Art of Science Competition at Princeton University. http://www.princeton.edu/artofscience/gallery2013/gallery.php%3Fp=1.html

Undergraduates in the School of Education at the College of William and Mary have the opportunity to do their clinicals at the Virgina STEAM Academy (http://www.vasteam.org), a public residential school for gifted middle-school and high-school students, set to open in 2014. http://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2013/wm-school-of-education-to-partner-with-virginia-steam-academy123.php

In 2012, Palm Beach State College began a 5-yr STEAM initiative with a focus on workforce preparedness. They plan to support STEAM program enhancement and provide scholarships and internships to undergraduates. Their website emphasizes the many STEM resources and programs at the college. http://www.palmbeachstate.edu/foundation/steam/

Detail a the roof of the College of Engineering at University of Northern Florida

Detail a the roof of the College of Engineering at University of Northern Florida

The STEAM Journal is published out of Claremont Graduate University. Their inaugural issue was released on-line in March 2013 and included academic papers, lesson plans at the K12 and undergraduate levels, and artwork. The journal is edited by faculty members and a Ph.D. candidate in their School of Education, the Director of their Transdisciplinary Studies Program, and Professor of Art. This journal could provide a venue for STEAM-related efforts, hopefully to include rigorous research, by graduate students and faculty members. http://scholarship.claremont.edu/steam/