Teaching science with art

Teaching Science with Art: Inspiring Creativity with Special Educational Needs.

At BOM we believe in the power of art across many areas of our lives; mental well-being, education, our economy and beyond.

We devised a project that would mean we could work with one of our partner schools over an academic year to prove the power of art, specifically within the science curriculum. Working with Baskerville School, a special educational needs (SEN) school in Birmingham, we set out to create a pioneering new model of creative education, teaching blended art with science to:

  • Unlock latent creativity in children with autism
  • Improve academic performance across science
  • Inspire students to apply creative thinking to a range of problem solving in STEAM subjects
  • Improve student motivation and confidence
  • Encourage more students with autism to consider careers in STEM subjects.

We were able to secure support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to carry out the work. We collaborated with eight artists and creatives who worked with students and teachers at Baskerville School to deliver lessons for the KS3 Science Curriculum. We delivered 29 planned sessions (58 separate lessons) to two student groups. During the programme we covered 8 separate topics (Plant and animal cells, Unicellular organisms, Photosynthesis, Structure and function of human skeleton and muscles, Gas exchange system in humans/mechanism of breathing, Waves, Sound waves and Light).

Artists:

  • Matt Gale – an artist whose research examines the privileging influence of science and the authority it can confer within society.
  • Sue Brisco – an artist who is excited and passionate about science inspired art and drawing as an art form. She is particularly interested in unseen worlds and landscapes such as the microscopic and macroscopic.
  • Sarah Farmer – artist and musician mostly working with sound
  • Halina Dominska – describes herself ‘a hybrid artist’. Her practice explores the human use of space, movement and touch to bring about a connected experience, which often plays with personal invisible boundaries.
  • Laurie Ramsell – an artist whose work explores what makes humans 'human' using biological materials & technologies such as 3D printing.
  • Jon Wood – a scientist and a science presenter with an interest in how the history of experimentation has left us with a legacy of great things to demonstrate in a fun way.
  • Melissa Grant / Sarah Kuehne – Biochemists passionate about science-art partnerships and Bio-Art.

We worked with Dr Karen Guldberg from The Autism Centre for Education and Research at University of Birmingham (ACER) to create an evaluation and case study framework to measure and track the impact of our project. We also created a free resource for teachers and education oriented professionals. The STEAM Recipe Book helps you to incorporate art and creativity into your practice for delivery of a successful and innovative science curriculum.(You can download this resource for free at the bottom of this page)

Outcomes of the programme:

– The project evidenced that teaching science through art did improve engagement and attainment of the students participating. This is based on observation statistics gathered and analysed throughout the activity.

– Evidence captured that science sessions can be successfully delivered through art with benefit to the students.

– The project successfully demonstrated that teachers can be empowered by the development of skills in areas other than their own subject. Working with and alongside artists enabled the teachers and teaching assistants to develop knowledge of different art forms and scientific ideas. This has empowered staff, and given them a new boost of enthusiasm for teaching their subject. We anticipate that this will result in higher achieving and more motivated students leading to higher achievements across STEAM subjects.

– Evidence has shown that cross department collaboration improved students' experiences of learning.

– Staff gained new insights into how art skills and knowledge can be incorporated in STEM subjects. This has raised the value teachers ascribe to art as a subject in education.

– The project demonstrated to teachers that re-thinking the way curriculum is delivered can be at a small cost, using already existing equipment (as outlined in the STEAM Recipe Book).

– The project evidenced that visual and kinaesthetic learning styles are preferred by students used in this sample (all students are on the autistic spectrum) and evidence shows that engaging students through artistic activities increases attainment.

– The project proved that students ability to ‘think outside of the box’ was increased. The programme required learners to think creatively and problem solve, so activities which promoted these skills were used to develop confidence in trying new ways of working.

– Expansion of knowledge of careers in arts and creative technology was achieved and students awareness of what they could do after studying science and / or art was improved by artists presenting their practices and explaining what they do for a living. By working with artists, scientists and creative technologists, students gained better understanding of job opportunities, networks, creative communities and arts-science practices and this will enable them to make informed career choices in the future.

– The project demonstrated that employing artists to facilitate educational activities is beneficial for educational organisations, students and artists themselves, as they gain employment and are able to share their practice.

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We have published this under Creative Commons BY 4.0. You are free to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon our work, even commercially, as long as BOM is credited for the original creation.

Artwork by Asuf Ishaq.