Art integration: a new way to look at science

Before I had the opportunity to work with the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA), I thought that integrating art into my classroom meant drawing pictures and coloring diagrams. After spending time with educators from the NCMA, I learned that art integration includes observing, interpreting, critiquing, and using pieces of art to relate to the science curriculum. It also includes having students create their own paintings, drawings, and sculptures. After using art in my classroom in these new ways, I realized that art and science have many connections. Bringing art into a science classroom, which is being supported by a $2 million grant from the GSK NC Foundation, is easy way to engage, empower, and excite students about learning.

As an example, I use art in my Geology class to discuss texture. After learning about types of rocks, students are introduced to the painting Orange Outline (pictured above) by Franz Kline. I facilitate a guided discussion about the painting, then introduce the students to texture and scale, words that relate to both science and art. The class is asked to compare and contrast how texture is used in art and how it is described in terms of rocks and geology. As a final product, the students create a painting of a rock.

The students are asked to choose a rock and make careful observations of a small portion of the rock. They use that small part of the rock to create a larger scale painting, referring to the rock as often as needed to help complete the painting. The students are encouraged to use layers of paint, brushes, sponges, and other materials (sand, glitter, etc) to add texture to the painting, similar to Orange Outline. As an assessment tool, the students complete an assignment that assesses their knowledge of geology, as well as their understanding of the art techniques used in this activity. You can see a few examples of the students' work below.

Using art in a science classroom is a way for me to connect with my students and helps students at all levels have success through art. By observing different works of art, students are able to make personal connections, use higher-level thinking skills to analyze the work of art, and learn to value the thoughts and opinions of their peers. Art gives the students a different way to look at the science concepts, which ultimately gives the students a better understanding of what is being studied.

Art inspires us all!