Scientists in the Art Room

Mad Scientists

Lately, my inner Gemini has been showing through in the art room.  Kids are coming in and I’m showing them science-y art.  Or artsy science.  I’m telling them we’re going to artists doing science.  Or scientists making art.  It doesn’t matter!  We’re having some fun.

I start the class by showing them this artwork, and asking them how they think it was made.  A feather?  I dog’s hair? A painting?  Is it the sun?  These are all guesses the kids have suggested.  When I tell them it’s made from bacteria that was painted in a petri dish, they get grossed out.  EEEwwww!!!

But guess what kids?  We need bacteria in order to stay alive!  There is 2-6 pounds of bacteria living in your body right now!  There are 6 BILLION bacteria in your mouth right now.  That’s 4 times the population of China!  Look at it that way, and maybe we’re getting grossed out for nothing.  Maybe we can be friends with our bacteria.

Anyway, I digress.

Science and Art

Scientists aren’t immune to the instinct to doodle.  And some scientists have been known to doodle with their science experiments.  One website credits the work of Alexander Fleming with Penicillin to his bacteria paintings.

A few of Fleming’s Microbial Artworks

We get to talking about the difference between predictions, observations, and inferences.  This leads to us mentioning that we observe the world with our 5 senses….and then to the inevitable question- can we taste our art today?!  Well….I guess that’s up to you, kids.  I think it’s weird.  But it’s nontoxic, so I guess it won’t kill you.  But do you really want to ingest something that has been touched by dirty dirty paint brushes?  I sure don’t.

An Artist to Follow

I found and introduced a new artist to my students in this project.  Fabian Oefner, a photographer, is one of the coolest contemporary artists I know of.  His photo series are about capturing the intersection of art and science.  He wants to appeal to his viewers’ hearts AND brains.  Look at this image below, from a series called Dancing Colors:

Here he is playing musical tones from a speaker, upon which paint balls are resting.  What you see is the SOUND!  So much of his art is both visually stunning and also so interesting!!!  I HIGHLY recommed checking out his site!

Experimental Art

Kids then move to a station that has various art materials and mystery chemicals.  They make predictions about what the chemicals art, then make artwork as they experiment with the materials and chemicals.  At the end, they make inferences based on their observations.  These inferences are both science based (‘What is this chemical?’) and art based (‘How can I make art using these strange things?’).

When they are done, we hope to have learned one or more new techniques that we can apply to our artmaking.

The kids are having a blast, and they’re getting really excited about science in the art room.  Above, Megan on 6 Oak is really excited about making her paint fizz with baking soda and vinegar.  I only hope the custodian can forgive me- his job has not been easy this week!  We’re doing our best, I promise!!!




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