Teaching teachers to integrate cichlid phylogeny, resin sculptures, and drawing in k12+ classrooms

The longer I am involved with art-science integration, the more time I get to spend teaching teachers — teaching them how to use drawing in science education.

Cichlid specimen (R) & cichlid sculptural models (L)
It’s an incredible perk of the work I do, as I’ve written about before.In June, I co-taught a Summer Teaching Institute focused on “Exploring Art & Science.” The institute was organized by the University of Wyoming Art Museum’s Education Curator Katie Christensen, along with Master Teacher Heather Bender, and Artmobile Coordinator Erica Ramsey. Together, they and the rest of the Art Museum team are great advocates and partners for art-science work on campus and beyond.

During the institute, my teaching focus was drawing-based science learning and assessment strategies. We started with basic drawing techniques. I walked participants through a toolkit development session which involved lots of practice drawing. Several of these techniques are discussed in previous newsletters and/or in my guide Sketching and Field Journal Basics.

We also discussed how to facilitate these techniques so that students have lots of informal low-stakes practice before they are formally assessed (the difference, say, between in-class practice and a test). Skill- and confidence-building like this is a critical part of engaging students in the benefits of drawing to learn.

We then applied these skills to observational drawings of cichlids (an extremely diverse group of fishes which includes tilapia). The cichlid specimens were provided by Dr. Katie Wagner, ecologist-in-residence for the institute. Dr. Wagner, along with Drs Dorothy Tuthill and Brian Barber, spent the week helping us all better understand descent-with-modification and other elements of the evolutionary process.

Ultimately, with the guidance of sculptor Adrian Vetter, participants sketched out plans, and sketched to document progress, as they made fish mobiles (based on cichlids) which demonstrated the principles of phylogenetic trees.

20170610_223909.jpg

We’re doing some distance-learning elements of the institute throughout the rest of the month, and by then we should have a solid sense of how participants will use these practices in their own classrooms.

If you’re interested in how to facilitate any of these activities in your own educational setting, I’d love to chat and/or connect you with my co-instructors.

Sketchbook Snapshot: Mystery Moth

One foggy morning, I found this moth on the back steps of the cabin where I stayed in June (at the UW Research Station in Grand Teton National Park).

I spent a fair bit of time with this one, like I do with nearly every moth I can get my hands on.

I sketched it from a couple of angles (right to left on the page). Each time, I aimed for increased precision with how I recorded the markings on both front and hind wings. I figured the placement of the spots and bars would be key for identifying it.

When I looked through the insect ID guides in the research station library, I could only find one on moths: Moths of Western North America by Jerry A. Powell and Paul A. Opler. It’s approximately 500 pages, a hardcover reference, not a field guide. There are 65 pages of color photos (roughly 25% of “each family, subfamily, and larger genus” are depicted). Using only those images, I couldn’t figure out what the moth was. The closest I could get was something in the family Noctuidae. Continue reading Sketchbook Snapshot: Mystery Moth

Sketching Tip: Drawing on Windows

This is a simple short cut for situations when you have a complicated landscape to draw, and you don’t feel up to it, or don’t have the time.

20160305_Biodiversity Institute workshop (81)_cr_c_sig

I recommend a wet-erase marker (like the ones that used to be standard equipment when using an overhead projector). These markers will enable you to re-use your window, along with ensuring that your sketch doesn’t smudge (as might happen if you use a dry-erase marker).

The basic idea here is to “trace” the scene outside your window. Really, that’s it. 🙂  What you get from drawing on a window, though, is a bit more nuanced.

Continue reading Sketching Tip: Drawing on Windows

Commissioning SciArt Illustrations? Know what you want and what you can spend. (Using Images-A Best Practices Primer, Part 6)

This article is the sixth in a series aimed at helping you enhance your #scicommand #sciart by avoiding #visualplagiarism. It will do so by laying out some best practices for dealing with images (which are, by their nature) visual intellectual property protected by copyrights.

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and no part of this article or series should be construed as legal advice. 

Please chime in, in the comments or by contacting me, if you have suggestions for how to enhance this article or the series.

2013_bison summer sketches (36)_Lepidoptera_clean_sig_cr
Knowing what you want can make commissioning illustrations way more efficient and enjoyable. This entails planning ahead, being decisive, making lots of choices, and balancing budget vs. other constraints. (Lepidoptera sketches from Saskatchewan, Canada; ©2017)

PLAN AHEAD, SO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT AND WHAT YOU CAN SPEND.

In the last article, we discussed contract considerations, which are the core of any commissioned illustration project.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some other important elements of planning an illustration project. To increase efficiency (which usually helps with budgeting), do what you can to know what you want and how much you can spend before you approach an illustrator and ask if they are interested in working with you. Continue reading Commissioning SciArt Illustrations? Know what you want and what you can spend. (Using Images-A Best Practices Primer, Part 6)

SciArt illustration contracts for your science communication project (Using Images-A Best Practices Primer, Part 5)

This article is the fifth in a series aimed at helping you enhance your #scicommand #sciart by avoiding #visualplagiarism. It will do so by laying out some best practices for dealing with images (which are, by their nature) visual intellectual property protected by copyrights.

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and no part of this article or series should be construed as legal advice. 

Please chime in, in the comments or by contacting me, if you have suggestions for how to enhance this article or the series.

Placing lid on vial_sig
Hiring an illustrator doesn’t have to feel like wizardry. A well-written contract can simplify and enhance the experience. (Student assessing stream water quality, ©2017)

FAIR-TO-GENEROUS ILLUSTRATION CONTRACTS

In addition to the 4Cs of commissioning SciArt, there are four major considerations you will need to take into account when you work with an illustrator.

They are: contracts, what you want, your time frame, and what you can spend. This article breaks down the first of those, contracts. Continue reading SciArt illustration contracts for your science communication project (Using Images-A Best Practices Primer, Part 5)