Article: Drawn to Science

This invited commentary in Nature is a pep-talk for science educators considering integrating drawing into their science teaching and assessment. The full article is available for free here.

Excerpt: “Fundamentally, creativity is a whole-brain process, and artists and scientists use the same parts of their brains to do complex, creative tasks. Ensuring that students understand the value of drawing can help motivate them to draw.

When my colleagues try to integrate drawing into their laboratory and field courses, however, they frame their motives more matter-of-factly. For example, one biology-lab coordinator noticed that students mainly interact with specimens by photographing them. She suspected that students did not gain much from taking these photos, on the basis of their exam scores.”

Full citation: Invited. Merkle, B.G. 2018. Perspective: Drawn to Science. Outlook: Science and Technology Education. Nature 562: S8-S9. doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-06832-0.

Article: Drawn to Natural History: Facilitation advice and classroom examples for instructors integrating drawing into science classes

This summer, a publication I led was published in the academic journal Natural Sciences Education. Like other resources I’ve shared, this article aims to ‘demystify’ the use of drawing for teaching and learning in science classrooms.

While the paper reports on ways of doing this in university classes, the advice, examples, and resources in the article will be equally useful for K-12 educators.

Continue reading “Article: Drawn to Natural History: Facilitation advice and classroom examples for instructors integrating drawing into science classes”

Drawn to Science Communication: Art-Science Synergy as a Career and a Way of Life

I recently gave an invited career talk at the 2020 annual conference of the Ecological Society of America. In case others are interested, I thought I would share the video (with captions) here.

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There have also been a number of responses to this talk which have led me to consider doing some recorded Zoom/video conversations, to capture discussion, advice, and more. Stay tuned for more on that front, and feel free to submit questions, advice, and resources via the comments section!

Her Flag: Celebrate equality & natural heritage on March 21st

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36 states ratified the 19th amendment. 36 female artists designed stripes for Her Flag, a massive flag to commemorate these states.

I was selected to design Wyoming’s stripe! This Saturday, it will be sewn into the flag (which is ultimately 18 feed by 26 feet!).


Her Flag | Live (online) | March 21, 2020 @ 1:00 PM MDT

Join us through the live stream:
-Instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/herflag2020/
-Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/herflag2020/


My design honors 36 women who inspired and informed my own understanding of equality. These women are all modern women, such as my sisters, mom, aunts, mother-in-law, mentors, and collaborators. Some of these women taught me to empower other women. A few taught me about natural history. One taught me how to teach people about science. Another taught me how to garden, and one introduced me to bluegrass.

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Left to right: My maternal grandmother, paternal grandmother, and two great aunts, joined by a pair of Wyoming’s iconic bison.

Intertwined throughout the stripe, I also added familiar elements of biodiversity that make a place home such as local wildflowers, the Wyoming toad, ladybug, chickadee, Indian paintbrush, beaver, yucca seed, bison, pronghorn, and more. The background is made of 36 four-patch quilt squares, sewn from my great grandmother’s quilt scraps.

More Information

Stay tuned for Wyoming-specific follow-up project I’m working on with support from the University of Wyoming Office of Engagement and Outreach!

Media Coverage

More details are available in the following links:

 

Article: Poetry as a Creative Practice to Enhance Engagement and Learning in Conservation Science

This article was such a fun research and writing project. We were working from the foundational question of how to connect scientists to the value of the practices of reading and creating poetry.

While the paper reports on ways of doing this in university classes, the advice, examples, and resources in the article will be equally useful for K-12 educators.

The article is available via open-access (for free) at the BioScience website. It is also featured here on the Wyoming Public Radio website, where you’ll find more context about the goals we had for writing this article.

Meanwhile, here’s a sample of what you might find useful.

Article abstract (aka summary):

“Creativity is crucial to the capacity to do science well, to communicate it in compelling ways, and to enhance learning. Creativity can be both practiced and enhanced to strengthen conservation science professionals’ efforts to address global environmental challenges. We explore how poetry is one creative approach that can further conservation scientists’ engagement and learning. We draw on evidence from peer-reviewed literature to illustrate benefits of integrating science and poetry, and to ground our argument for the growth of a science-poetry community to help conservation scientists develop skills in creative practices as a component of professional development. We present examples from literature as well as two short poetry exercises for scientists to draw on when considering writing poetry, or deciding on forms of poetry to include, in their practice. Opportunity exists to grow science–poetry projects to further our understanding of what such initiatives can offer.”

Our article also made the cover!

Our photo made the cover! See details in the text, below. Photo © B.G. Merkle, 2018.

Reproductive structures emerging from a complex lichen community, photographed in Parc Jacques-Cartier (Quebec, Canada) provide an opportunity for close observation and focused reflection in much the same way that our poetry article indicates that poetry may help focus scientists’ and science students’ attention. The mutualistic potential of combining poetry and science evokes the underlying biology of lichen. Rather than an individual organism, lichens are the result of a symbiosis of fungi, algae, and/or cyanobacteria. As we noted in our paper, art and science, when integrated, can facilitate innovation, creative thinking, and more compelling learning experiences than when these disciplines are practiced in isolation.

Full article citation: Januchowski-Hartley, Stephanie R., Natalie Sopinka, Bethann G. Merkle, Christina Lux, Anna Zivian, Patrick Goff, and Samantha Oester. Poetry as a Creative Practice to Enhance Engagement and Learning in Conservation Science. BioScience 68(11): 905–911. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy105.