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.

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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.

April 2017 CommNatural Newsletter: Migration, multimedia sketching & more

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Happy April, dear readers!

The weather is getting warmer and warmer. In addition to obvious shifts in the garden, migratory critters are coming back to the high plains.

My favorite are the turkey vultures that roots on campus. On warm breezy afternoons, they cruise low over the cottonwoods around our neighborhood.

In recognition of the vultures, bluebirds back out at our favorite hiking spot, and all the plants leafing out, this month’s newsletter looks at some familiar things from some fresh angles.

Keep reading. This month’s newsletter focuses on a mixed media sketching/pring-making technique, the launch of an image-use best practices blog series, and lots of news and events.

Happy sketching,

April Table of Contents

  • Insight: How and why migrations speak to us
  • Sketching Tip/Artful Classrooms: Solvent transfers (a printmaking technique)
  • Artful Science: Ethics of using reference/source images for art making and science communication
  • News & Events:
    • Drawn to Science plenary talk at American Fisheries Society’s western division annual conference scheduled for 5/23
    • Drawing for Science Communication symposium talk at American Fisheries Society’s western division annual conference also scheduled for 5/23. See the conference program for details.
    • Get your portable sketching kit, plus spring greeting cards and gifts from me! 🙂

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Sketching Tip: Solvent Transfers

Reproducing or presenting an image in an artistic way can help you catch the attention of a wider or different-from-usual audience.

One such method is the packing tape sticker I mentioned in my October 2016 newsletter. If you want to create something more permanent, though, you might try solvent transfers.
Wintergreen transfer + watercolor pencils; Bethann Garramon Merkle/public domain clip art

I learned about this printmaking technique just last week, when my writing students, co-instructor, and I took a field trip to the University of Wyoming Art Museum’s studio classroom. Our field trip was part of an on-going multidisciplinary approach to “Communicating Across Topics in Energy” (the name of the course). See the Artful Classrooms section of the March 2017 newsletter for more information about how students are exploring the connection and communication potential of artworks and energy issues.

Most of the images you’ll see throughout my April 2017 newsletter were created using this technique.

Solvent transfers are fairly straight-forward, judging by the process we learned at the museum:

Continue reading Sketching Tip: Solvent Transfers

News: SciArt for Children

 

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For almost a year now, I’ve been contributing natural history and science illustrations+text to a gorgeous children’s magazine called root & star.

My pieces have provided artful science-based exposure to fur, fish nests, chicken language, and coming soon, things that live in/under snow!

In the next year, I’ll focus on natural history collections, raccoon “hands,” horses, magpies, and the wind.

I’m telling you about root & star because:

I think it’s a phenomenal way to engage children in artful thinking and exploration. I love the magazine and love being part of it. There’s no monetary benefit to me if you subscribe or pick up a copy at one of the retailers now stocking it.

But, that’s fine — I only hope you’ll find it wonderful, too!

Sketching Tip: Reproducibility & DIY Stickers

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Reproducible methods (and results) are a key part of rigorous science. And reproducing art has been part of doing art for centuries.

So this month’s tip making stickers – an easy and cheap way to make reproductions of your own SciArt. Continue reading Sketching Tip: Reproducibility & DIY Stickers