+ Teaching Marine Science? Include Art Projects

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Alexandra Moses writes (for Edutopia.org) that teachers across the nations are discovering that art can be a key to learning science. 

They believe that integrating the mystery of — for example — the ocean with writing, painting and drawing creates a learning experience that taps into a student’s imagination.

Marine science teacher Carmen Kelley finds that giving science students hands-on activities, such as art projects, breaks the monotony of a lecture.  But it also taps into right-brain, creative thinking — as opposed to simple, left brain analysis.

“You can’t teach to one style.  Why do we teach only to the left brain?  Using art is just a way of helping some kids with how they learn best,” says Kelley, who teaches at a high school in the Floriday Keys.  “There has to be a break in the pattern that gets students to move around.”

During a unit on bony fish, Kelley’s 11th- and 12th-graders learn about gyotaku, a form of fish printing that Japanese fishermen used about a hundred years ago.  Students put various colored inks on dead fish, usually bait fish, to imprint on to T-shirts.

The students also create journals and illustrations to accompany other marine lessons.

Gifted elementary students in Alabama create art to help process and apply what they’ve learned.  Teacher Belinda Ringpfeil notes that the whole time they’re working on an art project, students are thinking about the animal or plant.

One of Ringpfeil’s projects is a three-dimensional model of coral reefs made out of egg cartons and adorned with papier mache sea animals.  The reef model even features retractable tentacles — some corals have tentacles to grab food such as zooplankton — to reflect the true behavior of live coral.

Ocean studies, in fact, are not a large part of school curriculums, even though a 2004 US Commission report states that core science principals are often easier to grasp when introduced through ocean examples.  That report urged the creation of ocean curriculums for K-12 teachers.

Ringpfeil says, “The ocean is so massive, and we have so many connections to it.”  Laurie Guest, who teaches 6th- and 7th-grade science in Vallejo CA, uses the ocean to meet standards on photosynthesis and ecology.

Using writing assignments, Ringpfeil taps into students’ higher-level imaginative thinking.  She feels a lot of children don’t know how to use their imaginations, so her assignments ask them to choose a sea animal and write from the perspective of that creature.

Four hundred miles from the ocean, but along Lake Erie, Kathy Dole in Angola, NY uses the sea to inspire creativity.  Her students write different types of poetry, including question poems that ponder where a seashell came from, or why sea turtles eat grass.

In her classroom writing sessions, Dole uses footage of her own scuba diving trips and shows the students seashells and other objects.  “They write about the beauty that they’re seeing.”  And to hold an object, such as a seashell, gives them a sensory experience that makes their writing more interesting.  “It stimulates their curiosity more, and they ask more questions once they’ve touched objects from the ocean.”

These teachers also hope to inspire students to take care of the oceans while honing their academic skills.  A students of Dole’s, a second grader named Victoria, said she had an ocean story.  Dole wrote it down.

You always have to keep the beach clean.  Keep the sand clean, or you’ll step on something sharp and break your foot open.  Always make sure no dead bones are on the beach or people could pick them up and think they’re doggie toys.  Do not kill many fish in the sea, because soon there won’t be any.  If you do, then you won’t be a part of the Big Green Help.

Dole and Victoria will be using this story as they work together on reading and writing.

sole source: www.edutopia.org article byAlexandra R Moses on 11/12/08.   Edutopia.org is a project of the George Lucas Education Foundation.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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