Although I’ve been interested in both the sciences and arts since I was a child, it is my work as a high school art teacher that emphasized for me the connections between the two disciplines. In the faculty lounge where I worked, teachers often sat with those who taught the same subject. On any given day, science teachers might be found commiserating about upcoming standardized tests or outdated textbooks, while my electives colleagues and I bemoaned a lack of supplies. Beyond differences in our class structure and content, however, my science-teacher friends and I shared overarching goals. We all hoped to spark curiosity in students about how the world works, to inspire creative problem solving, and to teach skills and processes that could ultimately empower our students to enact positive change.
As an educator, it is my responsibility to emphasize the interconnectedness of disciplines to my students. I enjoy dreaming up projects which fuse art and science and allow students to integrate knowledge and ideas from other subjects or aspects of their lives. One example of this work is an art project and exhibition entitled Envisioning the Future where students created art depicting visions of future life on earth. My students and I collaborated with an environmental science teacher who taught us about imaginative research seeking to slow climate change. Students integrated these lessons with their own research and imaginations to create varied depictions of futuristic inventions and societies. Open-ended, interdisciplinary projects like this one allow students to combine skills and academic traditions which are typically siloed in K-12 schools.
I integrate art and science not only in my teaching but also in my own creative practice. For example, I recently began experimenting with natural dye processes, coloring fabric with food scraps and plants from my garden. While I didn’t necessarily expect the project to involve science, I’ve needed to learn which chemicals allow dye to bond with different fibers and which quantities of dyestuffs and wait times produce the most vivid colors. I have notebook pages of detailed procedure documenting these art-science experiments. I enjoy this work and continue asking, “what if?”, exploring new possibilities. I hope to pass this curiosity along to my students and to emphasize the potential of interdisciplinary work.
About the author
Tracey Bullington is a teacher and education researcher from New Orleans, Louisiana. She studies the role of the arts in K-12 education and how young people learn through creative projects. Tracey is also a visual artist, specializing in woodcut printmaking. She is currently a second year PhD student in Curriculum and Instruction at UW-Madison