At first, the idea of understanding biology through art may seem ludicrous. After all, many of us view biology (or any science, for that matter) and art to be diametrically opposed.
But they aren’t.
In fact, arts-integrated educators have long known the benefits of using artwork to communicate complex biological concepts and models.
Making Sense of Biology Through Art
If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a biology class, close your eyes and concentrate. Do remember how often you had to draw and illustrate the things you observed in experiments? Perhaps it was an illustration of a cell. Or maybe the internal anatomy of a fetal pig springs to mind?
Whatever the case, it turns out that the two disciplines aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, students studying biology in higher education settings find that using artwork in their scientific presentations enables their audience to better remember the information.
Arts-integrated education borrows from this. It embraces art’s ability to effectively communicate biological research. It works from the idea that biology is not a specific discipline separate from art. Rather, it opens up the option for students with a wide array of creative interests to explore biology – even as a possible career path.
This is what differentiates an arts-integrated education from a conventional one.
How Arts-Integrated Middle and High Schools Are Different
The basic concept of arts integration is teaching students topics such as science, math, and history through the arts. It may be grasping a historical concept through creative writing, a mathematic theorem through music, or scientific research through painting. This is just a smattering of possible applications.
Arts-integrated education allows for an exceptionally supportive environment that enables students to comprehend complex ideas and concepts through art. They are able to explore STEM concepts in a way that makes them more accessible to a broader and more diverse audience. This is done through inclusive and inspiring means.
How Biology and Art Intersect
Like every field, biology stands to benefit from those who are artistically minded. They’re able to use intuitive metaphors to present biological subjects that are difficult to visualize.
“By highlighting biology through artistic imagery, I’m able to connect in a broader way to my students,” says biology teacher and principal Mike Mitchell of Arts Academy in the Woods in Fraser, Michigan. “It sparks their curiosity, fascination, and general interest.”
Another thing it sparks is communication. Students begin to make connections between biology and design at large. For example, a conversation about a unique pattern in a painting can morph into one about cell division, then bacteria, then maybe genetics. The possibilities are endless. What’s important is that the conversations are initiated and students are discussing topics they never imagined to be interesting.
It’s impossible to put an educational price on such interactions.
Bridging the Gap
Helping students, and certainly the population at large, to bridge the gap between biology research and the rest of the world’s understanding of it is crucial. It increases public understanding and trust in the scientific community – something that was achingly absent during the most recent pandemic.
Today’s artistically-minded middle school and high school students with an interest in studying biology can change that. Those who are able to communicate complicated research through visual means will be able to better inform and engage with the community. They can break down the barriers that have long separated science from the arts.
Through an arts-integrated education, students understand that studying biology isn’t just about textbooks and rote memorization independent of creative subjects. It’s the world that’s all around us and just waiting to be discovered.
Using art to share the beauty of biology inspires creative ‘art students’ to envision a career in science where their unique views into the field of academic research will be respected. Bringing together multiple viewpoints of biologists, classically trained artists, educators, and science engagement organizations blows open the door to a world of possibilities and benefits drawn from visual science communication.
Do You Find Arts-Integrated Education Inspiring?
If your highly creative child is interested in learning but doesn’t thrive in a conventional education setting, contact us today to request a tour of our school.
There’s a good chance he/she/they will have a better grasp of a wide array of topics like math, history, and biology through art. You may just have a budding biologist in your presence.
Let that bud bloom.