Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fusing the Arts in Astronomy

Teaching Astronomy at an Art school (Interlochen Arts Academy) lends itself well to fusing the arts within the Astronomy curriculum. One activity that I have adopted for the past few years is the one described below that I hope would inspire other Astronomy teachers to emulate and improve upon.

The students are shown the following art piece and asked to examine it carefully.

Afterwards, the students are given instructions to extract three Astronomy questions of their own. The questions must be thoughtful and challenging in nature. Then, out of these three questions, the students are to select one of their three questions and answer it to the best of their ability.

The imagined questions and the hypothesized response to one of their own selected question are to be committed to their notebook. Afterwards, these are to be copied neatly onto a small colored sheet of paper that I would collect for grading purposes.

Once everyone is done, I select a few students names at random to have them share their written items. The conversations that ensue tend to set us on a good path toward discussing excellent Astronomy concepts such as properties of stars, properties of light, nature of color, and positioning of objects in the sky and the celestial sphere in general.

Another bonus of this activity and other ones like it, is the discussion of artists' prerogatives in depicting things in a specific way or another. And, more importantly how humans view the universe through their artistic eyes as well as their scientific eyes.

Finally, this activity does not end here. Instead it continues with some Astro-Forensic Science investigation whose details cannot be divulged in the blog to not spoil the element of surprise.

Please, share your own experiences with such instances where the arts are fused with the sciences.

Thank you