Welcome to A New Web Design for the Art of Teaching Science

Thank you for visiting my blog.  After teaching for forty years, I’ve spent the last ten writing the blog (and a host of other things), The Art of Teaching Science.  For at least five years, I’ve used web themes created by StudioPress (Copyblogger Media) for WordPress, one the most popular programs for designing weblogs and websites.

After reading articles on the Copyblogger blog, I decided to take the advice of Brian Gardner and Jerod Morris to use their newest WordPress theme, Parallax Pro.

Figure 1. Graphic from Parallax Pro.
Figure 1. Graphic from Parallax Pro.

The article that I read that convinced me to use this new theme was Do you want your website to tell a better story?  It’s worth checking out if you are considering a new website, or blog.  Plus there are some links to some Award-winning examples of Parallax design include the official website for the movie Life of PiLexus, and NASA Prospect.

Just released this month, Parallax Pro has some great applications for teaching, for designing a course, for reporting on important issues using graphics and text to tell your story.

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 8.40.27 PM
Figure 2. A screen shot showing a part of the Art of Teaching Science home page.

Check out my new design, and make comments below if you are so moved.

4 Aspects of the Artistry of Science Teaching

In our view, teaching is professional artistry.  As such, not only is your work as a science teacher an artistic one, but the way teachers are educated should also embrace professional artistry.

Many years ago, I was working on a book with Joe Abruscato entitled The Whole Cosmos Catalog of Science Activities, and during this period it became clear that teaching science was far from the logical portrayal as seen in the textbooks that we use with students.

I asked Bob Samples if he would be kind enough to write a foreword to our readers, and he did.  His foreword helped us all understand how artistry  and fun is fundamental to science teaching.  Here is part of what he said:

This book is fun. It is fun to read and fun to use and it is fun to write an introduction. With all this fun, does that mean it does not contain serious science.  Of course it contains serious science, but this book also contains the courage to be honest.  Science is fun.  It always has been.  In the presence of the joy of creating and discovering, there is always the sense of the antic.  Jerome Bruner said it best when he described the act of creativity.  He said, “There is something antic about creating, although the enterprise be serious.”

Teaching is creating.  Teachers take their experiences and knowledge of science and method, and wed them to new, immediate experiences.  Out of this teachers create a way to help students transform their own understanding of science, resulting in “new knowing.”

Teaching is artistry in action.  And it is intimately related to human imagination and creativity, and one’s willingness to experiment and play.  Jacob Bronowski uses these four concepts to draw similarities between art and science.  According to Bronowski, “science uses images, and experiments with imaginary situations, exactly as art does.

For science teachers, Bronowski offers this teaching suggestion:

Many people believe that reasoning, and therefore science, is a different activity from imagining.  But this is a fallacy, and you must root it out of your mind.  The child that discovers, sometime before the age of ten, that he can make images and move them around in his head has entered a gateway to imagination and to reason.  Reasoning is constructed with movable images just as certainly as poetry is.  You may have been told, you may still have the feeling that E = mc2 is not an imaginative statement.  If so, you are mistaken.

Teachers exhibit their professional artistry in their encounters with students.  When you see someone teaching you witness their imagination and creativity unfolding in the classroom with their students. If you return a few days later you see again the process at work, but this time within a different context and activity.

The teacher’s courage to be creative in his or her encounters with students is important in understanding professional artistry.  Rollo May notes that a creative act is an encounter.   As such, teachers’ professional artistry is exhibited as a creative act in the classroom.  According to May, creative courage is the most important kind of courage in that it results in new patterns upon which a society or a profession is built.  He says

In our day, technology and engineering, diplomacy, business, and certainly teaching, all of these professions and scores of others are in the midst of radical changes and require courageous persons to appreciate and direct this change. The need for creative courage is in direct proportion to the degree of change the profession is undergoing.

We will explore further on this blog the notion of “professional artistry.”  You might want to think about how Bronowski’s four concepts that link science and art play out in your classroom.

  • How do you use imagination in the planning of your courses and lesson plans?
  • Do you see that creativity is an essential aspect of planning, and classroom activity?
  • Do student design their own experiments and activities from time to time?
  • In ways do you implement play in your encounters with your students?


Redesign of Art of Teaching Website

For more than 15 years, I’ve used websites to augment my teaching, research, and seminars.  The first website that I was a part of was for the Global Thinking Project, a hand across the globe environmental science program that linked schools enabling them to communicate with each other.  From there we designed websites for courses at Georgia State University in science education.  At the same time, I designed a series of sites that supported four different seminars that I conducted for the Bureau of Education and Research.

Since 2005 I have written on science education on the Art of Teaching Science weblog which was designed to augment the book, The Art of Teaching Science, initially published by Oxford University Press, and now in its second edition by Routledge.

For the past two months work has been done to redesign the Art of Teaching Science website and to create a new website, Science as Inquiry.

The Art of Teaching Science website was designed and now redesigned using WordPress, a software program many use to develop blogs and websites. If you are planning on developing a website or a blog for your courses, then I recommend you consider using WordPress which is available free here.

WordPress is powerful for teachers in that it has hundreds of themes (a stylish template) with one, two, three or four columns, hundreds of colors, and designs, as well as thousands of plugins, which extends the power of WordPress.   The designs are free, and you can add as many to your administration page where all of your files are stored, and where you create new pages, and posts.  I recently went out to Elegant Themes, a third party vendor that designs WordPress themes (for a fee).  I am using “magnificent” one of the Elegant themes.  Here is a screen shot.  As you can see, one can edit from the screen.  You can modify the design, including colors of various elements of the site, as well as use JavaScript to upload interesting elements to the site.

The Science as Inquiry website designed for a new book by the same title was developed using Sandvox, a website creator for Macs. I’ve used this program for many years to develop a number of sites including Hurricane Katrina, Project Ozone, Green Classroom, Project River Watch, and now, Science as Inquiry.

Sandbox is robust, and easy to use to develop sites, and has just recently released its new version, Sandvox 2.  You can download and use Sandvox for free, and then if you like it, you can purchase the program.  Like WordPress, Sandvox comes with multiple designs which you change effortlessly from the control panel.  These designs are part of the program, and I’ve used many of them over the years.  The theme that I am using for the Science As Inquiry website I am using BlueBall Pro Tabs Wide design that can be purchased from Blueball Design.

Here are some screen shots of the new Science as Inquiry site, as well as some of the Sandvox themes.


The Art of Science Learning

I wanted to call your attention to a new initiative, The Art of Science Learning, through a grant from the National Science Foundation to the Steifer Associates. The grant will explore the impact the arts can have on science (STEM) literacy and creativity in the workforce through a social network for teachers, 3 conferences in Spring 2011 (in DC, Chicago & San Diego) and a research report.

Knowledge of this initiative was received from David Green via an email on the NARST email list just today. According to the websites that are linked from David’s email, The Art of Learning Science:

explores ways in which the arts can help improve how people of all ages learn the sciences. Hands-on, imaginative approaches to science education, using many of the methods used in the creative arts, have been shown to attract and retain young people in the fields of Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (sometimes known as the STEM disciplines).

Responding to concerns that the U.S. risks lagging behind other nations, in both the scientific literacy and the innovative capacity of its workforce, the Art of Science Learning is convening scientists, artists, educators, business leaders, researchers and policymakers in three conferences in Spring 2011 to explore how the arts can be engaged to strengthen STEM skills and spark creativity in the 21st-Century American workforce.

For many years we’ve advocated the notion of teaching as an art (The Art of Teaching Science), and this new NSF initiative offers teachers and researchers an opportunity to look at science teaching through the lens of the arts. In our book, we connected with the views of Jacob Bronowski, in his writings, and his video program (The Ascent of Man), suggesting that artistry in teaching is related to human imagination and creativity, and one’s willingness to expriment and play. Throughout his professional life, Bronowski drew similarities between art and science, and used examples from the history of science to help us understand this. Here, Bronowski offers this pedagogical suggestion:

Many people believe that reasoning, and therefore science, is a different activity from imagining. But this is a fallacy, and you must root it out of your mind. The child that discovers, sometime before the age of ten, that he can make images and move them around in his head has entered a gateway to imagination and to reason. Reasoning is constructed with movable images just as certainly as poetry is. You may have been told, you may still have the feeling that E = mc2 is not an imaginative statement. If so, you are mistaken.

Eliot Eisner, an advocate of the arts in teaching, in his book Arts and Creative Mind, suggested we might think of (science) education reform in a different way, as in this thought:

It may be that by shifting the paradigm of education reform and teaching from one modeled after the clock-like character of the assembly line into one that is closer to the studio or innovative science laboratory might provide us with a vision that better suits the capacities and the futures of the students we teach.

Years ago, I formed a discussion group that met every Thursday at a coffee house in Atlanta called the Common Cup. Although no longer in business, the Common Cup became the meeting house of a group of teachers, professors, and researchers interested in humanistic education, science and the arts. The group met over coffee for many years, and explored new ideas, and how these could be applied to the classroom. At about the same time as the Common Cup coffee house experience, I met Professor David Finkelstein, professor of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology. I had interviewed him for a book I was working on about science education, and attended some of his community forums on physics at Georgia Tech. He invited me on several occasions to join a group he had formed that now reminds me of the London Coffee House group. Professor Finkelstein had organized a group of people from different disciples (science, art, music, philosophy, psychology, education) that met over coffee and food to discuss ideas relevant to the group. The few times that I attended were thrilling, and provocative.

I hope the new intiative, The Art of Science Learning, will be as provocative.

Images from the Art of Science Teaching Weblog

The Art of Science Teaching Weblog is a place to discuss issues related to science teaching.  In today’s post, you will find a link to a Youtube movie comprised of many of the images and pictures that I’ve used in previous posts.

I hope you enjoy the images, and the music.