Tags: art, curriculum_standards, math, multicultural, reading, thinking theory
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
Every so often, when I tell people that I write a blog about interdisciplinary education for museums, schools, and the generally curious, the response I get is a generic “That’s cool!” while their faces say quietly “What?” and “For heaven’s sake, why?”
Why indeed. At its most flippant level, the answer is ‘because it’s fun.’ However, there are serious reasons to advocate for interdisciplinary learning, and every so often I feel the need to point out just how many people agree with me.
For instance, graphic designer, computer scientist, and author John Maeda (who also happens to be the founder of Second Life) claims that “Innovation is born where art meets science.” In answer to the question “Why does science need artists?” he replies
We seem to forget that innovation doesn’t just come from equations or new kinds of chemicals, it comes from a human place. Innovation in the sciences is always linked in some way, either directly or indirectly, to a human experience. And human experiences happen through engaging with the arts – listening to music, say, or seeing a piece of art.
For this reason, he advocates for turning the tenets of ‘STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education’ into ‘STEAM,’ including the arts to promote innovative thinking and a greater acceptance of ambiguity. (For more good background on the whats and wherefores of STEM Education, check out this excellent New York Times article, “STEM education has little to do with flowers.” Unsurprisingly, this article also points out the many benefits of looking at the connections between these subjects as opposed to the ‘silo’ approach.)
The Common Core Standards, which are slowly being adopted nation-wide, are also supportive of interdisciplinary education, though the standards are of necessity organized currently under the major umbrellas of English language and literature, and Mathematics. Consider this benchmark for third grade, located under the ‘comprehension and collaboration’ strand in the English standards:
Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. [emphasis mine]
Visually–the reading and comprehension of artwork, symbols, photography, and motion pictures.
Quantitatively –the reading of charts, graphs, and numerical results.
Orally – the comprehension of spoken words, theater, lyrics, music, etc.
These are true interdisciplinary skills, necessary in all fields and for life in general. And beyond the development of life skills, interdisciplinary education and exploration has been shown to promote creativity.
The power of imagination makes us infinite.
Miller Mc-Cune reported this spring that studies have shown that experiencing different cultures can make you more creative, as can thinking of yourself as a seven year old. (As I regularly travel and visit toy stores, this is good news for me all around.)
Check out The Walters Art Museum’s two interdisciplinary classroom units at their teacher resource page, Integrating the Arts, for some examples of how this could be done in connection with a museum or in your own space.
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
What steps can be taken, once we’re ‘grown up,’ to keep that creativity alive? (Other than visiting museums and giving ourselves permission to play?) The Idea Hive has some suggestions: The Subtle Art of Provoking Serendipity , including gathering diversity and making connections. Interdisciplinary learning in the workplace as well as the school and the museum. I love it.
‘The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny.”‘
Has all this put you in the mood for some fresh ideas? Open up the multimedia Moodstream created by Getty Images and let your brain start popping.
Tags: archaeology, art, biology, food, history, humor, massachusetts, multicultural
The month is almost over, but I can’t let it go completely by without tipping my hat to Massachusetts Archaeology Month.
Since life here at PEM has been very focused on the amazing Emperor’s Private Paradise exhibit, I have to admit I’ve been more tuned to archaeology stories from that corner of the world recently, including this incredibly cool discovery which may make people reevaluate historical trade routes: Could a Rusty Coin Re-Write Chinese-African History?
In celebration of which I give you Mint Your Own Coin from the American Museum of Natural History’s OLogy page, which also features fun interviews with archaeologists, make-your-own archaeological stationery, artifact features, and more.
If you’re looking for other online archaeology interactives, check out the extensive list at Fun Archaeology For Kids. The list includes lots of different cultures and time periods, with a great many of the interactives created by museums and other reputable sources.
And now for the creepy. (It is, after all, the week before Halloween, and I’m not entirely immune to the Salem atmosphere.)
Royal blood may be hidden inside decorated gourd. (eeurgh!) An intricately decorated gourd bears traces of blood which may very well have come from a handkerchief soaked in the blood of the beheaded King Louis XVI of France.
Personally, I prefer my blood 100% Pure Fake, as in the book reviewed by exhibit interactive wizard Paul Orselli. And if that’s not enough gross and gucky exploration for you, check out Wastewater: Sewage in your face! from the San Diego department of public works, which, among other more educationally rewarding activities, has recipes for making soda and cake that look like sludge.
All creeped out? Build an Egyptian tomb, uncover a prehistoric burial, or just make a pasta skeleton, courtesy of artist Kathy Barbro, directions here (or click the picture).
Tags: games, grammar, multicultural, poetry, spanish, writing
Didn’t get enough word fun on International Literacy Day? Then get ready for September 24, which is National Punctuation Day. I kid you not.
According to the official site for National Punctuation Day, this particularly exacting holiday is the brainchild of comma fiend Jeff Rubin, and is now in its seventh year of celebration. Last year’s festivities were punctuated (ha!) by a baking contest, and this year they are soliciting punctuation-themed haiku, so go check it out if you’re feeling em dash deprived. Don’t miss the photo gallery of punctuation mistakes–a sadly bountiful crop of terrible pluralization, but some other entertaining gaffes as well.
But why would you want to do that? Grammar isn’t fun!
Yes it is.
I will grant you, I don’t know if playing Punctuation Pasta with macaroni commas and quotation marks would have gotten me all excited about punctuation as a student, but looking at it now reminds me of the totally fabulous found-object illustration style of My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, which is a great way to teach grammar and figures of speech. And I can totally imagine expanding the idea of punctuation pasta to punctuation pizza (period pepperoni, anyone?) and beyond (hence the baking contest last year, I surmise).
Punctuation is also incredibly useful in the world of solving rebus puzzles–take half the words out and replace them with pictures, and all of a sudden that apostrophe seems a lot more necessary to decoding the sentence. ReadWriteThink has a rebus poetry writing lesson, but there are dozens more out there, and lots of cool historic examples, too. The family of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow played with rebuses, and here’s one from Historic New England to test your mental mettle.
Feeling good about your visual verbal skills? Try the BrainBats over at BrainBashers (Lots and lots of fun brainteasers over there, by the way, including some fun logic puzzles). Or go for a more traditional grammar game experience with the Comma IQ test from the folks behind Eats, Shoots & Leaves. You might even copy edit to your heart’s content in both Spanish and English through Maggie’s Earth Adventures, offered through Scholastic’s Teachers site.
Had enough words? We’re back to impossible objects and scratch holograms in the next post.
Tags: art, light and color, magnets, multicultural, poetry, recycling, writing
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
Ms. Dickinson was clearly a Brain Popcorn-style poet. (She also reputedly said “The brain is wider than the sky,” a sentiment I quite enjoy.) And so I am happy to say…
There are a lot of very cool things going on in the world for National Poetry Month, and here are a smattering of particularly interesting and/or interdisciplinary approaches:
One Day Poem Pavilion – a very neat project, brought to deserving attention by Paul Orselli over on Exhibitricks. This particular intersection of art and science writes a poem with sunlight and cardboard which changes as the day progresses. Be sure to check out the time lapse video.
You Too Can Haiku — ARTSEDGE does it again! A nice satisfying lesson plan incorporating writing, visual art, and multicultural discussion.
Michelangelo Complains in Rhyme about the Sistine Chapel — Highly amusing, even if one probably loses something in the translation. (And it holds particular shine for me, as I’m going to Italy at the end of next week!) This would be a really fun poem to tie in to a discussion/activity on ekphrasis. If you’re looking for further ideas, I recommend this lesson plan over at ReadWriteThink.
MYO Magnetic Poetry Activity Plan (downloadable pdf) This is the list of materials and directions for a Make Your Own Magnetic Poetry activity that I’ve done several times at The Discovery Museums, and which will also be one of the April drop-ins at the Art & Nature Center here at PEM. It’s entertaining, and though pre-cutting words can be time consuming, it’s very rewarding to watch people sift through the words and exclaim over the ones they find. Small kids through teenagers and adults have fun with this one!
Finally, I would like to applaud this particular random act of poetry in a grocery store. That kind of news just makes my day.
Tags: multicultural, thinking theory, training
I read a truly fabulous article today which made me dance for joy in my seat. (And then have flashbacks to my first trip to Disney World and the song Figment sang in the Imagination Pavilion. Which has now been stuck in my head for several hours.) This article, “Fresh Approaches to Sparking Creativity” reports on the findings of two studies into engaging the imagination and giving it more scope, first through exposure to and comparison of multicultural information (photos, video, music), and second through putting oneself in the mindset of a child.
“seeding the imagination is as simple as allowing yourself to think like a 7-year-old” -Tom Jacobs, “Fresh Approaches to Sparking Creativity”
Now, as an avid advocate for the world of interdisciplinary learning, I read the first half of the article with a great amount of pleasure. In fact, I said “Aha! Vindication!” because my travel-minded mother has always advocated for exposure to other cultures, and consequently so have I. In fact, the incredibly strong multicultural collections of the Peabody Essex Museum are one of its main attractors to me from a programming standpoint. There’s just so much source material! (And by the way, the Sensational India festival is coming up soon, if you’d like to put this imagination-sparking theory to the test!)
However, the second study report went straight to the heart for me. Childlike thinking? I’m all over that.
When working with the Explorers at The Discovery Museums, one of my favorite training exercises was called “When I was a child.” In this exercise, we gave each Explorer a sheet asking them to write down what they remembered from specific ages (4-6, 7-8, 9-10, 10-12): whom did they play with? what kinds of games or activities did they like? what were their favorite things to do? and then gave them somewhere between 5-10 minutes to jot down their answers before offering them the opportunity to share some of their favorite memories, one age at a time.
Not only was it great fun to participate (why let the trainees have all the fun?), but it was fabulous to watch people’s faces and voices change, to see them grin reminiscently and light up with enthusiasm. Keying into that energy helps us to understand what a museum’s visitors are all about at certain ages. It’s a fabulous way to talk about child development and visitor interaction without ever getting into the psychobabble or technicalities.
Plus it’s good for your brain.
Tags: games, multicultural, sport, winter
I love the Olympics–talk about an interdisciplinary event! Theatrics, costumes, sport, science, art, international themes, history…a brain popcorn extravaganza if ever I saw one.
To get you in shape for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic celebrations and competitions, here are links to gear up your brain!
Official Websites of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics
Official Site of the Vancouver Olympics, including a fun interdisciplinary nod to native legends and local ecology with the three kid-friendly mascots, Quatchi, Miga, and Sumi. Have to admit that Miga is my favorite — how can you not love a ‘sea bear?’ Part orca, part endangered Kermode ‘spirit bear’, and relentlessly adorable.
70 Years of Olympic History, from the Washington Post’s coverage of the ’98 Nagano Games
Science of Sport
Winter Olympics Sport and Science from Montana State University
Ice is Nice
Olympic Ice is Different in a Frozen Light from NASA. Very cool photography in this one.
##Current News!## Scientists Keep Water Liquid Far Below Zero Degrees from NPR, reported Feb. 5
Clever snow conservation going on in Vancouver these weeks running up to the games… Spinning Straw into Snow from CNET
Do Try this at Home*
For those who find it too cold to climb trees this season, try some House Gymnastics. Or at least enjoy the pictures of people hanging precariously in their stairways.
*maybe. Some of these activities are a little dubious on the safety-meter. Clamber over furniture, etc. at your own risk!
Coming up next…
Having fun with bobsled/bobsleigh and other things with runners — links and activities!
Tags: art, astronomy, china, geography, history, holiday, multicultural, music, reading, theater, writing
Welcome in Lunar New Year with the spirit of friendship (as represented by the flower arrangement above) and with an arrangement of my own suggestions for cool resources and activities.
History and Culture
A brief but interesting collection of information on the New Year as celebrated in China, from the University of Victoria
A nice resizeable map of China, with or without more detailed information, from National Geographic
Asia-Art.Net, a collection of really beautiful examples from several cultures, organized by medium or by culture.
Why is it Lunar New Year? Observing the Moon, from Science NetLinks
Arts and Crafts
The Smithsonian strikes again! (I love these guys as much as I love National Geographic!) The Sackler and Freer Museums are home to the Smithsonian’s Asian collections, and they have both Chinese centric and Across Asia teacher resources as part of their larger set of Online Guides.
Theater and Music
Two fabulous resources from the Kennedy Center’s Artsedge:
The Sounds of China Pod Page, with music to listen to and connected information and activities.
Also from the Kennedy Center, Chinese Calligraphy and Ink Painting
And finally, from Read-Write-Think, which is run by the National Council of Teachers of English, a very cool Fairy Tale Autobiographies lesson plan, which uses Chinese tales but could be adapted for pretty much any culture.
Not enough? Then come celebrate with the Peabody Essex Museum, on Saturday February 27! (Chances are very good you’ll find me making paper lanterns in East India Marine Hall…)