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Science and Art Museum

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Keywords: science, art, museum, digital camera, computer, sculpture, docent, experiential learning, hands-on, middle school concept, group work, painting, drawing, microscopes, music, light painting
Subject(s): Math, English/Language Arts, Science, Art, Technology, Music, Photography
Grades 6 through 8
School: Hawfield Middle School, Mebane, NC
Planned By: Michele Nelson
Original Author: Michele Nelson, Mebane
The Science and Art Museum is an amazing unit with many lessons which use a digital camera.


A. Computer Research

B. Notes and fact finding

C. Planning out the science process/art project including method, materials, and hypothesis about outcome

D. Using the digital camera to record the scientific process and create art
1. Water Turbulence
2. Microscope Art
3. Light painting
4. Soap Film Bubble Photography
5. Other science related art projects

E. Ongoing research and one page report

F. The Art and Science Museum Grand Opening, featuring student art inspired by science, informational text, interactive exhibits and student as docents, leading their peers on tours of the museum.

Read on to learn more about this project in detail:

A. The students spend a week in the computer lab researching artists and art that is directly linked to science. Examples include: Microscope Art, Light Painting, sculptures of microbial fungi, growing crystal sculptures, and so on.

B. The students have a series of guiding questions to help them research their chosen topic, along with pre-selected (by the teacher) websites to use to discover answers to their research questions. (This gives the students choices and a variety of sources, however, it keeps them from wandering the world wide web without structure.)

C. After the students have completed their initial research, they begin planning their projects. Though the students researched a particular topic individually, they will work in groups to plan and create artwork, based on the topics researched by the members of their group. Group work and student choice are important aspects of the Middle School Concept, a philosophy of teaching, which keeps the social middle schoolers active and engaged.

The groups of students plan out sketches of their proposed works of art/experiments, based on their research. The group must plan out the basic procedures, materials needed, and hypothesize what the end result of the art will look like. Students will choose which media they will use for their project.

D. Several of the science/art projects use the digital camera as their art medium. One project focuses on turbulence. The students with this project supersaturate sugar water to make a thick solution. Food coloring is then added in drops. The solution delays the passage of the food coloring through the sugar water, allowing the turbulent patterns to be captured with a camera. The resulting swirls and eddies of color both provide a scientific documentation of water turbulence and also create beautiful abstract works of art.

Microscope Art has the students studying various substances with a microscope. The slides are manipulated until the right composition of the substance is attained. The camera records the image in the microscope. The image is displayed in a photograph which could be manipulated with Adobe Phtoshop Elements to create a work of art.

Another project, Light Painting, uses a digital camera to record light trails which occur when a camera is used with no flash in a dark setting. The students in this group use flashlights, a dark closet and a digital camera set on a nighttime setting to capture light trails. Because it is dark, the aperture on the camera stays open longer to record enough light to create an image. While the aperture is open, another student, or more, moves the flashlights in patterns, creating abstract art with the light. the result is amazing abstract images created with a camera and light.

Yet another project in this unit has students creating computer art to represent music called Visual Music. Students will use a paint program to create visual music, as well altered digital photography pieces. These works of art will be viewed and heard at the same time, with headphones near the art, playing the different musical pieces which inspired the art.

Other projects in the Science and Art Museum which incorporate a digital camera in the process include, light experiments in mixing colors (Red, Blue and GREEN light mix to make white light!), capturing rainbows in soap film bubbles with a macro lens and experiments with light on objects with varied directions.

E. Every group writes ongoing research and assessments of their progress while they conduct experiments/create art. Each child will be responsible for a one page paper outlining the science behind their art and the process by which it was created.

F.The culminating event of this unit will be the creation of an actual art and science museum at the middle school. On a predetermined day, the museum will be open for tours by other classes in the school. Students who worked on the museum will serve as museum docents and guards, guiding tours of students, parents, and community, explaining about the art and science in the museum.

The museum goers will be invited to experiment with light and view slides in microscopes which inspired paintings and sculptures. The students will see the photographic artwork of their peers and the whole school will learn a little more about art and science.

This lesson is SO COOL, so ENGAGING, and SO FUN! Imagine: EVERY child, on task, studying science, creating art...LEARNING!
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This lesson can be used in both art and science classes. English Language Arts ideas could include Writing a Research Paper or Expository Writing.
Math connections include measuring, standard to metric conversions, fractions and ratios.
Social Studies connections could include a study of the times during which great scientific discoveries were made and famous works of art which correlate with science were created.
Guidance curriculum ideas include teamwork and planning for success in school.
Follow up activities include deeper studies into science and art topics in the museum by visitors, treasure hunt of science concepts for visitors, more in-depth experiments into the science of the artworks in the museum with control groups and more variables.
Links: Link to Princeton Art of Science
Materials: Point and Shoot, Digital SLR, Mobile Labs, Word Processor, Paint, Web Page, Slideshow, Cause and Effect, Science, Camera Bags, xD Memory Cards, Flash/USB Drives, Batteries
Other Items: 1 Model DC128 Digital Microscope, $ 449.99 each, total of $449.99
10 Adobe Photoshop Elements Software, $ 59.00 each, total of $590.00
1 Olympus Evolt E330 7.5MP Digital SLR Camera with 14-45mm f3.5/5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens, $ 399.95 each, total of $399.95
2 Olympus 2GB xD Memory Card - Type M, $ 29.00 each, total of $58.00