Combining arts and science to encourage action and discussion

Emma Skeet, Programme Coordinator for Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA), shares some creativity resources for use by pupils in English, Maths, science and art

This year, we have been facilitating collaboration between science and arts university students at UEA to create learning resources for Primary and Secondary aged children, aiming to engage the next generation with the creative possibilities of science communication to raise awareness of important science issues, alongside encouraging action and discussion.

Photo: UEA university students worked with primary and secondary students at City of Norwich School, researching endangered Norfolk insects to then create drawings of them, at a Super Science Saturday family event.

UEA university students worked with primary and secondary students at City of Norwich School, researching endangered Norfolk insects to then create drawings of them, at a Super Science Saturday family event.

The VOICES project

Students from the Science and Arts Faculties at UEA have created three learning resources on ways to use creativity in the curriculum, inviting school students to become science artivists, using their creative voices for science. The first topic explores how insects are in danger of becoming extinct due to habitat loss caused by climate change and other environmental factors. The resources invite school students to create poems and artwork about an endangered insect that lives in Norfolk, to raise awareness of this problem, and to celebrate the importance of insects for a healthy planet. The third resource invites school students to be citizen scientists and collect data on the number and type of insects that visit their bug hotel.

“The general idea of the club is to empower people, particularly young people, to use creative outlets such as visual and performance art to inspire discussions on important topics such as climate change and the global biodiversity crisis. We hope to inspire collaboration across disciplines by bringing together students across the Sciences and the Arts (and other schools!) to work towards the same goals. We can learn so much from each other this way.” - Lia Herrera Grau, Biological Sciences student and VOICES team leader.

The UEA students felt it was important to have a local focus as a way into the global issue, to help with eco-anxiety and feelings of helplessness and well-being. It felt more manageable for them, and so, they believe, it will for younger school students too, helping them feel they can make a difference with such an overwhelming issue.

The VOICES project, in collaboration with Norfolk Wildlife Trust, is staging an exhibition of all artwork and poetry at Cley Marshes Visitor Centre in October 2022. All insect art will also be entered into a competition with the winners being made into an insect sock by UEA Science graduate Lucy Jeffrey and her company Bare Kind.

Science communication in this way, woven into other subjects such as English, Maths, and art, can engage and inspire school children helping spark curiosity for science. For example, writing poetry about, and drawing, endangered insects creates a space to discuss the impact of climate change on biodiversity and why insects are important for a healthy planet.

Share Your Story Through Arts (SYSTA)

Another project run by Emma Skeet, outside UEA, is SYSTA. SYSTA (Share Your Story Through Arts) creates projects which use creativity to bring about social change. Schools, libraries, charities, and community groups raise awareness, support, and funding for a special cause by working together on projects. The driving force behind the project’s success is the amazing power of collaboration, enabling participants to learn and innovate together, gaining confidence in their creativity and the fact that they can make a difference to the world. Creativity can be celebrated in all aspects of teaching, from the way we encourage children to think with a growth mindset, to giving them the confidence to participate in suggesting answers, even if they are not the answer we were expecting, and how this then leads to discussion and development of new ideas.

Emma Skeet is a Positive Agent of Change using creative thinking and collaboration to initiate and manage projects opportunities at UEA and Artivist.

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