Start With Art – something fresh from Explorify
Fire your children’s curiosity and creativity while finding connections between their science learning and a variety of engaging and inspiring works of art.
Where creativity meets curiosity
Start With Art offers a fresh type of Explorify activity, bringing together Science and Art. Curiosity and creativity are qualities that both scientists and artists share - whatever their age.
Will your children be able to find links to their science learning in a work of art? The links won’t always be obvious, and an individual child’s response may reveal a misconception that he or she still holds; or it may show you that another child has the confidence and understanding to challenge that misconception. In fact, feedback received from teacher trials of the activities suggests that Start With Art may indeed help to reinforce children’s understanding of the nature of science itself.
Each activity starts with a screen that moves slowly to one side, revealing an image of an artwork. This could be a painting, a sculpture, or even a large ‘installation’. The teacher presses pause when the image is fully revealed, and children are encouraged to look closely at it and describe what they see to a partner. Questions from the teacher prompt children to find and suggest links to their learning in science. It’s important to ask these prompt questions.
The science links might ‘jump off the page’ or take a little more time to form in children’s minds, depending on the artwork and the intended year group for the activity. Children often surprise us by noticing unexpected science-related links or other points of interest, and by making connections to their own lived experience.
Each work has each been matched to a single element of the primary science curriculum. It’s for the children to suggest how they think the artwork relates to their learning. For instance, children might relate an image of one of Van Gogh’s famous sunflower paintings to seeds they’d been planting or be more interested in talking about the formation of seeds in the flower head.
Instead, we’ve chosen Sunflowers, after Van Gogh by contemporary artist Jane Perkins, who used found plastic materials to recreate the original. Children in Year 5 could identify the sources and uses of these materials, or perhaps consider them from the perspective of reduce, re-use, recycle.
Original artwork and photograph of the original artwork Sunflowers, after Van Gogh by Jane Perkins
Our aim has been to showcase art created by a diverse group of artists. So long as the artwork can be displayed as a single image – whether it’s a photograph, installation, sculpture, or painting – it can be included. A brief, child-friendly bio of each artist is provided, which can be read aloud to the class, along with details about the work, and a link to the artist’s own website, or to a website with reliable information about them. Be sure to always check the suitability of other works by the artist before sharing them with children.
As with all activities on Explorify, there’s an overview of the Background Science which also helpfully signposts misconceptions children may have. A range of tried-and-tested Take it further activities are listed, along with other recommended Explorify activities on a similar theme. Some teachers, when we trialled these activities, found it helpful to try some of the Take it further activities before viewing the artwork. The ‘start’ in Start With Art is not suggesting you start your new topic by looking at an artwork. Quite the contrary, in fact. Start With Art works better further through a topic as it can tease out remaining misconceptions, facilitate vocabulary practice, and give you, the teacher, an opportunity to assess knowledge and understanding. The idea is to start a lesson, or simply a discussion, with art.
Although we’re sure teachers will find their own inspiration for follow-up activities in Art (not to mention in Technology, Engineering and Maths), we’ve provided a single art idea for each activity under the heading Get creative! And while the children are working creatively on these, they may well continue to reflect on the science content, their understanding of it, and any questions they still want answered.
So try starting your next science lesson with an art-based discussion. But don’t forget, Start With Art will be most effective in the middle or at the end of a topic, enabling you to assess children’s knowledge and understanding, as well as their ability to make links.
Click here for Top Tips on How to run a Start With Art activity.