Russell Cave, Winburn explore intersection of art & science

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In a new FCPS collaboration, a group of fourth- and eighth-graders will learn more about how art and science are interconnected.

The partnership involves Russell Cave Elementary, Winburn Middle School, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, the University of Kentucky’s Art Museum and the Lexington Art League. After field trips and classroom lessons throughout the year, the pilot will culminate next spring in a public exhibition where students present their final projects at Raven Run.

“Each child will create an artistic interpretation of nature,” said Lori Bowen, the district’s elementary science content specialist, who designed the program.

About 50 students from each school recently visited Raven Run, where they broke out fresh art supplies as they followed a grassy path to the abandoned farmhouse and 200-year-old graveyard.

Naturalist Brian Perry guided the Russell Cave children through several exercises Friday – depicting a meadow with three simple lines perhaps for the hill, horizon and tree line; then using splashes of three colors to represent the landscape; and finally zeroing in on a particular flower or stone to draw in detail.

“The closer you look, the more you’re going to see,” Perry told the youngsters, who seemed fully engaged in the hunt and their tasks.  

“They got out in the fields and meadow and woods, made scientific observations and recorded them in sketch notebooks. They went out, looked at science and recorded it in art,” Bowen noted. “Here we have science and art coming together in a new way that maybe kids haven’t thought about before.”

The Russell Cave group also spent time indoors viewing slides of nature scenes and examining the intricacies of butterfly wings under microscopes. Through the varying scales, colors and patterns they observed in nature, the children began to recognize connections with concepts they study in art class. They also might have picked up a new word from Perry: sublime, meaning something that is both interesting and scary, like a roller coaster or an ocean.

“We’re hoping the students understand that scientists and artists both collect information. Artists may show the beauty of nature while scientists study a species,” said art teacher Kari Reckart.

She expects the fourth-graders to delve deeper as they experiment with their final artwork, which could be a two-dimensional piece, a 3D sculpture, a painting, a sketch, a photo essay, multimedia or anything really. Each project also will include a writing component and a digital poster. UK art students and the Winburn eighth-graders might lend a hand during the creative process.

“We really want them to be independent thinkers. They have to process lots of information from lots of areas to answer the questions we’re asking,” Reckart said.

Winburn science teacher Susan Powers will also expect much from the gifted and talented eighth-graders participating in the pilot – assigning them reading, research, writing and math components. For instance, her students might discover a formulaic distribution of wildflower petals or note trees shaped like triangles.

“I want them to walk away with a real appreciation of the science that’s all around us every day. For those who have embraced the art part, I want them to be able to see those things and capture it artistically,” said Powers, an amateur artist.  

“I’m trying to get students to look at science and understand there’s art in science – painting landscapes, field guides, looking at patterns in nature. People who draw these beautiful things get their inspiration from what’s actually out there.”  

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