Skip to Content

STEAM Learning: Beauty and Truth in Science and Art

7 Favorites 2 Copies (view)
Age Levels Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults

Overview: Within the new realm of STEAM learning, students explore transdisciplinary themes connecting Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math in new ways, finding similarities and differences.  The overall goal of STEAM learning is to link the subjects for 21st century career paths.

Use this lesson as a provocation to a unit on planet Earth, our solar system, and/or space and the human interaction within those topics. This will get students thinking about how we translate the world around us and motivate them to dig deep when researching.

Use the thinking routine: Beauty and Truth for an engaging discussion with students. The discussions will help you assess students’ prior knowledge of space, Earth, and our solar system.

Purpose:  In this lesson students explore their knowledge of science and art. Students are asked to make connections with the two as they use a Project Zero thinking routine: Beauty and Truth. This lesson can be adapted to students Grades 5-12 to work collaboratively and enhance their communication skills within the regular classrooms or Design Thinking and Maker Space learning workshops when available.

History connections: This collection offers a historical perspective of the synergistic role of art and sciences for innovations used for human exploration both on Earth and in space. The images and artifacts have been selected to capture science and art from the early 20th century to current times.

Directions: In order to allow student led learning, model the activity (described below), then allow the students to explore the activity. The very last resource in the collection is a video entitled “Heaven and Earth”. Use this as a tool for a reflection discussion in the beginning and end of your lesson. Please feel free to modify the lesson. Note that it is imperative to discuss Science and Art before and after the lesson to show the growth of understanding from beginning to end. 

A sample discussion to get students thinking about how to describe art and science can use the following questions: "Where do you see art in these images? What, to you, makes it "art"? Where do you see science? What, to you makes it "science"? Let's look deeper, could you say that what you thought was art could have aspects of science? What could make it science? And now the opposite, could you say that what you thought was science could have aspects of art? What could make it art?" As a teacher, document the descriptions on the board for the students to see the words they are using. Create a Venn diagram of the words used, each circle being science or art with the overlap being similar descriptions. Use your personal style to dig deep in the discussion, working on the students' abilities to communicate effectively and with metaphors. Highlight when they use powerful metaphors or challenge them to make associations when speaking to best express themselves. 

Teacher will demonstrate a sample first: Choose two images (Art and Science): one that you think best demonstrates concepts in science that you are interested in and one that best demonstrates art concepts that you are interested in.  Please explore the artifact by exploring the tabs that display more information about the piece. 

The teacher demonstrates the thinking routine to analyze the images: Beauty and Truth. Document both beauty and truth evidence for each image. Compare the list and see if there are similarities. Then the students pair up to do the same: choose two images and explore Beauty and Truth for each image. Have them chart using 4 squares to get the beauty and truth observations for each of the two images. After, share out their findings and have a reflection discussion for any similarities amongst students. The main goal is to have the students realize on their own that science and art overlap in many ways, and that beauty and truth can be extracted from each. 

The purpose of first exploring science vs. art and then beauty and truth is to increase the sophistication of the discussion and students' abilities to communicate effectively and clearly. After all four words are analyzed for the two images, students will have both exercised their communicative abilities and their reasoning of the world around us created and real. This challenges their point of view of the world around them and calibrates their critical reasoning skills. 

This should lead some rich discussions as well as powerful creative expression and scientific reasoning. These are the skills that students need to analyze the world around them to further extend their STEM skills and best prepare for the 21st century workforce. Take your time to use this as a platform for discussion in your classroom and continue to have student discuss their perceptions of the world. 

Learning Integrations:

  • Literacy: Have the students write a persuasive paragraph that promotes either of the images as more beauty or truth with multiple reasons why and concrete examples to demonstrate.
  • Science: Have the students research more about the science they observed. You can even combine literacy by having them complete a technical article where they place themselves within that time period of the scientific discovery and write a “Breaking News” article telling the general public about the amazing new science discovery.
  • History: Create a timeline for 5-10 images. Discuss the progression of discovery and innovation. Discuss the impact on society and humans.

Learning Extensions:

  • Use design thinking to extend the learning. Pretend there will be a circus coming to town that gets everyone excited about STEAM. Use graphic design tools to combine both images and create a promotional poster.
  • Create a model or diorama of the scientific discovery.

Let the learning take you on an STEAM adventure.

Enjoy this lesson!

Ages: Grades 5-12, scope per ability

Learning objectives:

  • Students understand the similarities and differences of science and art.
  • Students learn historic scientific discoveries.
  • NGSS - Use these objectives after using this lesson as a provocation to learn about our Earth, the Universe, and the solar system. Sample science units can include the following learning standards:
    • MS-ESS1-2 Earth's Place in the Universe

    • Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.  Grade: Middle School (6-8)
    • HS-ESS1-1 Earth's Place in the Universe

    • Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the life span of the sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the sun’s core to release energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation.  Grade: High School (9-12)
    • HS-ESS1-2 Earth's Place in the Universe

    • Construct an explanation of the Big Bang theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies, and composition of matter in the universe.  Grade: High School (9-12)

Cultural Connections - Global Perspectives

  • Investigating the world: With prompting and support, I can ask a question about an idea that is important to my community.
  • Recognizing perspectives: With prompting and support, I can identify when someone else has an idea that is different from my own.
  • Communicate Ideas: I can speak and write to share my ideas with others. This means with help I can look at my audience, speak loudly and clearly, and share my ideas so that my audience can understand them.

#GoGlobal #STEAM #STEM #designthinking #makeractivity

Beauty and Truth: Project Zero Global Thinking Routine

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

Communications Satellite, Telstar

National Air and Space Museum

Goniodoma polyedricum

NMNH - Botany Dept.

Communications Satellite, Courier

National Air and Space Museum

Communications Satellite, Iridium

National Air and Space Museum

Aerial Machine

National Air and Space Museum

Ornithopter

National Air and Space Museum

Leafwing Butterfly

NMNH - Education & Outreach

Dichocysta pictipes Champion

NMNH - Entomology Dept.

Elbaite

NMNH - Mineral Sciences Dept.

Black Mountain Lion and Black Fox

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Poisoned Earth (China)

National Portrait Gallery

The Good Earth

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Yliaster (Paracelsus)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Connecting Earth and Sky

National Museum of the American Indian

Dynamic Earth Official Trailer

Smithsonian Institution

Earth Flight Environment Mural

National Air and Space Museum

Mellow the Earth

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Satellite photos of Earth

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Earth-Moon Connexions

National Museum of African Art

Dance, from the "Old Earth Series"

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Elk

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Valley Farms

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Golden Sampler

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Red Cylinder

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Blues

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Dust Bowl

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Hudson River at Cold Spring

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Eclipse

National Museum of African Art

Sowa Pan at 360°

National Museum of African Art

Untitled

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Only One

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Virga

Smithsonian American Art Museum

1.8 Renwick

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Aurora Borealis

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Heaven and Earth

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory