Teach/Learn – Science and Art

by Deb on June 13, 2010

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Welcome to the June Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival, ‘Kids and Learning.’

The Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival hosted by Science@home is for anyone, because we are all teachers and learners all the time. This month our theme is “Art” which doesn’t just mean doing craft – it includes music, performance art and appreciation as well! Our bloggers have come up with many different thought-provoking takes on this theme. Please read through to the end to find links to the other participating blogs.


I wanted to write something very special for this one because it’s fascinating, but had a lot of trouble knowing where to begin.  There is a whole genre of beautiful and intriguing science/art, my favourite examples are some of the science photography in the Eureka Awards, Australia’s science awards.  These are the 2008 finalists, you can see they are stunningly beautiful but at the same time they are also data, they help us to answer scientific questions.

Then there is the scientific study of cave art.  Rock paintings and Lascaux-aurochsrepresentational art from around the world has been used to develop and support theories about migration, brain and language development, abstract thought, religion, technology, you name it.  It is used for dating and to study the origins of writing.  It has even taught us about biology – there is no other way we could have known that the extinct Irish Elk had a hump.  But that is indulging a bit much in a pet topic, which isn’t really in the spirit of Teach/Learn.

An easy one to do with kids is presenting or learning science through art.  With little children so much is done through creativity and craft, I suppose it is a pure form of art because it’s their way of exploring and expressing their world.  I’ve done some examples of that with the Butterfly case study,  the Fairy Tree, chromatography and recently we’ve been playing with colour.  I’ve also written about the SPORE project and the way that art and science both encourage creativity.  We do a huge amount of visual art – painting, stickers, drawing, collage – and I wanted to get really active.  I thought that would be where they could explore something completely new, which is where you get great creativity and learning.

I was firstly inspired by a pile of wood that’s been sitting in our yard for at least the three and a half years we’ve lived here.  I noticed it while looking for some good sticks, although it turned out to have an ant’s nest in it!  I thought I might encourage the girls to use them to create a sculpture, and the problem of how to put them together would be the science focus.  Then I read this great post by Teacher Tom about using glue guns with pre-schoolers and that seemed to fit in really well – the big girl is fascinated by my glue gun and extremely excited to get to use it.  And the same night I got this post on bush cubby houses from Let the Children Play and that clinched it – another thing encouraging me to get that wood out and play with the girls.

First we collected all sorts of materials to use:


This includes fabric, elastic, pipe cleaners, various paper and glittery things, leaves and wood as well as the hot glue and normal PVA.  I tried to have a variety of things to join and a variety of things that could be used to join.


They’re very familiar with PVA so used that first, realising very quickly that it couldn’t join two pieces of wood.

hot glue

So then came the big moment with the hot glue gun!  This took some experimentation too – with PVA you can put all the glue on then stick things onto it.  With hot glue you need to stick straight away or it has already dried.

The first attempt at glitter was very disappointing – because the hot glue was in little beads, there wasn’t a satisfying burst of colour like they get on paper.


But being able to raid the fabric scraps more than made up for it.


We quickly ended up with several decorated sticks.

glitter with 2 glues

The little one revisited the glitter with two glues.  Since she’s more than happy to get glue everywhere, it worked quite well for her.  She was also happy to play with the glue itself.  So yes, the 2 year old did get to play with the hot glue gun, but there are no pictures because I was too busy hovering and helping when the little hands couldn’t quite manage.

put together

The final step was to start joining the decorated sticks together.  This one is ongoing, the next time it’s warm we’ll be outside continuing the project.

This project wasn’t art meant to express a message.  It was an exploration of lots of different materials to compare them, see how they work, discover what we can do with them and how we can combine them.  And at this age, that is exactly what science is all about.  You don’t have to get outside as elaborately as we did, it can be as simple as looking around your house the next time your kids are gluing and finding something different to what they normally use. Let them play with it and discover that different materials have different properties, that affect what you can use them for and how you have to work with them.


Visit Science@home to find out more about the Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival.  Teach/Learn

Please take the time to visit the other participants and check out their posts on “Art.”

  • CatWay at Adventures With Kids is getting the most out of a trip to the art gallery with ideas of how to prepare children and interest them while they are there.
  • Mamapoekie from Authentic Parenting argues for the importance of art and why we should be encouraging it as our children get older.
  • Sarah at Bringing up Baby Bilingual is directing a play in the US – in French!  Her students are immersed in a different language through drama, giving them a much richer learning experience.
  • Miss Carly from Early Childhood Resources talks about how to create an environment that encourages young children to explore art.
  • Sharon at Hear Mum Roar has done a fantastic video post by getting her children to do an activity two different ways and letting you see the very different results.
  • Amanda at HomeAge has been admiring art with her daughter since she was a baby, taking her to several art exhibitions and reading books.
  • Kate from Picklebums talks about why art is important for little people and has a huge list of activities you can try.
  • The Planning Queen from Planning With Kids has tips for visiting the art gallery with kids, including links to different galleries and some ideas for activities afterwards.
  • Colin Wee at Super Parents is thinking about his son’s musicality as he learns to play the violin.
  • Deb from Science@home has her children investigating materials while making sculptures and bravely let the 2 year old use a hot glue gun.
  • Lisa at SMMART Ideas has a sidewalk chalk festival in her own driveway!
  • Leechbabe from Stuff with Thing started out looking at patterns in nature, but the activity changed because she followed her children’s lead.
  • Monique at Your Cheeky Monkey has used an indoor activity, giving her children magazines to cut out and create collages.

Thanks for visiting, we hope you enjoy some of the posts in our carnival.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Hear Mum Roar June 14, 2010 at 1:07 am

I really enjoyed this! Lots of varied materials, so much exploring to do. Awesome
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Monique June 14, 2010 at 5:55 am

What a fantastic post!! Very enjoyable, and it looks like tons of fun. I grew up in New Zealand in a house right on the beach and I have very fond memories of lots of play and craft with sticks and wood that had washed up on the beach!
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Deb June 18, 2010 at 7:13 pm

We’re collecting sticks everywhere ever since doing this, I can see many more in our future!


Catherine June 14, 2010 at 7:03 am

A great activity. I’ve been to scared to let my son near the hot glue gun, he seems to have a compulsion to test whether things are actually hot. Science/art is one of my favourite types of art, btw – perhaps you are not surprised. I especially love scientific illustration.
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Deb June 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I’m a complete Leonardo junkie. I’m actually an anatomist, so his drawings are breathtakingly beautiful and fascinating.
I’ve spent months keeping my girls away from the hot glue gun, Teacher Tom inspired me!


Miss Carly June 14, 2010 at 8:20 am

Fantastic post! I love that you highlighted it isn’t always the end product but the exploration and experimentation that is involved to get there!
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amandab June 14, 2010 at 8:47 am

Thos Eureka photos were great! Some of them had me so wrapped up in their beauty I could not figure out what the images were actually of!

I have to admit, when we experiment with materials or tools, it is something I have found as a pack in one of the cheap shops. This weekend we have revisited the sticky paper/sand art, and we bought a battery operated spirograph, drawing circles and patterns across the page.

Sometimes I do just pull out eveything we have, put it on the table and see what happens, but then I usually think about the putting it all away after LOL.

The girls DO look deep in concentration with what they are doing, which shows just how engaged with it they were.
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Deb June 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I like those packs, they give me lots of ideas to get out of my rut. I’m intrugued by a battery operated spirograph, I used to spend hours playing with a normal one when I was a kid. Daddy brought home a mini version for the big girl, but I need to find a way to pin it down, she’s lost interest because it keeps slipping.


katepickle June 14, 2010 at 9:58 am

Oh fabulous creating…. I think you are very brave letting the littles use the glue gun, not because of the heat but because I always manage to stick everything to everything and everything to myself when I use ours! LOL
And art and science really go hand in hand in so many ways don’t they!


Deb June 18, 2010 at 7:19 pm

There’s a reason we’re doing it outside, and it wasn’t because of the wood!

I always find it a bit strange the separation between art and science, but my Dad’s a scientist and my Mum’s side of the family sprouts artists, so I’ve grown up with them.


Colin Wee June 14, 2010 at 12:13 pm

That’s really cool – to teach perspective without directly alluding to it. That’s a fantastic approach to intellectually bonding with your kids. Cheers, Colin
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Marita June 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm

I’m starting to think I need to invest in a hot glue gun. Looks like lots of fun.


Colin Wee June 15, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I think I got my hot glue gun for maybe $12 at an art shop. The glue itself is about $3 for a small pack. Will definitely not break the bank. Colin
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Deb June 18, 2010 at 7:22 pm

This one came from a $2 shop, I was shocked how cheap they are. You can get lovely glitter glues as well, and use them to make little seals and beads by pushing shapes into them.


Christie - Childhood 101 June 15, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I think the combination of fabric and sticks created some really stunning pieces. You are a braver Mama than me, a two year old and a hot glue gun, oh my! 🙂
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Backyard Safari June 16, 2010 at 11:25 pm

What a wonderful posting! I’m a firm believer in teaching things in an interdisciplinary way, and combining art and science is one of my favorites! In the schools I have done some nature writing with older kids and “kid writing” with younger kids (kids draw a picture and then write one sentence about it), but I am excited to try something more hands on like this that combines different materials.
Thanks for the ideas! I will keep reading in the future!

-Backyard Safari


Deb June 18, 2010 at 7:25 pm

You’re welcome! I love integrated learning, I find it so hard to separate things into subjects because I can always see so many other bits as well.


Annie June 23, 2010 at 5:43 am

You’re right, integrated learning makes so much sense. I can’t think of many activities that involve one subject area only – and trying to teach things one subject at a time can really rob the activity of its meaning and context.

This was a great activity – I’d been contemplating a glue gun, now I’m completely inspired.


Colin Wee July 7, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Can I do another entry for this blog carnival? See my recent post ‘Art over Maths’ – something I came up with to keep my son occupied this holiday.
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