There are a many different ways to help children translate what they have learned about a science concept into abstract and artistic representation. This is an important skill because it not only allows children to apply what they have learned (and to demonstrate their understanding) but it also invites children to move to higher levels of thinking. During what Jean Piaget defined as the Pre-Operational Stage (usually from 2-6years) children are on a “search for representation” and their major task is to master symbolic and representational function.
Some suggestions for artistic and scientific abstract representation:
• Field Drawings: When children observe both in the science center or classroom or outside, invite them to “record” their observations with drawings. It really doesn’t matter if their drawings look anything like what they see. Have drawing paper near your microscope or magnifiers. Always take sketchpads outside for playtime. You never know when an amazing discovery will occur.
• Prediction/Results Charts: Before testing out a concept such as ice and melting ask children to make predictions about what they think will happen. What is the best place for ice to melt fast? What will happen when you paint on frozen paper? Record these on chart paper with words and drawings. Add the results at the end of the activity and discuss the findings.
• Graphs: Simple graphs made with objects or pictorial representations are essential for demonstrating information in an abstract format. After a rust experiment children can paste in 2 parallel columns the objects that rusted and those that did not.
• Field Photos: Children can be amazingly adept at using cameras if they are shown correct handling and use. Use disposable or even digital cameras for children to record their observation and experimentation.
• Audio Field Notes: Of course, recordings don’t have to all be made on paper. Show children how to use a simple handheld tape recorder to record their observations on a walk or in the classroom.
• Science Journals: Provide small notebooks for children to keep their field drawings, photos, and writing. Make 9x12 size copies of the class charts and graphs in order for children to share their work with families. The science journal is an excellent way for families to talk “science” with their child. You might want to include a note to parents with a summary of the science project and some questions they can ask to help them discuss the work in the journal.
• Measurement Charts: Science often involves measurement. When children are measuring the growth of a moong seed sprout or the rising of bread dough. Use graph paper, strings, ice cream sticks, or adding machine tape to record their measurements and paste these in a row across a recording chart. Children will be able to “read” their findings by reading the pictures!
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Techniques for Using Art in Science