Students explore connections between art and science | SierraSun.com

Students explore connections between art and science

Katherine Morris

Instead of studying the local terrain through a microscope and magnifying glass, one group of students is taking a different approach to their science studies – one that uses colored pencils and crayons.

Students in Karen Martin’s sixth grade class at Sierra Mountain Middle School spent two days at Martis Creek last week, studying the area’s watershed and recording their observations through colorful sketches and drawings.

With the help of local artist Marya Roddis, who instructed students on the basics of scientific illustration and nature drawing, students produced their own renderings of the diverse ecosystem off Highway 267.

“We’re trying to get the kids to look at science and nature from a different perspective,” Martin said. “The illustrated field journal is an important tool used by many scientists. I want my students to see the connections between science and other disciplines in real-life situations.”

“They’ll be keeping and working on their nature field journals throughout the year,” she added.

Martin added that it was great to have a professional artist to instruct students on techniques, since many of them will actually be entering their work in a national watershed art and poetry contest later in the year.

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The contest, entitled “River of Words,” celebrates the connections between nature and the arts.

As they sat between scrub brush and grass, some chatted with friends and shared journal ideas while others sat alone and colored intently.

The two-day field trip also included a series of water quality tests along the creek.

“We’re not just out here measuring pH,” Martin said. “These students are collecting important data about the health of the stream.”

Students tested and log data on dissolved oxygen, turbidity, temperature and vegetative cover.

“Sierra Watershed Education Partnership (SWEP) then uses this data to help monitor the health of our watershed,” she said. “SWEP has been very helpful in training teachers and providing resources to help our schools become involved in local field science projects.”

The combination of arts and science seemed to go over well with students.

When it came time for more lecture and instruction some asked if they could keep drawing while they listened.

“This is fun,” several remarked. “Do we have to stop?”