Emerging efforts and studies demonstrate that art plays a critical role in enhancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, an important NASA and U.S. goal of great importance, given that current U.S. youth lag far behind other industrialized countries in math and science skills. Partnering science with art also encourages the development of creative and critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills. These abilities are becoming increasingly necessary to ensure high performance in a rapidly changing global society. Thus, educational approaches combining space science topics with art could provide an effective method to inspire youth to seek education and careers in STEM-requiring fields, and to approach them innovatively and creatively.
In addition, the integration of science with art can provide a more
effective outreach tool for youth and adults than using science alone.
Prompting artistic expression with information about our current
knowledge of human space exploration has the potential to reach a wide
audience of youth. The resulting artwork can then be used as
a communication tool to inspire even more people of all ages, enhancing
awareness, interest, and support for human space flight. The artwork can
also provide new ideas or renewed inspiration to those already working
in the space industry. In the past, many of our science programs in
human space exploration have been inspired by the works of artists.
It’s exciting to see NASA and our partner agencies exploring new territory at the intersection of STEM and art. Now in its second year, the Humans in Space Youth Art Competitioncontinues to invite young people all over the world to think about the future of human space flight and to creatively communicate their ideas - and then promises to share those ideas with the world. By including the next generation in the planning of the future, the competition aims to enhance their awareness, interest in and support for human space flight, and to allow their ideas to begin shaping the future now.
The current 2012 competition encourages young people from 10 to 18 years of age to submit visual, literary, musical and video artwork expressing their vision of how humans will use science and technology in the future to explore space and uncover its mysteries. Their submissions will be judged by an international panel including artists, scientists, teachers, engineers, astronauts and others. The winning artwork will be woven into displays and performances designed to relay the young artists’ messages to other young people and adults around the world.
BEAM (Base Exploration Aboard Moon) Emily Miedema and Abby Bull, age
12, Canada *(2011 Humans in Space)*
But art is not just something we invite students to do. At the recent International Space Apps Challenge, Jon Spooner, director of Human Space Flight Operations at the Unlimited Space Agency, attempted to hack his way into space using a secret launch point alleged to be hidden somewhere in the UK Met Office. Read here for the real story of Jon’s mission and how theater and creative engagement are opening doors to talk about space science and STEM in the UK - and all over the world. He tells part of his story here:
Other thoughts on the intersection of scientists and art… or artists and science:
Science communication is not a one-way street between researchers &
journalists to the lay public. From the Science Art Feed you can see the
array of conversations non-scientists are starting through visual media.
There’s a response, an echo and an amplification to the impact the
scientific method has had on culture. Researchers, too, are stepping in
and showing the inspiring, baffling and illuminating images they come
across and use. Does it mean there is a new aesthetic, a new movement
[Glendon Mellow in Scientific American ]
…art is not only close to science but it is complementary, and even
necessary. Thus the scientific eye is able to penetrate the smallest
sub-atomic particle, which moves perpetually creating energy waves and
makes one realise that the structure of matter consists of emptiness.
The artistic eye can see in that void, in that fluid “emptiness”, a seed
for a new vision of the world: a world no longer dominated by
materialism and its devastating consequences.
[Liz Else in New Scientist ]
Art remains an invaluable tool not just for outreach but for how we talk about science and exploration. Alan Alda gave this interesting lecture at Stony Brook on training scientists to talk about their work and communicate differently:
Improvisation for Scientists: Workshops by Alan Alda and the Center for Communicating Science
Finally, John Bohannon and the Black Label Movement gave this incredibly powerful TEDx Brussels talk called Dance your PhD, reflecting on how sometimes dance could communicate more than science - or words - ever could on their own. Human movement can communicate incredibly complex ideas, expressing facets of the unknown in new and powerful ways.
TEDx Brussels - John Bohannon & Black Label Movement - Dance Your PhD
Where and how do you think art can help shape exploration? How could art help NASA continue to tell its story of pioneering the future?
Banner image: The Cradle of Cosmos, Anastasia Pronina, age 14-17 years old, Russia (2011 Humans in Space)