Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Artsy science; what about sciency art? II

I just learned that my 10th grader's chemistry teacher gave students the assignment of constructing a mole.

No, not a mole as in a unit of chemical substance, but a mole as in the furry creature that tunnels under yards and eats earthworms.

The idea, apparently, was to find an "entry point" to learning about the mammal's eponymous homonym (i.e., the chemical mole) for the more artsy, less scientifically inclined students. What actually happened was the many students rebelled against the assignment, calling it stupid and patronizing.

The teacher compromised by making the assignment optional--for extra credit. My son said "No, thanks." Shortly before the assignment was due, however, one of his more ambitious, industrious friends went down to the lost and found, retrieved an old T-shirt, stuffed it with scrap paper, stapled it up, drew dots for eyes, and turned it in.

I'm now waiting for the art teacher to allow the more sciency students to do an optical analysis in lieu of a painting.


Mrs. C said...

I'm thinking trenchcoat and sunglasses and TA DA! mole. :)

Beth said...

Katherine -- the science of art is a fascinating subject and a good school could do a lot with it. The laws of perspective and the way a lens works (and how it relates to the way the eye works) are two subjects just off the top of my head.

Art history can also be fascinating from a mathy perspective -- for instance, how did Philip Steadman prove that Vermeer must have used a camera obscura for his drawings? More recently, the painter David Hockney has floated the thesis that many of our favorite Renaissance painters were using mirrors, lenses and other optical tools much earlier than was previously believed. Can his theories be proven?

As usual, it's all about the implementation. There's no reason that the intersection of science and art should be some dumb project like making a mole. Mrs. C, great solution, by the way.

Niels Henrik Abel said...

That is pathetic beyond words.