Share It! Science and Growing with Science are pleased to announce we are teaming up for a week long Children’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Festival. Please join us for information and project ideas to help your family explore STEAM-related activities for the summer and beyond.
Today we are highlighting art with a STEM focus. Sarah at Share It! Science has an awesome description of activities for a Family STEAM Night: Where Art Meets Science. Here at Growing with Science we are going to investigate string theory using art.
Whether art should be included with STEM (making the acronym STEAM) is not universally accepted. STEM advocates argue that the STEM acronym was conceived to promote the subjects that needed an extra push. STEAM backers say including art might draw some reluctant students to STEM through the back door, as well as create more well-rounded citizens.
The fact is, many scientists are interested in art and if they are not actively using art for their careers, probably have art-related hobbies. At the same time, many artists are using STEM to create innovative new techniques. The two have never been mutually exclusive and the boundaries may be blurrier than ever.
Some obvious places art and STEM overlap:
- Scientific illustration
- The maker movement
- Industrial design
- Web design
Art also helps students explore abstract constructs in more concrete ways. Let’s look at an example.
Exploring String Theory
String theory (or superstring theory) is the complex and abstract idea from quantum mechanics that ridiculously tiny strands of energy or “strings” vibrate to create all the particles and forces in the universe(s). And, by the way, they are vibrating in 11 dimensions.
Got that? If not, Brian Greene has a TED talk called Making Sense of String Theory that might help.
String Theory for Kids
Who better to explain string theory to kids than another kid? Shaun-Michael Diem-Lane, who was eleven when he made this video, has obviously been thinking about string theory a lot. Watch how he uses concrete examples and art to make his explanation easier to understand.
(Note: There might be a wee bit of confusion between energy and matter in the video).
Creating String Theory Art
Painting with rubber bands is one way to think about the energy and chaos of string theory.
1. Rubber band paint brush
- Rubber bands of different sizes
- Pencil or paint brush to serve as a handle.
- Acrylic paint
- Small, shallow bowls or plates to hold paint
Using a pencil or paint brush as a handle, gather a few rubber bands into a bundle. Hold them against the pencil and fasten using another rubber band wrapped around, creating a “mop” of rubber bands. Help of an adult may be required for this step.
Pour the paint into a shallow bowl or plate. Dip the rubber bands in the acrylic paint and then apply to paper. Experiment with different techniques, such as dragging the rubber bands across the paper, hopping the paint brush with the rubber bands down, etc. Then try different colors.
2. Rubber band launching device
Ever launch a rubber band using your finger?
Figure out a device to launch rubber bands at paper taped or fixed to a wall. Dip different-sized rubber bands in different colors of acrylic paint and launch them at the paper for a random effect.
Having trouble thinking up ideas? Mars Needs Rubber is a physics experiment that evaluates one rubber band launching method (direct .pdf link)
Other STEM and Art Resources to give you some ideas:
- Fractal Art at Cool Math 4 Kids
- Fractals for Middle Grades (by Cynthia Lanius)
- Origami and Math at Wolfram
- Origami cube lesson
Did you like our merging of science and art? Would you like to see more posts like this? Just let us know.
Disclosures: The book above was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.
Our activity schedule is as follows:
June 25: Art with a STEM focus
Growing with Science: this post
Share it! Science: Family STEAM Night- Where Art Meets Science!
We would love to hear your questions or suggestions for STEAM-related projects to share with others. Let’s heat up the summer with STEAM!