creativity

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Recently, our school was fortunate to have a visit from Billy Collins – former poet laureate of the U.S. He read a few entries from Poetry 180 - a collection of poems for each of the 180 days of the school year (geared at high school students). You can see all of the poems here.

Inspired by his visit, I asked my students to either select or write a poem about science – which they would post on our class discussion board. Not only did they really enjoy reading what others posted, a few did a fantastic job writing their own science poems:

We started a little competition you see
Between my bright lab partner and me
Well I made a fish that glows in the dark
So he made a cat that doesn’t meow but bark
To beat him made I a lobster with wings
So he made a crocodile that sings,
So well that I gave my dog a few extra legs
To run past his roosters laying eggs
Out of hand it then got with my alliperizebralion
Pronouncing his beast I ain’t even trying
And after I gave his firstborn the head of a moose
We both decided to call it a truce

There once was a chemist named Larry
Who wanted to be really hairy.
He brewed up a potion
That set into motion
Some hair-growing that was quite scary.

A naive young biologist, Shay,
Thought that rocks and stones had DNA.
With his rock-carving tools,
He looked like a fool,
And wasted there many a day.

As we were going over their submissions in class, one student questioned what poetry had to do with science. Of course, I took the bait and led the class into a discussion on the importance of creativity in science.

We discussed science in art, and art in science. We discussed science writing (like David Quammen and Lewis Thomas). We discussed wildlife photography, National Geographic’s CritterCam, and David Goodsell’s Molecular Art (see image right). And we also discussed one of the most important creative endeavors in science – experimental design.

Beyond the occasional creative assignment (Drawing Moles, Making Reaction Rate Videos, Einstein’s Facebook), I’ve never taught science using creativity as a common thread. And while this was readily apparent to me, I hadn’t realized how much my students had mentally segregated science from creativity.

So as I think about preparing for the next school year, I will be making sure that my students understand the influence of creative thought in science.

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