Saturday, December 14, 2013

Studio Thinking and Science- guest blogger Anna Golden

Anna here-
I've been thinking a lot about how the studio can be helpful in science learning. We know that very often, even hands on, rigorously designed science experiences leave students with strongly rooted misconceptions which we can carry forever. The programs out of Harvard and the Smithsonian called minds of our own show how even the best teaching can leave students with big gaps in understanding,which our minds fill with information that makes sense to us.

I know that done right, studio experience can force people to think and re-think through information very specifically. This allows us to confront misconception and revise our understandings. But sometimes science processes seem so narrowly defined, especially the way it was defined in my school experience, that I wonder if there can be a place there for things like re-presenting in new languages, for instance. I am grateful for a chance to experiment with Christine and Stephanie to see how far the link between studio and the scientific method can go. 

Light is a particularly good vehicle for studio thinking in science because it is vitally important in visual perception. Light is inherent in any work involving color, photographic processes or sequences of images like flipbooks and movies.

Light behaves according to rules, and those rules can be observed through hands-on experiences. We worked with three phenomena in our investigation in the 'portable light studio'. Reflection through translucent color, bouncing light and simple refraction. 
By playing with colored shadows, the children found some answers to their question "can a rainbow form without water?" They realized that colored shadows could make something like a rainbow on the wall. However, this raised another question; "Is this a real rainbow?" The children sensed that the colored shadows reflected through our translucent materials were not quite the same as the spectrum that comes when water is refracted through water droplets in a rainbow. Later, they worked with Christine to refract light through the spray of a hose, creating a 'realer' seaming rainbow.
Mirrors, especially our disco ball, helped the first graders notice more reflective properties of light, like how light travels in straight lines and bounces off mirrors at the same angle it hits them.
After playing with light for a while children began creating with it.
Here, Will created a "lollipop made of light"   
E. noticed that her mirror created a frame made of light around her notes.

Outside, children tried to see how many times they could bounce a beam of light, using mirrors, and then kept track of their processes by drawing.
Working in this way, each child increased their understanding about the properties of light. When it comes right down to it, playing to observe scientific properties is just plain fun.

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