Anti-Icons: The Conflict Between Science and Religion

Each day seems to bring news stories where a religious group disavows science or a scientist attacks religion.

What is one to think? Which is right?

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon as revealed in Kendall College of Art and Design professor Jay Constantine work “Anti-Icons.”

These visually striking paintings are laden with symbolism and images of unorthodox and heretical thinkers of their historical era.

I would encourage you to check out these images if you are looking for a brief pause in your day to contemplate this perennial conflict and to simply appreciate the beauty of this work and to celebrate a great artist inviting us to look, to remember, and to imagine.

Educators could use these works in their art, world history or English classes, showing one of the works and asking students to reflect or write on them, or to use as a source for a class discussion.

To view Jay Constantine’s “Anti-Icons” please click on this link to the Kendall College of Art and Design website.

Re-Discovering Ancient Greece Using Modern Tools

Rediscovering Ancient Greece

For an enthusiastic look at ancient Greece read the brief account of Michigan State University professors Jim Peck and Jon Frey’s work on archaeological sites in Greece.

This is an engaging, brief reflection by video and communications professor Jim Peck who worked with archaeologist Jon Frey to use drones and software imagining techniques to create 3-d images of ancient sites such as the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia.

Peck’s writing helps bring alive the sense of history at being at these ancient sites and illuminates how Jon Frey became interested in archaeology and Frey’s enthusiasm for digital archaeology.

This brief read with the questions below could be a great “quick-read” for any secondary English/History course.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why was Ishtmia important to ancient Greek culture?
  2. Besides athletics, what other qualities did ancient Greeks value?
  3. Why did the ancient Greeks build a wall?
  4. What career was Frey considering before becoming an archaeologist? What changed his mind?
  5. What are the tools of digital archaeology?
  6. What is Frey’s attitude towards digital archaeology?
  7. What does Peck mean regarding Jon Frey’s attitude when he writes, “He says with that kind of openness, the potential for discovery is greater than ever.”

 

 

Visual Communication of Science Concepts-Felice Frankel

One of the many challenges educators face daily is how to communicate ideas to learners with a wide range of background knowledge, learning style, interest/motivation and aptitude.

How many of us have told fascinating stories, presented compelling information, or sketched out ideas on the board-only to have a certain segment of the class stare at us blankly?

I think this is especially true in an area like science, where the real world connections are a bit harder for students, especially younger secondary students to make.

So, for an appreciation of the true challenge and artistry necessary to make compelling visual representations of scientific concepts, you may want to read the MIT News article about Felice Frankel’s work. 

Felice is an award winning, MIT research scientist and photographer has spent decades perfecting this craft and has created free tutorials in MIT’s Open Courseware.

I think any secondary science teacher would enjoy reading about her process and may enjoy using principles from the course to enhance their own pedagogy. It’s also a reminder for all of us non-science teachers to think about how we are communicating our lessons and to examine whether we might benefit from a creative re-examination-possibly utilizing some of Felice Frankel’s work as inspiration. I also think students may benefit from reading about her career as it is a blend of the artistic and the analytical and utilizes the best of each to help individuals develop a deeper understanding of their world.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How often do you use visual representations to enhance your lessons?
  2. Why does Felice Frankel encourage researchers to develop “metaphors” to help explain their work?
  3. Is there a concept that you think your students would benefit from seeing a visual image?
  4. What are some creative methods you have used to help “illustrate” a concept?
  5. What is Felice Frankel’s background-how might this have impacted her work?

 

Creating a Song-VoiceGrooveSong at University of Chicago

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One of the most exciting examples of the intersection between creativity and analysis is the “VoiceGrooveSong” project at the University of Chicago.

Steven Rings, associate professor in the Richard and Mary Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry developed the course to understand song structure in composition.

While this may seem like a reasonably straightforward endeavor, it is the process by which Rings and the “VoiceGrooveSong” students embark on this journey which is inspiring.

For them, it is a journey.

Ring has invited a variety of musicians, from  Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, to Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche. With Kotche, also an acclaimed avant garde percussionist and composer, the class took on an interesting endeavor.

Kotche played his drum kit, while students improvised with a variety of digital clips serving as the vocals. So, students were able to delve into the details of the composition process to allow the  rhythmic and melodic structure of the words to serve as a catalyst for percussion experimentations and understanding the intricacies of composition.

Professor Steven Rings describes the intersection of analysis and creativity in the class, “In the class we don’t know where we’re going to end up,” Rings said. “Everyone is excited to just go along for the ride.”

I can’t imagine a better inspiration to challenge us to continually learn, grow, and develop our curiosity as educators and people. It also helps helps students understand that while creativity of course requires a mysterious element of inspiration, there are certain structures and processes that can facilitate this process-there are concrete steps a creator can take to manifest creativity.

For the excellent source article, written by Andrew Baud, which includes a brief  video sample, please click here.

Questions for Discussion

  1. According to the article, what is the focus of the University of Chicago, Gray Center?
  2. Why was Glenn Kotche chosen to participate in this project?
  3. What does Steven Rings hope to accomplish in this class?
  4. What were the details of how Kotche and the students “collaborated”? What was their process of creation?
  5. Starting with the same set of lyrics, the students developed widely varying musical compositions- what does this say about the creative composition process?
  6. How could you use this process in your own classroom to help create sparks at the intersection of creativity and inquiry?

 

Secretary John Kerry Conversation at Yale

Educators teaching about current events, world affairs, government, politics or having an interest in those areas will want to see the inaugural Conversations with John Kerry- part of a series of initiatives occurring at Yale featuring Yale alum and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

In a lovely wood-panelled auditorium, Kerry hosts a wide ranging, insightful, and refreshingly candid conversation with students about issues as diverse such as Syria, the influence of Citizens United on current political discourse, and campus politics at Yale.

It is a reminder of the importance of citizen engagement, civil dialogue, accountability, and full engagement in thinking deeply about critical issues, including emphasizing the importance of “facts” as a foundational element in political dialogue.

Watching this reminds one of the importance of the university and how fortunate we are to be able to connect with these important initiatives wherever we are.

Please click here to watch the Yale News posting of Conversations with John Kerry. Please note it is approximately 80 minutes long. After the first approximately 15 minutes, you can break it up into small segments as he responds to the questions of the Yale students.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does Secretary Kerry say is his biggest regret about his time as Secretary of State?
  2. What does he say about the impact of Citizens United?
  3. Why is it important to establish a certain agreed upon set of “facts?”
  4. Why is it important for citizens to keep politicians accountable? What does he say is the best way to do so?
  5. What does John Kerry say about his vision for a new Marshall Plan as an important tool for establishing peace in the 21st century?
  6. Why are we called the “indispensable nation?”
  7. What does John Kerry say might be the “life or death” issue of our time?
  8. What does he suggest is the solution to climate change?
  9. How many states have passed climate change portfolios?
  10.  How does Secretary Kerry describe the essence of diplomacy?

Nature, Science, Poetry-The Work of Keith Taylor

Nature, Science, Poetry-The Work of Keith Taylor

Michigan based poet Keith Taylor has been an astute and sympathetic observer of nature and the human condition for decades.

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Winter Retreats

His dedication to teaching, writing, reading, and commenting on life and nature through his work has had a profound impact on me, for sure, but I believe for all of us dedicated to the mission of understanding this world in which we live.

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I came across this wonderful post from naturechange.org featuring a brief interview with Keith Taylor by Anne-Marie Oomen, also a writer. Keith talks about his work at the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan, and reads a bit of his work.

Why exactly does poetry enrich us so? Yet, why do so many find it inaccessible, alien, unwelcoming? Boring? Why do we so easily accept the fragmentation of society and of our own selves? Fostering a dialogue with those outside our areas of interest, our areas of study, our cultural moorings-why has this become so difficult, or was it always this difficult?

Keith’s work, especially, the work highlighted here at the U-M Biological Station in which he spends summers, writing as well as teaching a literature course to science students and researchers, is an effort to bridge the chasm of confusion and apathy, intolerance and exhaustion. Quite simply, to become a bit more integrated and wholly human.

Nature allows us to slow down, to pause, to contemplate, to heal- at its best poetry does that as well.

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It allows us to access that deeper part of our psyches that contains wisdom, perhaps an attribute all too often not appreciated in our age of hyper-connectivity and instantaneous, yet superficial gratification.

Science, at its best too requires a deep concentration, a sense of observation and curiosity about the natural order of things, used to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.

For those of you seeking a bit of the healing power of nature, poetry, and how poetry and science can engage in a nuanced and beneficial dialogue, please check out this wonderful post and video.

For more information about Keith Taylor, please check out his website. 

For more poetry, consider the work of Robert Fanning, click here please.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How has poetry, or a specific poem impacted you?
  2. What does Keith Taylor say about the interaction of poetry, nature and science?
  3. What does he mention about the presence of wolves in Michigan’s lower peninsula?
  4. How does Keith Taylor integrate the work of mammalogist, Dr. Phil Myers into his work?
  5. What do you think of the specificity of images in Taylor’s brief, powerful poem, “Not the Northwest Passage?”
  6. What does Keith Taylor say about optimism, especially related to E.O. Wilson’s work?
  7. Have a poem to share?

Victory for MSU- Science Gallery Lab Detroit

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This March has brought an exciting victory for  the Michigan State University Spartans, and no I am not going to make any mention of any sort of athletic events occurring during this time period! (Too late?)

Check out the Science Gallery Lab Detroit. Michigan State has created the first Science Gallery Lab in North America. It is being described as “part art gallery, part science lab, part theatre.”

According to Michigan State University associate provost, Jeff Grabill, “This research can be used to engage and catch young people at an important moment in their lives, and to shape their journey into school and careers.”

It is aimed at students 15-25 and will help provide hands-on, interdisciplinary, collaborative experiences that is focused on using their specialized training, skills, and mindset to solve challenging real world problems.

Exhibitions don’t start until Fall 2017, but if you want more info check out these resources. You can see what the other Science Gallery Labs in Dublin, London, Melbourne, Venice and Bengaluru have been up to.

For a link to a more detailed article check out, Kim Ward’s article. 

For a link to the Science Gallery Lab Detroit, please click here.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is specialization and collaboration important?
  2. What are some interdisciplinary teams you have been involved in?
  3. What made them work or not work well?
  4. How can you create truly effective collaborative learning in your classroom?
  5. What would be a great project for the Science Gallery Lab Detroit to tackle? Perhaps something specific to Detroit, Michigan, or the Great Lakes Region?
  6. Perhaps an interdisciplinary approach to blight and abandoned houses in the neighborhoods?
  7. Perhaps an interdisciplinary approach to taking the successes of downtown development to the neighborhoods?