Bringing together the artist and the scientist

2011-03-08-Science_Wonder_ArtI once had a student ​who was part of a class that included some of the best writers I have ever taught. She was in my 11th grade expository writing class, and it was the “rite of passage” English course that involved a big research paper. The bottom line was this course made solid all of the skills the English department had taught students from citations to different ways to approach a compare/contrast essay to process. It was a school whose English department valued product and process equally. I wish I could find this student’s essay. She wrote this compare/contrast essay between expository writing and creative writing, and how in the end they were exactly the same. People often see science and art or science and creativity as the opposite things. That the scientist is seen in the lab coat highly driven by facts, reason and the ability to reduce an understanding of things to a nullable formula. That’s why so often scientists are seen as godless because there is nothing rational in some respects. And artists are so often seen dappled with the instruments of their trade. Clay under their fingernails. Paint all over their hands. Dust in their hair. And as doing something that in the end seems unknowable and un-understandable. But the fact is, they are doing the same work. It is discovery. It is invention. It’s taking one point of view, digging under it and completely shifting a paradigm.

We want our students to know both science and art. We want them to see the discovery in both and learn that they are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are complementary and necessary in mastering and integrating ideas in the world. Understanding the world requires multiple layered and nuanced understanding and perspectives. That’s not possible without the intertwining nature of science and art.

We can see this overlap in poetry as really great poetry is about math. There are structures and rhyme and meter and rules — some of which are not fully understood or immediately known. And there is a human need to discover patterns within the language, a wish to make meaning in new ways. A poet is someone for whom expressing the rational and irrational world is not an either/or but a both/and. A poet is an artist and a scientist. Experimentation just happens on the page rather than in the lab.

And that’s why our new building is going to incorporate, to reflect, the integration of creative and critical thinking. It will bring together the work done on the page and the work done in the lab. Our new building will give our students a physical space and an intellectual space to explore both artistically and scientifically, and find new ways of viewing the world. From the patterned carpet to the light filtering through the windows to the maker’s court and the student art installations, this new space will intentionally bring together the artist in white lab coat and the scientist basking in dappled light looking for meaning.

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About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
This entry was posted in science and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bringing together the artist and the scientist

  1. Aishwarya says:

    This is fabulous ! As a science and management major with a mind drifting towards the arts, I vouch for every word you have said 🙂
    “It’s taking one point of view, digging under it and completely shifting a paradigm”

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