Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Picture This: Explaining Science Through Drawings

Date:
April 27, 2008
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, creating one can have as much value to the illustrator as to the intended audience. This is the case with "Picturing to Learn," a project in which college students create pencil drawings to explain scientific concepts to a typical high school student. The National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, provides support for this effort.

The act of creating pencil drawings helps students clarify the underlying science.
Credit: Kara Culligan and Eunji Chung, Harvard University; Lina Garcia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, creating one can have as much value to the illustrator as to the intended audience. This is the case with "Picturing to Learn," a project in which college students create pencil drawings to explain scientific concepts to a typical high school student. The National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Undergraduate Education, provides support for this effort.

What sets this project apart is its emphasis on inviting students to draw in order to explain scientific concepts to others. The act of creating pencil drawings calls into play a different kind of thought process that forces students to break down larger concepts into their constitutive pieces. This helps clarify the underlying science--from Brownian motion (the movement of particles suspended in a liquid or gas and the impact of raising the temperature of the liquid), to chemical bonding, to the quantum behavior of a particle in a box. In the same assignment, students are asked to evaluate their own drawings, which helps them identify and appreciate critical components.

"Visually explaining concepts can be a powerful learning tool," says Felice Frankel, principal investigator at Harvard University. "The other important part of this is that the teacher immediately identifies student misconceptions."

The project brings together five institutions: Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Duke University, Roxbury Community College and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. The students involved are undergraduates studying physics, chemistry and biology.

Each drawing assignment asks students to explain a science concept or process. For example, in addressing the question of how to identify which of two compounds has the higher boiling point, students are encouraged to be creative and to consider a variety of formats, including cartoons and stick figures. Students are also told, "In your drawing, strive for clarity in visually representing the concepts of bond type and strength."

Many of the drawings bring scientific concepts to life in interesting and unexpected ways. They also bring any misconceptions immediately to light so that professors can address them with students.

"I've been surprised and very pleased about the enthusiasm and excitement we've seen in some very renowned science professors," says Rebecca Rosenberg, the project manager and a former secondary school science teacher. "They could have pooh-poohed this idea, but instead, they're seeing how it helps inform their teaching."

Four Harvard physics majors will take their work to the next level on April 12, when they travel to New York City for a workshop with design students at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). The idea is to engage design students in conversation with science students so that each can learn from the other. In a previous workshop which involved students from SVA and MIT, the participants created an anthropomorphic metaphor, where "little guys" representing particles interacted with each other. As the students drew out the metaphor, they ultimately realized that this model wouldn't work. They scrapped it and started over, in the process developing a better understanding of both the concept and how to communicate it to others.

An eventual goal of the project is to expand it to students in middle school, high school and graduate school. In parallel, this approach is of growing interest to educators.

"This project promotes widespread adoption of these methods through workshops and publications," says Hal Richtol, NSF program manager. "Clearly it offers a useful teaching tool to anyone teaching science at any level."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Picture This: Explaining Science Through Drawings." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080410153625.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2008, April 27). Picture This: Explaining Science Through Drawings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080410153625.htm
National Science Foundation. "Picture This: Explaining Science Through Drawings." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080410153625.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins