Teachers integrate arts into math and science classes

As math and science classes have begun to integrate art into their usual curriculum, students learn to use both sides of their brains. Chemistry and physical science teacher Leslie Purdy-Hoyt is one of the teachers integrating art into her classes. 

“It’s a way to teach using artwork, so we’re trying to integrate both the left and the right brain,” Purdy-Hoyt said. “It connects science concepts with art, for instance, making paint. There’s a chemistry that goes into making paints so you learn a little bit of chemistry while making some paint, and then you do artwork with it”

According to Purdy-Hoyt, integrating art into her science classes will help students become more interested in the curriculum. 

“We’re trying to tie the subjects into real life experiences,” Purdy-Hoyt said. “We’re also trying to gain interest from students who are more artistic, who are into photography, theater, or art. It becomes more interesting for them if they can tie a science concept to an art concept.”

Purdy-Hoyt’s chemistry classes made paints and created artwork with them as well as giving some to social studies classes to create black out poetry. She also has tried to integrate photography into her physical science classes’ energy transformation unit. 

“The physical science kids are taking pictures of energy transformation because we’re in an energy unit,” Purdy-Hoyt said. “They’re tying together types of energy, transformation of energy, and they took pictures of it.”

Alex Lalonde is also a part of these efforts to integrate art into classrooms. 

“Arts integration is something we’ve been working with the district and with the University of Arkansas kind of in tandem,” Lalonde said. “There’s a lot of studies and research that show that we learn better when we combine those two ideas rather than just doing each one separately.”

Two of Lalonde’s advanced geometry classes have been given the opportunity to create their own art project of their own interest while relating it to math. 

“In my classes, I’ve designed a project that’s letting the students kind of explore their interests through art and we’re tying it to our geometry content area,” Lalonde said. “We’re looking at how to incorporate concepts like surface area, volume and shapes, while also looking at specific artists and their ideas.”

Both Lalonde and Purdy-Hoyt have used the artist Vik Muniz’s documentary, “Wasteland” as inspiration in their classes. 

“All of this is based on Vik Muniz’s wasteland, it’s a documentary,” Purdy-Hoyt said. “He’s a Brazilian artist who went to the garbage dump in Brazil, and made artworks out of recycled material. It changed the people’s lives, so we’re using that piece as an inspiration to do kind of a whole theme of transformation.” 

Since Lalonde’s students’ projects were inspired by Vik Muniz, many students are using recycled materials to create their artwork. 

“We have some students that are working on developing jewelry from recycled paper using beaded work,” Lalonde said. “There’s another group that’s looking at doing various portraits trying to explain their struggles with racial issues and social tensions. They’re using recycled fabrics and various materials to develop a series of portraits of themselves, their friends, and students from around the campus and community.”

Lalonde is letting his students discover the connection between math and their projects throughout their creative processes. 

“There’s a lot of three dimensional relationships, and figuring out different measurements, different scales going from one size to another with surface area; there’s all sorts of calculations,” Lalonde said. “What people don’t often think about when they look at art, is almost everything art related has math  to some degree, Whether it’s proportion or composition, or again just materials and costs, everything has an underlying math, even if it’s not readily apparent when you look at it.”

Sophomores Avery Oss and Jwo Vy Tseng are in Lalonde’s class and are creating jewelry from recycled paper. 

“Me and my partner, Jwo Vy Tseng, want to make beads out of recycled paper,” Oss said. “We’re making necklaces, bracelets, and we also want to create a bigger art piece that is unique and not anything that someone’s seen before.”

Oss and Tseng are using recycled magazines and paper to make their beads. According to Oss, she has learned about the idea of transformation through this project. 

“I’ve learned that simple things that you may not think are useful or pretty can be turned into something that’s useful,” Oss said. 

According to Purdy-Hoyt, there will be an art show to showcase the students’ work on April 3oth. 

“There’s going to be a huge black tie art show in the rotunda, on the 30th,” Purdy-Hoyt said. “It is not finalized yet but there’s going to be an auction of a final piece. We’re inviting the entire business community. All the different teachers involved and the students involved are going to display all this art.”

Lalonde hopes that integrating art will make students more excited about coming to geometry class instead of dreading it. 

“I think that this is a great opportunity for all the students to really kind of take things that they’re interested in, so it’s not so much like we’re going to math class every day to learn about random abstract geometry things, but we’re going in and we’re learning about things that we care about,” Lalonde said. “I hope that everybody sees it as an opportunity to to kind of explore their interests and their ideas.