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Integrated science and art education for creative climate change communication

Susan K. Jacobson, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida
Jennifer R Seavey, Shoals Marine Laboratory; School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, University of New Hampshire; College of Agriculture and Life Science, Cornell University
Robert C Mueller, School of Art and Art History, University of Florida


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An interdisciplinary field trip to a remote marine lab joined graduate students from fine arts and natural resource science departments to think creatively about the topic of climate change and science communication. We followed a learning cycle framework to allow the students to explore marine ecosystems and participate in scientific lectures, group discussions, and an artist-led project making abstract collages representing climate change processes. Students subsequently worked in small groups to develop environmental communication material for public visitors. We assessed the learning activity and the communication product using pre- and post-field trip participant surveys, focus group discussions, and critiques by art and communication experts of the products. Significant changes in knowledge about climate change occurred in program participants. Incorporating artists and the arts into this activity helped engage multiple senses and emphasized social interaction, as well as providing support to participants to think creatively. The production of art helped to encourage peer learning and normalize the different views among participants in communicating about climate change impacts. Students created effective communication products based on external reviews. Disciplinary differences in cultures, language, and standards challenged participating faculty, yet unanticipated outcomes such as potentially transformative learning and improved teacher evaluations resulted.

Key words

collage, creativity, education, environment, field trip, interpretation, peer learning, survey

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087