The Gist

organizing | reflection | details

Science is a creative endeavor, and it is essential that science education experiences both reflect that and provide opportunities for students to develop scientific creativity. Creativity is often described simply as “the ability to create work that is both novel and appropriate” (Sternberg & Lubart, 1999). That general definition, however, hides the essential place that creativity has in the scientific process. Girod, Rau and Schepige (2003) make a strong case that scientific creativity relies on the same aesthetic thinking tools as the arts: science is not merely an algorithmic process of data collection and processing, but also stepping forward into bold conjectures about larger relationships in an attempt to understand connected systems. This is also a core message of science education literature in relation to teaching students about the nature of science: Science is a creative activity that relies on innovative and novel thinking by groups and individuals (e.g., Lederman, Abd-El-Khalick, Bell & Schwartz, 2002). Despite this consensus, opportunities for students to move beyond a surface acknowledgement of creativity, to recognize it as a core process science and develop their scientific creativity are severely limited (Braund, 1999, Kind & Kind, 2007). This detachment leads individuals away from an authentic view of science, which not only creates false impressions, but can also engender a loss of scientific identity (“who we think we must be to engage in science”, Calabrese Barton, 1998, p. 379) culminating in an unintended estrangement (Shanahan & Nieswandt, 2009).

This study will aim to examine notions and impressions of both authentic science and creativity, and the impact of science education and outreach opportunities that actively promote their connection. Exploration will centre on the activities of a science education lab that: (a) operates within a highly regarded multidisciplinary scientific research unit: the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia; and (b) has demonstrated dedication to programming that relies on collaborations between scientific and artistic communities. Two programs in particular will be examined through mixed methods to probe their impact on participants’: 1) view of the role of creativity in science, 2) development of scientific creativity, and 3) identities in relation to science. The Science Creative Literacy Symposia is a one-day program for students in Gr. 5-7 led by a collaborative team of scientists and creative writers. Participants engage in scientific inquiry experiences in the laboratory followed by guided expository writing to encourage awareness of the connections between the two. Interviews and observations (pre-, during-, and post-program) of students and teachers will explore implicit and explicit connections made between science and creativity. Established and validated instruments such as the Views of Nature of Science Questionnaire (Abd-El-Khalick, F., Lederman, N. G., Bell, R. L., & Schwartz, R. S., 2001) and the Science Student Role Identity Questionnaire (Shanahan & Niewsandt, 2010) will be used to track changes in students’ perceptions. The second program is the Science Creative Quarterly, an online publication that specializes in unusual scientific writing including literary science humour. Authors will be interviewed to examine differing perceptions held by those approaching the material from a scientific background and those from a creative writing background. These perceptions of science, scientific creativity and self-identity in the boundaries will be compared with findings from the student program to gain a more nuanced understanding of one particular area of scientific creativity evident through creative writing.


Riding the bus…

Every time that I am riding  the bus, I look at the advertisements that they put in the top  banner. Lately there are two that caught my attention. The first one is a great idea. It is a piece of poetry!  I enjoy reading them. The second one is the one that I have attached… and that makes me think in this project. The questions that come to mind: Whose truth? Whose knowledge?

The photo does not show it but the image that they use to depict creativity is an essay about  “the feelings of rubber bands”…Creativity vs Truth

just a thought!

Have a great weekend

Teaching Evolution!

I received this email a few days ago and I think is interesting and an idea worth of sharing. Here it goes!

“TIES is a new project of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. We are looking for educators who can organize and present our workshops on middle school evolution standards to middle school teachers in their area.
The rationale for TIES is as follows:
A middle school science teacher will typically cover many areas of science within his/her annual curriculum, including earth science, physical science, and life science.  It is virtually impossible to become an expert in all of these areas, at least not initially. The purpose of the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) is to familiarize interested middle school science teachers with the concepts of natural selection, common ancestry, and diversity in order for them to confidently cover the topics in their classrooms and fulfill their curriculum requirements.  TIES introduces middle school teachers to the most important points of evolution and natural selection with a focus on the amazing advances of genetics.  The success of TIES depends upon providing ready-to-use resources that teachers can begin to use immediately.  Participating teachers or student teacher leave our workshops with presentation slides, labs, guided reading assignments, an exam, and a valuable resource list for their lesson plans.
For more information, please contact Bertha Vazquez


My name is Tathali Urueta-Ortiz and I am a PhD candidate at the Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia campus Vancouver.

I hold a BSc from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and a MA in Science Education from UBC.

Since I was a kid I have been always interested in the natural world.  During my childhood I attended alternative Mexican schools  that provided me with learning experiences that inspired me to learn! I am an avid learner, and science mesmerize me. Through my teaching I share my knowledge and passion about science and education.

Science Education is and excellent field to bring together my academic passions.  Also I am interested in both formal and informal places were we learn. I worked as a Research Assistant  in the Intergenerational Landed Learning Project at UBC Farm. The experiences that I had in that  project have been an important part of my research.

More to come…

Latika Raisinghani_Engaging in Science_Creative Endeavor

Greetings All!

I am a science and mathematics educator from India who is passionate about bringing “Education for life” by inviting culturally responsive lived curricula in today’s classrooms. My father’s vision towards education as the “greatest wealth in life,” and the cross-cultural dialogues with my students (and student teachers) in multiple cultural contexts inspired me to pursue my doctorate. I continue my educational journey as a reflective teacher-researcher-learner and as a PhD candidate at the Department of curriculum and Pedagogy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.  My PhD research aims to explore Vancouver teachers’ perspectives on cultural diversity and culturally responsive teaching in science and mathematics classrooms. The intersectionality of Science_Creative project attempting to provide interactive, hands-on learning environments to elementary students and investigating their relational understandings of creativity in/and science intrigued me. I found it interesting to explore how science experiences presented outside of the typical classroom boundaries might influence students’ understandings of science and of themselves as being creatively scientific/scientifically creative.  The understandings of “creative literacy in science” explored through this project resonated with my own research interests where I am trying to understand how teachers see science and mathematics in contexts of cultural diversity of students and how they present these as culturally responsive learning endeavors to students coming from diverse cultural backgrounds.  Literature shows that intersectionality of culture and science and/or mathematics greatly affects students’ understandings of as well as their interests and achievements in these subjects. Similarly, students’ understandings of science and creativity as totally distinct or complementary or co-existential entities might influence their interest in science and also their learning of science.  In my PhD journey, I have been fortunate to serve, volunteer and participate in a number of UBC-hosted conferences, events, research projects and engage with the UBC and wider community.  I hope by participating in this Science_Creative project as a volunteer, I will be able to promote contextualized understandings of science (and mathematics) and broaden my understandings of what is education and how should we go about bringing education for life i.e. education that connects with lived experiences of students.
Wishing you all the best in your learning endeavors!

Kind regards,
Latika Raisinghani
PhD Candidate
Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy
Faculty of Education
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
British Columbia, Canada.

So this is what ethics approval looks like in a research project looking at science and creativity

Or at least what it looks like so far.

The ethics approval process was actually quite a bit of work, as it’s more or less a document that fully explains the intent, methology, and all logistical elements of the research. This means, that you pretty much need all of your ducks lined up before you hand the thing in.

UBC has a fairly standard process where you need to submit to a Behavioural Research Ethics Board who then goes through the application in fine detail. Their website is actually excellent in the sense that it’s super details, although that can also be a bit overwhelming if you’re new to the process.

For us, this meant big things like having all of our documentation in order (i.e. various permission letters that would go out to teachers, parents, and students), to seemingly minor but crucial elements like language describing how we plan on collecting and store data (especially sensitive in Canadian research as we must make sure all data is stored within Canada).

It also meant having a good crack at coming up with our survey questions (both questions asked via laptop sessions during the actual fieldtrip, as well as questioning that we would like to present when talking to kids in focus groups scenarios). An important part of this was actually, having language in our ethics approval application that make it clear that there may be several iterations of these questions as the project progresses. This is, after all, an exploratory phase!

In any event, for us, the time for the entire process was about 7 weeks from start to finish. Basically a detailed timeline is as below:

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 10.25.29 AM

Early February: Starting from the first week of February, we essentially had an extended back and forth from our research team (myself, Marie-Claire, Tathali, Janice, and Latika) until we had what look liked a copy that could be submitted. This included having all of the aforementioned documentation ready (permission/consent letter, questions in our surveys, etc), and full disclosure on various logistics (such as data gathering, storing, etc).

March 2, 2015: Submission of the application. Signed off by my Department Head (Dr. Jim Kronstad).

March 10, 2015: Feedback returned with the following provisos:

5.4 Recruitment: Please clarify how classes/teachers will be recruited for focus group follow-up.

8.1 Security of Data: Data should be stored on an encrypted computer. This should also be corrected on the consent form.

9.2 Consent form: Provide a copy of the consent form for the teachers’ participation in the follow-up focus group.

March 17, 2015: Marie-Claire sent back comments (after adjustments were made).

Thank you very much for noting these inconsistencies. We have have addressed the provisos as described below. Please note that as a result of our ongoing discussions we have also revised the questionnaire. It addresses the same themes but is shortened and worded differently. A new file, labelled V2, has been uploaded.

5.4 Recruitment: Please clarify how classes/teachers will be recruited for focus group follow-up.
The following text was added to the application:
“Classes attending the last few sessions of the SCLS field trips will be invited to participate in the focus groups in a convenience sample. Teachers of classes invited to participate in follow-up focus groups will be asked in person by a member of the research team during their visit to the SCLS. If the teacher expresses interest, he or she will be asked to contact the researchers to arrange a time for the research assistants to visit the class. The consent to participate in the focus group (if selected) is already included in the consent form so they will have discussed the possibility with the researchers already. ”

8.1 Security of Data: Data should be stored on an encrypted computer. This should also be corrected on the consent form.
Thank you for noting this oversight. The following text has been added to the application, and the word “encrypted” has been added to the appropriate phrases in the consent forms.
“Data will be entered without any identifying information and all data files will be stored in password protected, encrypted computers. Back up files will be stored in the same office and protected through encryption and password access to files.”

9.2 Consent form: Provide a copy of the consent form for the teachers’ participation in the follow-up focus group.

There are no focus groups for the teachers, only individual interviews completed when the research assistants visit the classes to conduct focus groups with the students. These are described in the submitted consent form.

March 18, 2015: Ethics application approved (yay!)

Anyway, without further ado, here are the actual documents below:

Ethic application document:
ethics application full

Permission/Consent letters:
consent assent for parents and children
invitation letter for children
invitation letter for parents

Survey Questions:
Pre-survey PARTICIPANTS …ence_Questionnaire
Post-survey PARTICIPANTS…ence_Questionnaire
Pre-NON-SCLS -questionnaire

SCLS lesson plans for your perusal

O.K. So here we have the documentation for what outreach actually happens during one of these Science Creative Literacy symposia. A lot of these activities have evolved and morphed over the span of the program, but basically you have one science graduate student and one creative writing MFA delivering two activities. The key, of course, is that there is a little bit of blending the two conceptually.

Anyway, below are the various pdfs of the current incarnations of the lesson plans, as well as pdfs of the slides currently used. We don’t have a lot of photos of the children partaking in the activities, because we haven’t been asking for permission to do that, but maybe down the road, we’ll try to get that possibility covered as well.

Oh yeah, and these activities wouldn’t rock the way they do without the teaching prowesses of our grad students. Currently, we have on board the following:

Emily Chou (poet and graphic novelist) – link
Becca Clarkson (writer)
Elaine Corden (writer and editor)
Emmanuel Fonseca (astrophysicist) – link
Stacey Kaser (playwright and screenwriter)
Vivienne Lam (botanist)
Tissa Rahim (neuroscientist)
Marybel Soto Gomez (botanist)
Laura Trethewey (writer and editor) – link

Anyway, pdf lesson plans below!

1. Genomic DNA isolation | Writing a Screenplay | Slides

2. DIY Cloud Chamber | “What is in the jar” poetry | Slides

3. Adaptations and Microscopes | Choose Your Own Adventure | Slides

First meeting: Round up email.

Just for the record. The first email sent out (after our initial meeting as a team, with Marie-Claire on Skype) detailing our first “to do” list.

date: Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 9:06 PM
subject: Next steps

Alright! Here is a list of things brought up in the meeting. I’ve put them in order of priority:

1. Please pass on the following details so that I can set up GRA appointments. Name (as in on cheque), address, phone, birthdate, student number, SIN number. 

2. Marie-Claire asked about getting the permission letters [for participating teachers, students, and parents] written. The project description (available at the site where you’ve all been added)1 has currently been written to be a bit more open ended and can be used as a starting point for the letters. This text just needs translating so that everything is appropriate for parents and then for students (with all of the required consent language, etc). As soon as those letters are done, we’re basically ready to submit the BREB (aside for filling in a few further check boxes etc but that’s an easy step). This is with a mind to consider collecting data in earnest as of March 30th. (By end of week – please liaise with Marie-Claire if you have any questions here)

3. Setting up a google folder which we can use as an initial general repository of information and notes2. You will also get an email sharing the SCLS fieldtrip schedule doc. I’ll also upload the lesson plan info to this folder once it’s ready.

4. Steps toward informally developing and testing the laptop procedures. This basically involves setting up the chromebooks so that they are prepped appropriately. As mentioned before, I have an admin account that you can use to start creating gmail accounts for each chromebook.

Login info is as follows:
(username) xxxxxxxxx
(password) xxxxxxxxx
(entry point) http://xxxxxxxxx

There’s also the wifi set-up, but that is something we’ll have to do in proximity to the lab (details are on the bulletin board in room 229).

As a beta of our laptop usage, we could probably have students complete more simple questions (like the kind you might normally fill out at the end of field trip to for the field trip organization). Again this would give us some preliminary ideas but mostly would allow us to try out the procedures for handing out the laptops and getting students to do stuff on them so that all of that is smooth when we’re ready to go with full data collection. (Let Dave know when you’re ready to test things, so he can alert our instructors)

5. Another key task is for you to propose an observational framework (this means either a checklist or a table to fill out or something that guides and standardizes the process of observing the field trips and focuses on the types of observations that will be of interest to us.) We’ll start by having you attend the workshops and doing informal observations, not things that we will use for analysis but things that will help focus in on the most interesting elements of the workshops when we start collecting formal data. Here, you could also practice taking field notes to start helping each other get on the same page about what they’re paying attention to.

6. I’ve attached the paper3 that Marie-Claire mentioned would be good to look over. And I’ve penciled us in to arrange FOB access this Friday at 10am. Tathali: let me know what needs to be done in regards to your letter of employment, and Latika, I’m going to send you an email right after this regarding stipend specifics.

Dave and Marie-Claire


1. This web address is the portal to our ethics approval documents. For more information, please see this link.

2. Google docs was set up initially to organize our documents, but we have since moved all documentation to UBC Workspace service, in order to comply with Canadian server requirements.

3. (This one): Shanahan M-C and Nieswandt M. Creative Activities and Their Influence on Identification in Science: Three Case Studies. Journal of Elementary Science Education, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Summer 2009), pp. 63-79 (link to 1st page pdf)

On hiring our education graduate students.

comic-1q0zhwr (From

So here’s something I learnt going through this process: graduate students are treated very differently in different Departments and Faculties. In a way, I was already aware of this, but it was still interesting to see first-hand the specific mechanics around this difference (at UBC anyway).

Here, I was use to the requirements around hiring Science graduate students, which generally revolve around a guaranteed salary of somewhere in the neighbourhood of $18,000 per year. This assumed that the student would working full time on his/her thesis. This isn’t great amount of cash, but when you include tuition waivers and opportunities to augment your take home pay with TAing or fellowships, it generally works out to something that is approaching a livable wage – albeit barely (this is Vancouver after all).

In the Faculty of Education, requirements for graduate work seemed to operate a little differently, in that this guarantee of a base salary doesn’t really exist. Indeed, many students would work on their theses part time without a real wage, often supplementing their livelihoods with a part-time job on the side. As a result of this set-up, we were essentially able to hire Faculty of Education graduate students as “contract” researchers, where hours would be placed administratively under an “hourly wage GRA” (or Graduate Research Assistant) status.

Given our desire to do some preliminary work, this nuance actually worked to our favour, in that we could explore part time help to get things underway. Under this rubric, we set out to find two graduate students who could work for a total of 100 hours each (at $25 per hour). As detailed in an earlier post, this equates to 5 hours per week over a 20 week period (roughly mid Feb to end of June).

And so, to start recruiting students, we liaised with the Faculty of Education, who kindly distributed our job ad (pdf copy) through the ranks (thanks Christine!).

Then, we waited…

Pretty quickly, we receive a LOT of applications, most of which were remarkably strong.  Based on our interviews, I really got the sense that the research project was thought to be pretty interesting, and of course, I can imagine that for the prospective researchers, it’s always great to try and get employment that would extend and hone your research chops further.

In any event, we ended up offering the positions to two graduate students (Tathali and Janice), who were not only very strong candidates but also nicely represented a dichotomy in their own research interests. Specifically, Tathali was quite embedded in science education research (particularly with an environmental focus), and Janice was exploring the interplay of theatre and pedagogy. Essentially, we thought having these two students with different perspectives might prove useful down the road, especially given the interdisciplinary nature of the program. As well, we had one other notably strong science education candidate (Latika), who due to certain restrictions (based mostly on her fellowship status) was ineligible for hiring under the number of hours we were hoping for. Latika, however, was so interested in the project that she offered to volunteer her time to be involved.

I should point out that I’m actually one of those folks who always tries to make sure students are properly compensated for their time, so whilst we went ahead and brought Latika aboard, we didn’t do so until  we made sure that at least some type of partial stipend was available.

In any event, there you have it. I’m going to get Tathali, Janice and Latika to introduce themselves in the coming days, so you’ll all get a chance to say hello.  Hopefully, they’ll share a little of their background and why they were interested in getting involved with the project.