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.

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