ArtScience connects. The future of humanity and civil society depends on these connections. ArtScience is knowing, analyzing, experiencing and feeling simultaneously. (Brown, Snelson, Root-Bernstein & Siler, 2011, p. 192)
EMMAS offers an opportunity to investigate and demonstrate the untapped potential of an artscience approach to learning and teaching in high school for youth from communities historically underrepresented in science. It builds on an earlier project, Educating the Imagination (2011-2013), which developed a summer artscience studio program at Boston Arts Academy focused on wide-ranging explorations of water. EMMAS will work in an emerging scientific domain, the human microbiome, and in classroom contexts. Locally, the project is a partnership between the Chèche Konnen Center (CKC) at TERC, Boston Arts Academy (BAA), the Broad Institute, and local artists with experience working at boundaries of art and science. Nationally, it includes collaborative design research with the University of Washington and Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre in Seattle, who will pursue artscience inquiries in climate change.
By artscience, we mean to highlight the commonalities in thinking and making practices used by artists and scientists. For purposes of this project, we defined these according to four broad categories: cultivating attention, making, critique, and exhibition. We chose the human microbiome as the scientific focus of work in Boston because of its direct connection to everyday matters of health and disease, its scientific significance as cutting edge research, and its dynamic perspective on the human body. The Broad Institute, the institutional home of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), will contribute its expertise, sharing research that is revolutionizing our view of the human body. More specifically, HMP research is reframing the human body ecologically as colonies of creatures and transforming notions of human health, predisposition to disease, and “treatment” and “medication.” We see HMP as fertile ground for socially meaningful artscience explorations for young people.
In Boston, BAA faculty, CKC design researchers, Broad scientists, and local artists will work together to design artscience inquiries into the human microbiome. The artscience inquiries will be structured around scientific and artistic visualizations of complex data to which BAA students will develop creative responses that integrate scientific and artistic concerns, materials and processes. In their inquiries, BAA students will also directly investigate the human microbiome and related issues of health and disease in Boston. Our hypothesis is that artscience inquiries, in their openness to boundary-crossing thinking, diverse ways of seeing, and hybrid modes of creative expression, will expand opportunities for youth from communities historically underrepresented in STEM to engage meaningfully in cutting-edge science and art, and to develop depth of understanding and craft in domains of significance to them and their communities.
EMMAS is a 3.5-year project. Beginning in January 2014, a design team of BAA faculty, CKC researchers, Broad scientists, and local artists a) will engage in artscience inquiries related to the human microbiome and b) building from this experience, will design artscience inquiries for students. In years 2-3, artscience inquiries will be implemented and refined in two cycles at BAA. CKC researchers will study core dimensions of learning and identity among participating students through a series of clinical interviews before and after each implementation cycle. The last 6 months of the project will focus on: analysis, synthesis and discussion of findings; dissemination; lessons learned; and implications for learning and teaching.