Saturday, March 10, 2012

Environment and Art: A Lesson on Ecology Through Art

Abe V. Rotor

Allow me to start with a simple drawing exercise. The exercise is about a dying tree. I invite everyone to complete the scenario, using the attached outline of a tree skeleton. The idea is to bring back the life of the tree. Hence, the little of this exercise is “ Make This Tree Live Again.” This exercise introduces us to understand the basic nature of living things, and the essence of ecology as a subject.

As a guide let us imagine that solar energy is transformed by plants into chemical energy which is then shared by different organisms. organisms interact with each other, and with their environment, and that man plays a very important role in keeping his environment in a dynamic balance.

How much are we aware of this knowledge? We will know by evaluating the drawing once it is finished using ten (10) criteria scored on the Likert scale (5 is very good, 4 good, 3 fair, 2 poor and 1 very poor).

But I suggest that the following criteria should be consulted only after you have finished with your drawing to evaluate and give it a score and rating. So, stop reading right now and work on your drawing.

x x x x x x

1. There is the sun in the drawing. The sun is the source of life, the source of energy- solar energy- where is then transformed into chemical energy.

2. Presence of water. Water is manifested in the drawing as cloud, rain, river, and pond. Water is the second most important element of life, after the sun.

3. The tree is has leaves, branches, flowers and fruits. The tree is not only a living thing, it is a tree of life, the source of food and oxygen, and other things, aesthetic beauty, notwithstanding.

4. There are other trees of its kind. There are other trees and plants as well. They form a natural community.

5. There are animals and other living creatures. This shows relationships such as mutualism or symbiosis, commensalism (e.g. a bird’s nest, ferns and orchids on the tree), and competition (e.g. insects feeding). Certain relationships may be interpreted on a philosophical level such as benevolence, unity, cooperation and altruism.

6. The tree is part of the landscape. The drawing has a perspective of a larger whole, it is an integral part of Nature represented by mountains, rivers, fields, etc.

7. Man’s presence is important. The drawing may show a happy family, children playing, man taking care of the tree, or his presence manifested by a drawing of a house or community.

8. There is life in the drawing. The drawing is natural. The imagery it creates is real - not cartoon, so with the subject. I call this aspect naturalism.

9. Artistic quality. Is the drawing appealing? Does it conform with a good sense of balance, harmony, contrast, and perspective?

10. Maximum use of space. The whole world of the tree. It is the total “ view from the window”, the vantage point the participant views his subject and the world. Did the participant use the space wisely?

The scores of the ten criteria are added. To get the average divide the total with 10. A score of, say 3.6 to 4.4 is Good, while 2.5 to 3.4 is fair.

This exercise requires exposure to nature and imagination as well, other than logical thinking, especially for a serious theme such as this. In a number of cases the drawing shows the influence of cartoon and advertisements. This exercise follows a deductive- retrospective approach, which fits well with the use of art medium. During the 10-minute exercise I suggest that a background music be played from pre-recorded Nature sounds (e.g. birds singing and running stream). These compositions are also recommended as musical background.

A. Hating Gabi by Antonio Molina
B. Maalaala Mo Kaya by Mike Velarde
C. Meditation from the Thais by Massenet
D. Serenade by Tosselli
E. On Wing of Song by Felix Mendelssohn

What contributions have the arts to effective teaching of science? I consider the following premises important.

1. Fuller use of the senses. Art provides other than visual and auditory, an opportunity to use touch and smell, say on the specimens during hands-on and field observation.

2. Amalgamation of knowledge and imagination, a concept of learning where facts and experiences rise to a level of thought or theory level, yet sets the boundaries of fantasy. Art provides a better means of expression of the imagination.

3. Search for Formula-Value relationship. I call this concept valuing, that is, answering the question, “For what purpose?” on a higher plane over material or physical. Art discusses Renaissance, the revival of culture and values. Art talks of harmony and unity. Can science adopt art in creating subject appeal?

4. Left brain- right brain tandem. Logical and creative integration is important, the left brains thinks and reasons, while the right brain images, creates.

5. Mind- Feeling Duo (Head-Heart). “Science is reason, art is emotion.” It is true. Art appeals to the emotion. One must “feel” a work of art such as the climax of a story, the color of sunset, the graceful movement of a ballet dancer, or Rodin’s melting human figures symbolizing suffering.

6. Skill is applied knowledge and art is basically skill. Studying art is merely the pathway to its application. Art is an excellent medium of applied science.

After evaluating the exercise, “ Make this tree live again,” we can try similar exercises in ecology.

These were selected from a manual in three volumes which I wrote and use in conducting Art Workshops.

1. Green Valley- this shows the structure of a watershed in relation to a valley. How can one efficiently keep the valley green and productive? How good are we as managers of the environment?

2. Waterfalls- the river drops and continues down below the fall - so is life. How wide, how high, is our own waterfall? It is a good lesson in analogy and resolve- the ecology of our life.

3. Let’s build a house- but where are the neighbors? A lesson of human ecology, the concept of community.

4. Make this dog happy- this exercise a sharpens our values of kindness and concern. Ecology has a heart.

5. Road of Life- by tracing our own road of life, we know what we want in life, where we are going and how we get there. Here we plot our future. The human side of ecology is apparent in this exercise.

The criteria for scoring these exercises can be devised by the teacher or resource person, using the first exercise as a general guide. For specific purposes he can emphasize on certain aspects he deems necessary to arrive at his objectives. The idea why I am presenting these exercises, is that a teacher can prepare similar exercises whereby art can be integrated with the subject of science, and “valuing” is incorporated in the lesson.

But first, let us make the tree live again. ~

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