Elemenary and Secondary Education Activities?

Hi all. I am a chemist working on, among other things, STEM education in elementary and secondary schools. I am not an illustrator, though as a scientist I am a consumer.

Britt suggested that I post my questions here to sample the community and solicit ideas on how scientific illustration can play a role in and benefit from pre-college education opportunities.

My approach to this issue is informed very little by my understanding of the science illustration community (I don't know how many of you there are, and how large the market is/could be). Instead, it derives from my work as an educator, as one who has seen arts education disappear in order to devote more time to core subjects. What can be done to change this?

You may be aware of emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education; are you aware of a subset of educators and advocates of STEAM education (where A is for Arts)? If economic  success is underpinned by innovation and creativity, then any subject that communicates this in addition to perspective, balance, and vision can be of great value.

Yet, when it becomes time to defend programs, too often, the wagons are circled and certain subjects are left behind. So, for you some questions:

1. Do you feel that scientific illustrators are better served by science or arts education in high school (and before), or is a balance preferred?

2. What is the market for science illustrators? Am I barking up the wrong tree by advocating something that might increase the pipeline of future illustrators?

3. How would you ideally integrate sciences and arts at this level? I'm particularly interested in opportunities to bring arts to technical courses, as well as approaches that give more science to arts education.

Thanks in advance for your inputs. I look forward to hearing your replies.

Chris Thomas, PhD

Dr. Thomas,

I'm not sure how helpful my comments will be as I'm new to the Guild and new to the Forum. Currently, I'm a Biology major at a small public University in Atlanta, but I have a background in art and I practice my craft at every available opportunity. My goal is to work as a science illustrator.

From talking to my professors throughout the course of my studies, there seems to be a great need with in the scientific community for individuals who can communicate complex scientific ideas accurately and effectively to the general public. This scientific communication includes everything from educational materials for K-12 up to presenting clear and logical arguments to politicians regarding topics as diverse as Ecology and human stem cell research. According to one of my professors, while this sort of effective communication is paramount, many scientists find it both difficult and frustrating.

Another point brought up to me by another of my professor is the importance of scientific understanding on the part of the artist. The example he gave to me was that of artist who do renderings of newly discovered fossil specimens and the inaccuracies that can sometimes crop up. In essence he told me that the scientific community is in desperate need of artist who truly understands the nuts-and -bolts behind the concepts that they are attempting to communicate. In fact, the criteria for Master's program in Biomedical Illustration that I'm interested in attending includes course requirements ranging from science subjects such as Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, Botany, and Cell Biology to art courses like Life Drawing, Painting, and Computer Graphics.    

The Biology faculty at the University I attend are working scientists in their respective fields. They have been very supportive of my slightly unusual career goals as well as candid with their advice to me.  It would seem that there is a need for effective scientific communication, and the science illustrator has a role to play in that communication process. It would also seem that a balance of scientific understanding and solid artistic ability are important in science illustration.

These are simply the opinions that I have formed given the input that I’ve received from others and the requirements listed for graduate programs I’ve investigated. Like everyone else; I have a right to be wrong.


Hope I was helpful,