Project: Visualising Scientific Concepts
Participants: Year 8 students
Partnering with: Upper Batley High
Artist: Tim Curtis
Science topic: Motion and Forces

For our Motion and Forces topic we are exploring forces such as friction, gravity, air resistance, centrifugal and relative motion, static electricity and magnetism. We’ll be experimenting with using a range of forces and techniques to create marks on a variety of surfaces with different properties, recording our observations and findings methodically as we go. Our creative explorations will involve using a diverse selection of equipment and materials to experiment with hue, paint, texture and forces on different surfaces, and making decisions about which forces to use to create marks, lines, textures and forms. We’ll build these up into mixed media illustrations of key Motion and Forces vocabulary and scientific concepts, and add text to our visual descriptions to create exhibits which combine to form a visual science dictionary. We might find inspiration for this by looking at examples of pop art and text art (Peter Blake, Roy Lichtenstein, Barbara Kruger) and propaganda/war posters.

Session Images

Session 1: 24th February 2016

This week we met Tim, our artist, and we got to know a little more about Cummins Turbo and what a real life scientist and engineer does when we met Maria from CT. We looked at pop art and propaganda posters, and the work of artists Peter Blake, Roy Lichtenstein, Fabian Oefner and Barbra Kruger. We attempted to create poster illustrations for some of our science topic vocabulary and made a first attempt to use pictures with words to try and describe such terms as ‘balanced forces’, ‘pressure’, gravity, and speed. Next week we’ll need old T shirts or aprons because we are going to experiment with forces to make marks and patterns, which promises to be a bit messy!

I like the clear, fun illustration for the static electricity poster and the zigzag letters because they show us what electricity can do and it’s a good drawing’   Aleysha

Session 2: 2nd March 2016

Maybe it was the blizzard today but the change project seems to have really come alive! In workshop 2 Tim encouraged us all to experiment with and think analytically about different forces we could use to make marks with a range of inks, paints, pastels, charcoals and chalks on a variety of paper surfaces. Squeals of laughter, stained hands and about a hundred exploded water balloons filled with ink or paint later, a plethora of incredibly organic and colourful patterns, grounds and surfaces had been created around the classroom. We had an amazing time making a great mess! Special thanks to Mrs Hainsworth and the school cleaning team for cleaning up after us! Nearly every student asked had a clear understanding of the forces they were using to make random action paintings, so the mess and fun seemed to be doing the trick. In the final half hour of the session we all took part in a taught drawing exercise to develop our poster design, scale and lettering skills, inspired by Roy Lichtenstein and examples of Street Art.

Session 3: 9th March 2016

Great teamwork and planning in today’s session. The experience of using forces to make marks and use them artistically seems to have really taken root in the ideas in the room this week. We selected which pairs would work with which vocabulary via a lottery and then set about planning the scale, design and techniques of each finished piece in a pair or three. We have agreed to share our skills and labour in creating a larger scale, 2D visual and textual illustration of our selected scientific phrase or concept and some excellent designs and preparations were made this week. We are using magnetism, gravity, pressure, and differential geometry amongst many other things to create visual representations of those words and concepts using illustration, painting, collage, sketch and graphic design combined with text. Each pair or grouping in our project has a clear, bold and achievable design that they are set up to complete and finish in our final session together next week.

“We used gravity when dropping balloons: if it popped then the balloon was a balanced force with gravity, if it didn’t pop then it was not”

“Differential geometry is when you get a shape made by a machine that looks perfect but it’s not really and you use a laser to cut bits from it so it works perfectly when you use it”

“I am using long waving sketchy lines to show speed, I think I want to put just the front of a car or train right close”

“We want to glue two canvasses together so we can show big what ideas we have for pressure, coming from all sides”

Session 4: 16th March 2016

In our final workshop we worked on refining and improving the ideas and techniques everyone had chosen last week to create their visual dictionaries. All around the art studio pairs were busily engaged with using the forces and mark-making techniques we had experimented with in the previous weeks to make mixed media illustrations. Everyone has made deliberate choices about their use of surfaces, scale and materials. Some illustrations (for example ‘Pressure’ and ‘Newton Meter’) have crept outside the boundaries of a frame and traditional 2D work, because they involve some found objects such as balloons or springs and hooks. As a group we have moved from very tentative, hesitant first steps and ideas to full ownership of our artwork, with very definite ideas and clear thoughts about how we want to execute them. Everybody is more than 70% complete with the final versions of their artwork, so just some finishing touches left to do next week. There is also a clear record of our planning and drafting process which we might be able to include as a ‘visual trail’ in the exhibition, to show how we arrived at the final pieces. There has been a range of techniques and media involved in making many of the artworks and we have all enjoyed playing our parts in the team process.

“We are coating the north pole of one magnet with paint and then moving the south pole of another magnet towards it to make our background patterns by repelling the magnets “

“But how are we going to  make two tracks for our rollercoaster? Have you got a toy car, we could use friction and printing to make our picture about friction”

“Can you take a photo of ours please? We have been working on our background outside, we have used a bubble wand to pop bubbles for imbalanced forces onto some foamboard, look”

“I am drawing this car to go with my train speeding sketch, but it looks proper still, not speeding fast. Can I draw and add some speed lines to the car like in a cartoon or a comic so it looks like it is going at a fast speed?”

A few words from our teacher:

“The process has encouraged collaborative work and decision-making and allowed pupils to develop their skills in working independently. It has also been an excellent chance for pupils to see how subjects can influence and support each other – an extremely valuable project for school to be involved in.”

Our volunteer from Cummins Turbo Technologies said:

“It was great to see the enthusiasm of the artist to get the girls involved in poster illustrations and create art based on scientific ideas and vocabulary, and good to see how much the students enjoyed the activities. They listened with interest when I spoke about the life of a woman engineer and what we do at CTT. The session gave the girls the opportunity to learn scientific topics in greater depth through art – fun and exciting, and they obviously had a good time whilst learning about science!” (Maria Hellyer, CTT)