Art Teacher Develops Diorama Project to Teach About Science

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Kimberley Campisano is an art teacher in the San Francisco area who is thinking about new ways to teach group problem solving to art students while helping them learn other concepts simultaneously.

Campisano talks about the idea of Art Integration, which aims to help students learn through art forms as well as engage creatively to build a framework for learning and knowledge retention. Her project called Box Art About Systems aims to execute this idea in a single project.

At its most basic level, students are tasked with building a system in a diorama, typically one they already know about. The systems range from biological to social to interstellar. Students are to recreate the system in a way that is artistically appealing, collecting the materials needed to recreate the system, and learning how to work as a team with a few other students. Once they complete their boxes, they have a gallery of boxes and go around writing notes of critique for the collection of boxes.

In another application of Art Integration, Campisano developed a project to show students that nature and culture are more integrated than an urban environment is likely to communicate to students. First, they studied the work of an Oakland artist and noticed the metaphors that paired nature with culture. Students were then tasked with developing their own metaphors for their cultural experiences. They talk about their ideas as a group, spend time researching their ideas and histories. Finally, with teaching on the technical elements of lines and drawing, students create a 6”x6” drawing of their chosen symbol, often an animal.

When considering Campisano’s methods, it’s easy to see the benefits of combining multiple educational goals into a single project. Using art as a pathway to cultural, social, and environmental learning is a great way to get students involved and passionate about something they may have never considered before.