Connecting Music, Art, and Science for Increased Creativity and Topic Engagement †
‘Attention spans have shortened,’ is a common phrase often used in reference to today’s college students. As faculty and instructors, we need to address this issue through the utilization of innovative and creative techniques that aid in making our subjects accessible to our students. Connecting a serious topic such as microbiology with a ‘fun’ activity can increase student engagement and learning. Ideas to maintain student attention on a subject include providing information in 15- to 20-minute blocks, giving one- to two-minute assignments, and providing an active learning activity at least once per hour. But what if we could also increase their engagement with science by connecting it to things they already think of outside of class, and, in addition, make science thinking interdisciplinary? I have recently introduced exercises that connect music and art to various microbiology topics in my class. The creative processes in art and science have much in common. Albert Einstein recognized that both science and art delve into the mysterious by stating, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science” (1). Connecting these subjects in the minds of our students will help them realize the importance of technology, industry, and progress in science and simultaneously emphasize the importance of art, music, and the humanities. The tools presented here will encourage students to connect new science information through the music and art they already know and, therefore, provide increased engagement and retention of the new knowledge. These techniques used in a microbiology class increased the amount of time spent thinking about new information, increased engagement with the information being presented, and encouraged critical thinking of microbiology topics. These tools were used in an upper level microbiology course, but the techniques can be easily incorporated into any course. The first tool uses music to (1) provide aural clues connected to specific pathogens; (2) encourage the student to interpret the song and identify ideas of the song with characteristics of the pathogen; and (3) allow the student to explore their own musical interests and connect that back to the topic pathogen. The second tool uses art to allow the student to (1) realize the intersection of art with science and (2) encourage critical thinking skills to conceptualize microbiology concepts from a unique perspective.
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