Health Education through Arts-based Learning (HEAL): Facilitating learning and engagement by blending arts and sciences

Primary author: Robert Danielson
Co-author(s): Molly Kelton; Libby Grace; Jeb Owen; Alison White; AnaMaria Martinez; Pat Butterfield; Michaela Fallon

Primary college/unit: College of Education
Campus: Pullman

Common goals for STEM education typically include the integration of multiple disciplines to encourage interdisciplinary thinking, recognition, and application of STEM concepts to real-world contexts. Integrating art into STEM disciplines enhances this goal, encouraging students to interact with and create multiple models of complex ideas. In addition, art can promote enhanced engagement, learning about science, visualization of scientific concepts, scientific reasoning, and scientific communication. Our broader project, Health-Education through Arts-Based Learning (HEAL), funded by both a WSU Seed Grant and now the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leverages arts-based communication to focus on zoonotic diseases and ecosystem dynamics. A partnership among university researchers, community organizations, and experts in science and science communication, HEAL attempts to build the capacity of educators and biomedical institutions to engage rural, predominantly Latinx students in locally relevant science activities. The purpose of this study is to investigate how arts integration into a STEM intervention might support learning, reasoning, and thinking about socio-scientific issues. Art of Insects, an after-school program serving upper elementary students in rural-agricultural communities, utilizes an arts-based approach to developing systems-level understanding of zoonotic diseases and ecosystem dynamics. Participants included late elementary students from predominantly Latinx rural-agricultural communities that participated in Art of Insects (n=19) in Fall 2018. Preliminary findings reveal that student thinking around mosquitoes and disease systems expanded after completion of Art of Insects, particularly through greater attendance to multiple elements and their relatedness and recognizing multiple interacting causal forces.