Project Based Learning | How Art Impacts STEAM

by | Apr 19, 2016 | Project Based Learning

So, you think you’re an artist? You may not know it, but you’re probably also a scientist, mathematician, or engineer, too. Often times, these fields overlap in ways you don’t even realize. As an artist, you probably use math when you’re sketching out your next piece of art. Or science to study the way something is made so you can draw it. Project based learning can help you connect art to other subjects in new and exciting ways.

When we look back at history, we can see how some of the world’s greatest artists were also inventors, scientists, and mathematicians:  

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was a pioneer when it came to bridging the gap between art and fields like science and mathematics. One of his most famous pieces is the Vitruvian man, a piece that is a natural yet surprising blend of art and science. Within the sketch, da Vinci examines the aspects of the human body for the purposes of art and for science. The drawing is studied in both art and anatomy classes because of da Vinci’s keen observation of human proportions.

M.C. Escher

If you’re a visual person, you may have already noticed geometry and mathematics at work in the natural world around you. M.C. Escher, who is best known for his woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints, also took notice. In one of his most famous pieces, Study of Regular Divisions of the Plane with Reptiles, an artist might see a brilliant and intricate pattern of lizards, but a mathematician will see a tessellation, the perfect tiling of a 2-dimensional plane with no gaps and no overlaps. Escher noticed tessellations occurring in nature and wanted to capture them in his art. In order to create many of his masterpieces, Escher had to become a student of math.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Revered as one of the most important architects in American history, Frank Lloyd Wright is known for combining art and architecture. It’s hard to see Wright as anything but an artist, but if you examine his homes, you’ll begin to see his precision with architecture, engineering, and math. When he combined all of these fields of study, Wright was able to create homes like Fallingwater, a house built around a waterfall. The house seems to hover over a 30-foot waterfall, an architectural feat that earned Wright a spot on the cover of Time Magazine in the 1930s. Wright couldn’t have created his masterpiece or any of his other famous homes without his knowledge STEM subjects, paired with his deep understanding of art.

Cai Guo-Qiang

Not all of the great STEAM artists are in the history books. Cai Guo-Qiang is a modern artist who is best known for using gunpowder to create unique and often controversial pieces of art. Guo-Qiang uses his knowledge of gunpowder and chemical reactions to create abstract works, landscapes, portraits and more. Guo-Qiang says that studying the chemical reaction was key to getting the gunpowder to leave the images that he wants. In his piece Extensions, the gunpowder explosions create a long and shifting line meant to mimic the way the Great Wall of China moves.

You’re an artist, but you may also be a scientist, mathematician, inventor, or engineer without even realizing it. Studying other subjects and participating in project based learning can help improve your art and in turn, you’ll be able to find practical ways to use your art in science and math classes.

Are you ready to put your artistic skills to work? When you launch a weather balloon with Stratostar, you can help design and implement an experiment to be sent to the edge of space. Tell your teacher about Stratostar and how you want to design an experiment!