TED Talk – Teaching Art and Science Together

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is an annual conference that was formed to share “ideas worth spreading.” The conference hosts “talks” that range in subject from culture and education to technology and business. Many of the TED Talks from the conferences are available to view for free online. Tutoring Match came across this TED Talk from 2002 featuring Mae Jemison – an astronaut, doctor, and dancer who made history in 1992 as the first African-American woman to go into space.

In her 2002 address at the TED conference, Mae Jemison recalled stories of her own personal educational experiences and calls upon educators to begin teaching art and science together to help create a new generation of bold thinkers.

Jemison as a child had many different interests. She took classes in art including ceramics and fashion design. Jemison also studied dance. However, she also held a passion for science and dreamt of exploring outer space. While studying at Stanford, Jemison was left with a dilemma. Between balancing classes in chemical engineering and logic classes and choreographing and producing a full on dance production, Jemison was torn where to go next. Should she move to New York and pursue a career as a professional dancer, or continue her education through medical school?

Mae Jemison ultimately chose to become a doctor and was able to fulfill her dream of travelling into space. Her talk brought up a point that we found incredibly thought provoking:

“Science provides an understanding of a universal experience. Arts provide a universal understanding of a personal experience.”

Many students approach both subjects interdependently. I myself felt more comfortable in English and language courses over math and science. In fact I struggled a lot through advanced algebra and chemistry. I had more of an interest in writing and the arts, and tried to distance myself from math and science. I kept on telling myself that “I’m not a math person.” What Jemison points out is that although the arts and the sciences on the outside appear to be markedly different, they both rely on some of the same core values.

The arts require math. Music is calculated, so is sculpture, and even choreography. On the other hand, scientific exploration is testing intuitive hypotheses. What Jemison suggests is that we start to teach both concepts together as restricting ourselves to one discipline over the other limits our potential for thought and creativity.

Jemison also notes that:

“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.”

Could it be that the secret to helping our students succeed in subjects they are struggling in is to approach it using another subject they are familiar with? If a student is struggling in biology, how can we relate the subject to something more artistic? We want to hear from you, what do you think?



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