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Cross-Curricular Collaboration Allows Anatomy to Shine Through Art

Because students don’t have access to regular campus facilities and equipment during this period of remote learning, Stevenson’s teachers have had to be extra creative. Two teachers who tried something new—and succeeded—this year were Upper Division biology teacher and dean of students Erik Olson and Upper Division science teacher Ian Haight, who collaborated with Upper Division arts department chair Stephan Pratt to teach human anatomy to biology students.

For their anatomy lessons, Mr. Olson and Mr. Haight explained the structures of the human body to students, and Mr. Pratt had students draw those particular structures—art and science, all rolled into one.

Mr. Olson explains, “I was trying to think of a way to help students learn the anatomy of the human body without being able to do dissections. Remembering my days of biology in college, I recalled that to study for tests I often copied the diagrams. This tactile process helped me imprint the material in my mind and made it much easier to recall when needed. As a result, I proposed that students get a sketchbook and colored pencils, and that we instruct them on the basics in sketching. Then, for each unit, we assigned at least two or three drawings to be created and then labeled. Our students have really taken to the assignments.” 

Ultimately, there were myriad benefits of this collaboration between the science and art departments. Science students had the chance to use their hands while learning, look away from the computer screen, and be more actively engaged in their work. Figuring out how to replicate the anatomy images they were studying via drawing helped them get very familiar with bodily structures. It also hammered home the biology lesson in a way that a simple lecture or textbook reading could not. Additionally, for students who had never studied art before, this gave them the opportunity to participate in a basic drawing lesson, allowing them to develop new creative skills.

Mr. Pratt explained that he hoped that students walked away with “user-friendly skill-building to draw effectively, and maybe even an epiphany that the act of drawing can unlock cognitive learning modes we didn't even know we had.” Mr. Olson adds that he hoped the activity would give his students “a productive way to learn away from the screen and maybe even become a way to relax and enjoy their learning.”

Mr. Olson sums up the success of the activity by saying, “I have been incredibly impressed with the drawings they have produced. Now, each student has a portfolio of drawings they can take away from the experience and we will likely use them as part of our final project, as a way for them to display their work.”