Rewiring the ‘Right’ Brain

The thought of learning ‘Kathak’, an Indian Classical dance form in the forties, sounds bizarre to many!

Well, to me, who has always been fascinated by the elegance of classical dance moves, it is a passion and a challenge. I always wanted to fulfil my childhood dream of learning classical dance. In addition, I knew that practising a dance form would keep me fit mentally and physically.

However, I wasn’t so sure about the emotional and behavioural impact of dance until I experienced the ‘magic of dance’ on myself!

Dance has now become the ‘food for my soul.’  

Research has proved that learning dance doesn’t just improve fitness, flexibility, focus, and coordination; it also helps regulate emotions and feelings. Dancing reduces stress by releasing the feel-good hormone serotonin. Learning dance activates both parts of the brain and builds new nerve connections in the RIGHT BRAIN.  

We already know the human brain is divided into two hemispheres: the left and the right. The left side of the brain is responsible for linear thinking, such as structured analytical and logical operations. The right side performs non-linear thinking, such as creativity, imagination, and actions driven by emotions. I was astonished to get wonderful insights from the book ‘A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future’ By Daniel H. Pink. He has explained that the future belongs to people who can visualize the BIG PICTURE, not just the ones who are “MASTERS OF THEIR FIELD”. In this context, the capabilities of the left part of the brain are not enough to face future challenges. The next generation of kids needs to imagine and innovate through empathy, joyfulness, and intuitiveness, which originates from the right side of the brain.

Reading that book, I asked myself whether, as an Educator, THE RIGHT BRAIN WILL BE THE RIGHT AREA TO WORK ON? And my inner voice said, “Certainly.”

For ages, Science and Math have been taught as disciplines driven by linear thinking as they don’t primarily stimulate the creative right brain.

Why have we been teaching children in a structured way without allowing their emotions to thrive through imagination?

Wouldn’t it be great if Science and Math teachers integrated ART to build better conceptual learning?

Have you ever seen RUBE GOLDBERG’S MACHINES in action? They are the best examples of how arts such as drawing, sketching, comics, and designing can be used to imagine the working of a scientific machine through complicated tasks.

Hence, I started looking into finding opportunities of incorporating different kinds of ART into teaching and learning science and math. My first task was to explore what domains of art could be easily integrated into class activities to support conceptual learning. I have categorized and listed a few such domains of art in the table below:

Performing ArtVisual ArtLanguage Art
Theatre
Drama
Dance
Music
Film
Architecture
Photography
Animation
Drawing
Painting
Sculpture
Creative Writing
Grammar
Poetry
Fiction
Story
Comics
Art domains

Here are some ideas on practically integrating ART activities to make Science and Math learning a joyful experience for our children.

Integrating Performing Arts

  • Theatre and drama can be powerful tools for explaining complex and abstract scientific phenomena and help students create meaning for them. “It is fun to spice up science and math lessons by adding a little DRAMA to it!”
  • Drama activity ‘tableau can be very effective where students create physical poses, gestures, and facial expressions rather than words to describe a scientific concept.
Tableau strategy to teach Water cycle
  • Dance movements can be creatively used to engage learners by choreographing and enacting a scientific concept.
Dance movements used to teach immune system to small kids
  • Storytelling can help students summarize, analyze, and visualize the scientific content.
  • Drama and storytelling can be powerful tools to present a science project.
  • Musical beats and pulse can be used to teach prime numbers, multiplication tables, and fractions.
  • Musical notes can describe sound waves and vibrations in physics. Piano notes sound different due to differences in frequency and wavelength.
Students investigate FREQUENCY through simple musical instruments!

Integrating Visual Art

  • Visuals such as flowcharts and diagrams can be used to present scientific phenomena.
  • Doodling is a powerful technique to do brainstorming and Science mind mapping.
Mind mapping through doodles
  • Sketching and drawing can be used for designing Prototypes and models for projects.
  • Tessellations (Painting with patterns) can be used to visualize and explain Geometric shapes in math.
Tessellations for small children
  • 3D modeling and sculptures can efficiently teach Geometric angles and shapes.
  • Visual art such as graphic design, animation, and photography can be used for doing and presenting Science and math projects.
  • Sunography or Sun Printing is about how photography works and how we can replicate this with sunlight. An object is placed on the Sunography Paper and exposed to bright sunlight to get a print of that object. This technique works excellent for visualizing science objects in real life through the lens of creativity.
Using Sun Printing in teaching Science

Integrating Language Art

  • Creative writing skills and vocabulary can be used to form Open-ended questions, predictions, and hypotheses.
  • Language Speaking skills can be applied to present Scientific arguments and justifications.
  • Mnemonics like short songs or poetry can be used to remember complex science theories and math formulae.
  • Story, Comics, or Poetry can be used to communicate findings of science projects and research work.
Using language of Comics to teach Sciences

These were some ideas to ‘Rewire the Right Brain’ by directly applying art to science and math teaching. However, the most significant benefit of using art with children is to take care of their emotions and feelings by designing creative learning experiences.

“Art has the role in the education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else” –Sydney G. Clemens

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