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The Creative Corner: "Art and Science are BFFS"

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Home Learning  |  The Creative Corner

Episode 3 : We often think of scientists as methodical and precise, and artists as free-willed, impulsive creators. But did you know that some art has science packed right into it? And that artists throughout history have helped scientists conduct their work? Learn about the photography of  Berenice Abbott who documented the changing New York skyline with photographs of architecture and urban design of the 1930s, and science interpretation in the 1940s to 1960s. Learn how to use the sun to air dry your salt dough creations and explore papier-mâché. There are so many ways to combine art and science as we observe the world around us.

The Creative Corner is a weekly TV show for elementary through high school students and adults. Each episode explores new topics through the lens of the visual and performing arts, with fun at-home activities that align with Virginia's Standards of Learning, and special interviews with guests from around the globe. 

The Creative Corner is an  Art for the Journey production, presented by VPM and brought to you by  Earthsong.

Information on Berenice Abbot's photographs documenting science phenomena/Brain Pickings

Virginia Standards of Learning (Grades 4-6):

Arts (Visual): 4/5/6.5, 4.11, 5.2, 5.10, 5.12, 6.8, 6.13

English: 4/5/6.1, 4/5/6.4, 4/5/6.9

Science: 4/5/6.1, 5/6.4, 5.5

History: VS.1, WG.1, WG.12

Math: 4/5/6.2

Art Project Guides:

Photographing Science inspired by the work of artist Berenice Abbott / Supplies Needed:

  • A camera or a phone that takes pictures
  • A curious mind and attention to detail!

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Think about the many ways science is represented in your everyday surroundings: the biology of living things in your yard or community, the impact of engineering and invention on the way you live, physical and chemical reactions that affect our environment, etc.
  2. Take your camera and explore, making observations about your environment (that can be indoors or outdoors!) and capturing them through photography!


Photography is a terrific tool for documenting scientific concepts, because it can capture things quickly and accurately. That doesn’t mean, though, that science photography can’t also be creative and beautiful! Consider the composition of each picture as you take it — that is, the way the parts of the picture are arranged. Can you take a picture from a different angle or frame a shot in a new way to make the picture even more compelling? Here are a few tools Berenice Abbott and other photographers have used to make great photographs:

  • Bird’s-Eye View: Try taking a picture from above, looking down at your subject!
  • Worm’s-Eye View: Take a picture from down low, looking up at your subject!
  • The Rule of Thirds: In your mind (or using a setting on your camera), divide your picture into a grid with three columns and three rows. Try to place the focal point — or the most important part of the picture — at one of the intersections in the grid. This will place your subject slightly off-center, rather than right in the middle of the frame, and give the viewer’s eyes more to explore in your picture!
  • In the mood for a science scavenger hunt? See if you can find some of the following scientific phenomena and capture them on camera!

    • Animal footprints
    • A budding plant
    • An insect
    • A seed or nut
    • Three different types of rock or mineral
    • An example of reflection
    • An example of refraction
    • A lever, a screw, and an inclined plane
    • Something that uses electricity
    • Evidence of weathering or erosion
    •  A plant that bears fruit
    • A tree with a large circumference
    • Something that allows some light to pass through
    • A mixture of two or more substances
    • An object that is magnetic
    • A renewable natural resource


Sculpting with Salt Dough / Supplies Needed:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • A mixing bowl
  • A fork for stirring
  • A butter knife and/or cookie cutters
  • Paint, paint pens, markers, and/or other art supplies

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Add the flour and salt to the mixing bowl, and stir until they are evenly mixed.
  2. Add water a small splash at a time, stirring with a fork until the mixture starts to form clumps. It should be just moist enough to hold together, without being wet or sticky.
  3. Once the mixture becomes lumpy, use your hands to finish combining it and roll it into a large ball. Wash your hands before moving to the next step!
  4. Knead the dough (mix it by squishing, stretching, pulling, and folding it) on a clean, smooth surface for about 10 minutes. Ask a buddy to take turns if your arms get tired!
  5. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth or paper towel, and let it rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  6. Use your dough to sculpt, cut, stamp, shape, and make whatever you want! Cookie cutters work well for making fun shapes. If the dough starts to get warm or sticky as you work with it, you can put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes and then start to use it again.
  7. Let your creations air-dry overnight (or until they’re completely hard). Once the top of each piece feels dry, you can flip it over and let the bottom dry. (Put them in a sunny spot to help them dry more quickly!)
  8. Once they’re completely dry, you can decorate your salt dough creations with paint, markers, glitter glue, and other art supplies! Be creative, and have fun!


  • Thin shapes dry better than thick shapes, and are less likely to break, so try to keep your sculptures thinner than 1/4 inch.
  • If you use a pencil or a pin to make a small hole in your shapes, you can add string later and use them as ornaments or necklaces.
  • Unused dough will last a few days in the fridge if you cover it well!

IMPORTANT: Pets or people should NOT eat the salt dough or finished sculptures. They may look like cookies, but the amount of salt in the dough is very unhealthy, especially for animals. Please keep salt dough out of their reach!

Papier-Mâché Cactus / Supplies Needed:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • A mixing bowl
  • A fork or whisk for stirring
  • Newspaper or other thin paper (some whole sheets; some cut into 1-inch strips)
  • Masking tape
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • (Optional) A small flowerpot, a few small rocks, and/or fabric or paper flowers

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Roll (or crumple and then wrap with another sheet) some newspaper into the shape you want your cactus to be. There are lots of different species of cacti and other succulents; you can look at pictures if you want some inspiration! This shape is the armature of your sculpture; it serves as the core and helps the sculpture keep its shape.
  2. Use a small amount of masking tape to hold your newspaper cactus shape together.
  3. Mix your flour and water, whisking until the two ingredients create a solution (in other words, until the flour is completely and evenly distributed throughout the water). You should have a smooth, thick liquid mixture (a paste) with no lumps or clumps!
  4. Dip a 1-inch wide strip of paper into the paste, and use two fingers to wipe any excess, drippy liquid from the strip. Wrap this strip around your cactus shape and smooth it down.
  5. Repeat the previous step, overlapping your strips slightly so there’s no space in between them. Continue dipping and wrapping until your entire cactus is covered.
  6. If you can, place your sculpture outside in the sun to dry. You can also let it dry indoors, though it will take longer. Check on your cactus periodically, and turn it over if you need to, until it is completely dry and has hardened.
  7. It’s time to paint! If you have white paint, you may want to apply a coat (layer) of white paint to your cactus first so the newspaper print doesn’t show through.
  8. Mix a few different shades of green paint. Use the lightest shade to paint the whole cactus, and then use the darker shade(s) to stipple (dot or dab) on texture and details.
  9. Allow your sculpture to dry again, and then display it how you like! If you want a realistic-looking cactus, you can place it in a small flowerpot or a cup, and add tiny rocks around the base to hold it upright and make it look “planted.”
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