8 Art Projects that Incorporate Science

Science and art are often viewed as opposites. One seems to be driven by data while the other by expression and creation. But, in reality, they’re more alike than we think. They share a common thread through inquiry and questioning. At their core, artists and scientists are inventing, exploring, and discovering. It just looks a little different in each discipline!

Below you will find 8 different ways you can explore the world of science and art together in your classroom.

1. Epoxy Cast Molds

epoxy art

Many artists use resin or epoxy in their artwork. It can be used to provide a glass-like finish for a piece or to cast objects. Using epoxy creates beautiful products, but it can also be used to teach students about science.

Epoxy is a polymer. It starts in a liquid state but turns solid when a chemical hardener is added. This means using epoxy is a great way to teach your students about chemical reactions in the art room! You won’t see an explosion, but you can explain the curing process is a result of this chemical interaction at work. Check out artist Josie Lewis for more inspiration!

2. Animal Habitats

drawing of lion and fish sculpture

If you’re looking for a way to combine science, art, and research, try making animal habitats your theme. As students thoroughly dig into their chosen habitat, they will uncover so many interesting findings. This new knowledge will lead to a variety of new ideas in their artwork. The best thing about a project like this is it can be done using almost any medium while still covering many essential art concepts!

3. Paint Pouring

paint pouring canvasses

Acrylic paint pouring has taken over the Internet! It’s such a fun process to watch because you never know how the finished product will turn out. Even though this might just seem like a cool fad everyone is trying, there is a science to this process! Different colors of paint have different densities and viscosities depending on their chemical makeups. These variations allow the colors to flow and react in interesting ways.

4. Soundwave Portraits

soundwave art

Students hear and create sound all the time, but do they realize sounds are caused by vibrations? Through art, students can explore things like amplitude, frequency, and wavelength. Simply have students record their voice using a program, like GarageBand, where the soundwaves are visible. This could be on a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Then, students can use their recording to create an artwork. This activity is a fun way to explore the idea of portraiture through voice. To make it more interesting, have your students repeat the same word or sentence and compare them to their classmates. Students will be able to visually see that a voice is just like a fingerprint–one of a kind!

5. Plaster Frescoes

plaster fresco

Have you ever wondered why sometimes paint chips easily off plaster and sometimes it doesn’t? It’s because of science! Frescoes were able to withstand time because of chemistry. Plaster contains calcium hydroxide. As carbon dioxide from the air reacts with the wet plaster and paint, it binds the two together, essentially creating a limestone surface. (If you want to dig into this idea, check out this great video!) After this, the plaster won’t peel, wash, or chip off. No wonder fresco paintings have such a significant place in art history!

6. Circuitry Art

circuitry art with lights

Did you know students can explore simple circuits through artmaking? Devices like the Makey Makey and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) provide a great way to blend the two! Your students can explore concepts like open and closed circuits and voltage all while adding a little light or some tech magic to their artwork!

7. The Clay Firing Process

two buckets of water, one with unfired clay piece, one with fired clay piece

Chemistry is often present in the art room, even if students are unaware. One of the easiest places to point out chemistry is during the clay firing process.

One way to show how clay undergoes a chemical change is to fill two clear tubs with water, and place a bisque-fired piece in one tub and a greenware piece in the other. The greenware piece will start to dissolve, but the bisqureware piece will not. From here, you can explain to students that clay goes through a process called dehydration in the kiln. Dehydration is when the water that is part of the molecular structure of the clay goes away. At this point, you can no longer reconstitute the clay. Big Ceramic Store has a helpful description of the different reactions that happen in the kiln if you want to dig even deeper!

8. Scientific Method Color Theory

color mixing exercises

The presence of randomness in both art and science are rare. In fact, the art practices, concepts, and procedures we use and teach in our classrooms are often methodical–just like in science. Introducing The Color Experiment activity is a great way to show how the artistic method and the scientific method can overlap. You can find more details about this lesson here.

These are just eight ways you can start exploring art and science together in your classroom. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more Arts Integration or STEAM learning, these lessons are a great place to start. You can teach your students to think like artists and scientists!

How do you incorporate science into the art room?

Do you have a favorite project that focuses on science?

Abby Schukei

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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  • Mr. Post

    A one class period experiment you can do is to place a sphere of bone dry clay into a clear container of water. In another clear container place a sphere that is made from clay right out of the bag.

    Do this at the beginning of class and then at the end of class go back to observe what has happened.

    When I taught junior high I had my students make Raku glazes. They learn about proportions, how to use a gram scale, how to increase the size of a recipe, how to work with dusty materials in a safe way and what various oxides contribute to a glaze.

    After the glazes were made we went out and fired the Raku kiln that we built. The very first time I did this with kids two pieces touched each other in the kiln and when we pulled the first one out, a long string of liquid glaze could be seen glistening in the sun like a string between the two pots. There was an audible gasp from everyone watching. Hands-on = Brains on learning!

  • Kristen Nordstrom

    How do you print the voice recording from Garage Band for the Soundwave Portrait?

    • Abby Schukei

      I usually just have students screenshot from GarageBand and then it will go to your Photos and you can either print, email, or share directly from the camera roll.

      • Kristen Nordstrom

        Thanks Abby. I thought that might have been the way. Thanks so much!!

  • Brandy Crenshaw

    Get out of my brain!!! I am teaching a middle school summer art class in Bellevue called “The Art of Science”. We’re doing a science experiment each day and then an art activity to go with it! I love the combination of these two! Thanks for the great ideas!

    • Stacey Johnson

      I am teaching an entire elective to my middle school students called “Science and Art” and I would love to hear what you were able to do with the kids, what was successful, what was not. Etc…

      • Brandy Crenshaw

        How exciting! I just think that Art and Science go together so naturally. Here’s a list of what I did. My class curriculum followed a pretty routine 2 part class. The first part consisted of a science experiment asking students to “get curious”. Asking questions for them that they would then have to investigate to find the answers to. For instance, “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where does the rain come from?”. We talked about the scientific method and I had students create a field journal where they would begin by asking a question and come up with a hypothesis using knowledge that they might already have. We would then come up with a science experiment that could help us to answer the question. I even had some students go back and research when science experiments failed or if they still had further inquiries. Then, we would take what we were learning and incorporate art. Here’s a list of what we did:

        Plant life/Living things – Create a Chia Pet using clay and Chia seeds to observe the stages of growth and the life cycle

        Weather (Tornadoes) – How do tornadoes form? Create a tornado in a bottle – you can use small found objects to represent debris.

        Water Cycle – Use a ziplock bag and water to watch the stages of water in your own classroom – We melted crayon shavings between wax paper and made a rain drop mobile (in the style of Alexander Calder)

        Color/Light/Spectrum/rainbows – Where does color come from? How do we see color? – We created our own color wheels using various shapes that we painted and mixed paints for. We also made paper tops out of thick paper and pennies that we colored with the secondary and primary colors and spun on the edge of pennies – we experimented with different color combinations and patterns and how that affected what we saw when we spun them.

        Rocks and Minerals – we spent a day learning about each of the different types of rocks. We created our own fossils from salt dough and found natural objects outside. We created sedimentary rocks with layers of pebbles, sand and sugar syrup. We also used starburst candies to create a tasty igneous rock by smashing them together. Using heat and pressure! The kids obviously loved this one.

        I got a lot of my ideas from Pinterest. I looked up Art and Science Lessons and tweaked them for my middle schoolers. My art projects were a bit more elementary but the kids were very much engaged in what we were doing. You can differentiate pretty easily with the projects (make them more challenging for those who are up to the task). I hope this helps! Good luck!