Tag Archives: science

A Sweet Relationship with the Natural World

by Connie Sullivan-Blum
Executive Director, The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes

Who was the first human to discover the sweetness of honey?

How did they take the leap from simply stealing honey from a hive to actually cultivating the bees?

Our relationship with the natural world has been formed over time by creative surges. 

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Every tool we’ve designed, every plant discovered, every recipe concocted, every animal domesticated, every continent explored represents a mixture of imagination and trial and error, which are in turn the building blocks of art and science.  From this foundation, history pollinates the future.

The Garden of Fire program celebrates the artist and scientist in all of our children!

Introducing 2018 Garden of Fire – Powerful Pollinators

By Elaine Spacher, Executive Director
Tanglewood Nature Center & Museum

We have had some great themes over the past 5 years the Garden of Fire has been in operation. Water, wind, earth, fire…but this year’s theme of Powerful Pollinators is by far my personal favorite! Partners in the Garden of Fire will spend the summer teaching local youth about the importance of pollinators on Earth; a timely and essential subject.bloom-blossom-butterfly-158617.jpg

Pollinators play a powerful role in the functioning of our food web and humans literally would not survive without them. Pollinators range from many types of insects – bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and flies, to bats and birds. Pollination happens when pollen is moved within individual flowers, or carried from flower to flower by pollinators. Worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, drink, fiber (for clothing and other uses), spices, and medicines have to be pollinated by animals.

Food and drink made with the help of pollinators includes: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, honey, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila. Most crops that our ag animals (cows, pigs, chickens) eat are also here because of our pollinators.

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Garden of Fire Festival attendees “shop” at the produce market (2017)

In the US, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products every year.

The most prolific pollinators are the honey bees. Honey bees are not native to the US, they were originally brought here in the 1600s by colonists from Europe, mostly for their ability to produce honey. Most of the honey bees we see today are of Italian and German descent. Honey bees have a fascinating life history and once you know about it, it’s hard to not love them. Although some people have bee fear, and some are allergic, honey bees often get a bad rap for being dangerous. Honey bees are pretty docile and will only sting when they feel threatened. They die after they sting, so stinging is saved for something serious.

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In a honey bee colony, the girls do most of the work (thus are called workers) – they are the nurses, the cleaners, the guards, the collectors, the honey-makers, and the keepers of the Queen. The males, called drones, must leave and mate with a queen from another colony. The workers only allow the drones to live if there is enough food available. The Queen is the longest-lived in the hive and she lays all the eggs so that the colony can multiply and thrive. The communication between bees is sophisticated and efficient. They can communicate where food is, when they need to make a new queen, when to swarm, when danger is near, and much more. Honey bees collect pollen and nectar for the survival of their colony, and in the process, their hairy bodies deposit pollen and facilitate fertilization so that plants can make fruits and seeds and therefore new plants.

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Images courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography, 2016.

Learning about bees and how to keep them numerous and healthy is a smart thing to do. If you have been paying attention, you might know that bees are in trouble. There is evidence that the worldwide decline of bees is happening due to a variety of factors- all human-related. Bees suffer from habitat loss, chemical poisoning, disease and parasites. The United States has lost more than half of the honey bee colonies managed by beekeepers in the past 10 years. This is an alarming thing and we need to do all we can to reverse this. So, if you like to eat and drink, and you want to do something to help our honey bees, what can you do?

  1. Plant for pollinators – especially plants that provide nectar and food for pollinators
  2. Install houses for bats and native bees, or even become a beekeeper yourself!
  3. Supply salt or mineral licks for butterflies and water for all wildlife
  4. Reduce or cease pesticide use
  5. Put in more flower beds and less lawn

And most importantly, educate yourself and others so we can all work to keep our Powerful Pollinators alive and doing their good work for our survival.

 

 

STEM to STEAM

At this point in our history, educational priorities are focused on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. This is a lopsided view of values in education. We need to encourage our school districts and educators to prioritize STEAM: science, technology, engineering, ART and math.

Artwork is the application of many of these other areas of education. Artists deal with physics and chemistry because they work with materials that have specific properties and limits. They deal with mathematics as they confront geometry, measurements and mechanics. Technology and engineering are utilized as they are in every other arena of production – the thing produced must work! It must be stable and function.

Artwork has been devalued as impractical. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, at the same time, artwork is creative.  It can be fanciful. This should not be used to denigrate art, but rather to reveal what it has to offer to other disciplines. Engineers and scientists must be creative. They must be inventive. Like artists, they must explore the boundaries of what has already been done to see what might be done.

Education must encourage creativity in all its forms. This will help our children build a world that can address unforeseen challenges including repercussions from climate change, population pressures and changing social, political, and environmental situations. Now, more than ever, we need our artists to give us the vision – a practical vision – for the future.

The students involved in the Garden of Fire are not worried about any of this. They are simply learning and having fun. It is our job to think about this on their behalf.

Connie Sullivan-Blum
Executive Director of The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes

 

 

Science & Art

What is the connection between science and art?

This is the type of question that adults might ask when they hear about the Garden of Fire summer program. We have been taught to see science and art as antithetical. Science is objective while art is subjective. Science is a product of reason and art is a product of emotion.

Garden of Fire challenges those assumptions.

The impulse to make art may start out with emotion, but there is a lot of rational thought that goes into making a piece of art a reality. The artist deals with materials whose physical properties determine how they can be used. Like scientists and engineers, artists are constantly pushing the physical limits of their materials – inventing new ways for the materials to be used. As with science and engineering, invention requires mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

On the other hand, we imagine science as a bloodless pursuit devoid of emotion and passion, but this is not the case. Scientists are creative and inventive, asking questions about common sense assumptions and breaking boundaries. Like art, science can be disturbing, exciting, awe inspiring.

The students involved in the Garden of Fire don’t think about art and science this way at all. They haven’t fully absorbed society’s message that there is a deep divide between the two endeavors. They’re just having fun learning.

Garden of Fire summer program launches next week – and we couldn’t be more excited!

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Connie Sullivan-Blum
Executive Director of The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes