Icon for: Brad Hughes


University of California, Irvine, Segerstrom Center For the Arts, Orange County Department of Education

ESCAPE: Equitable Science Curriculum integrating Arts in Public Education

NSF Awards: 1321343

2016 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6

ESCAPE (Equitable Science Curriculum integrating Arts in Public Education) is a multi-year teacher PD program with a rigorous research component. Developed by scientists, educators, and artists, this STEAM program is demonstrating how the arts can invigorate science education in K-12 classrooms. The science curricula developed—Earth Science, Life Science, and Physical Science—has been designed to include both Science Inquiry and VAPA (Visual Arts and Performing Arts) lessons. These pedagogical methods work together to create curricula that embodies cognition, lowering affective filters, and reducing cognitive load about high science concepts. In the process, ESCAPE is implementing the NGSS standards and reversing common science misconceptions. The lessons are captured in Ultra HD and are being redesigned into dynamic online courses for extended accessibility and sustainability. ESCAPE researchers are also comparing the learning outcomes between lesson methods, Science Inquiry versus VAPA.
The principal investigator Brad Hughes, Ph.D., the director of science education and media for UCI’s Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences, mentioned, “In our highly technological world, it’s more important than ever that school children learn scientific concepts, and integrating disciplines may be an important key to improving science learning. Our hypotheses examine how integrating the arts and inquiry into core elementary school curricula in the form of dance, movement, and visual arts may improve the learning of abstract scientific concepts along with the accompanying academic language.”

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Original Discussion from the NSF 2016 STEM For All Video Showcase
  • Small default profile

    Maureen Burns

    May 16, 2016 | 11:15 a.m.

    From it’s inception, ESCAPE has targeted English Language Learners as the primary beneficiaries of our arts and science integration, but we just learned from participating teachers that special education students are greatly benefitting as well. Aren’t unanticipated outcomes exciting?!

  • Icon for: Victor van den Bergh

    Victor van den Bergh

    May 16, 2016 | 09:32 p.m.

    Dear Brad and your team,
    The idea of using visual and performing arts to teach science is such an exciting one! Your footage of students illustrating science concepts using their bodies and really “living” the concepts is inspiring, and it sounds like teachers really see the benefits for students. What have you heard from teachers about the process of implementing this new program in terms of the impact on their own instruction? Have there been any specific or recurring challenges in your pilot cases so far, and, if so, how are you addressing those? I wish you all the best in your expanded roll-out this year! Thank you for sharing your work.

  • Icon for: Brad Hughes

    Brad Hughes

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 02:59 p.m.

    Great questions. Finding the time in the school day to implement new curricula is always a challenges in K-12 schools. We started out recommending a longer implementation window (9-12 weeks) to the teachers, but their feedback shortened it to something they find more manageable (6-9 weeks). It should be noted that our 3-5th grade teachers are generally uncomfortable with their own level of science knowledge. Very little instruction time is devoted to teaching science, in part for this reason. Providing these lessons has given teachers a clear curriculum for teaching some science concepts, which they say has been very helpful. Teaching artists collaborate with the teachers in the classroom to increase their comfort levels with the arts, an area many teachers are initially anxious about teaching. We have tracked and monitored teacher implementation data through implementation logs that are collected periodically after each lesson is taught. This data provides feedback that has been used by the project team to address challenges, revise lessons, provide additional resources, and also clarify confusing concepts at follow up trainings that were not clear in the lesson plans. We are getting positive feedback from teachers about their classroom experiences, they like the arts and science integrated activities, but we are still processing much of the data.

  • Icon for: Victor van den Bergh

    Victor van den Bergh

    May 19, 2016 | 10:00 p.m.

    Excellent, thank you for the reply!

  • Icon for: Karen Purcell

    Karen Purcell

    May 18, 2016 | 05:45 a.m.

    Dear Brad and team,
    Thanks for an engaging and informative video. This is such an important idea. Can you expand on the impact the program has had on students? Have you seen improvement on learning outcomes? Also, have you found that parents generally support the program or do you need to educate the parents about the method? Thanks again for taking on such important and exciting work.

  • Icon for: Brad Hughes

    Brad Hughes

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 03:05 p.m.

    Thanks for your comments and questions. Preliminary analyses indicate statistically significant treatment effects of 8 percentage points in 3rd grade on the same science assessment (p < .001 ), and 14 percentage points in 4th grade (p = .04). The treatment effect in 5th grade is not statistically significant (2 percentage points p = .51). We found promising results in the area of correcting common student misconceptions during the 1st year of implementation and are focusing our ongoing research on this more. In addition to using a non-equivalent comparison group to preliminarily gauge the overall treatment effect in year one, this coming year our comparison group will be randomly assigned. Also, for year one we were able to use a randomly assigned alternate treatment control. This alternate treatment group used “inquiry” based methods for science teaching, which includes a strong hands-on component, group work, and science kits. This “inquiry” based teaching method is well reviewed in the literature and we wanted to use it as a “gold standard” comparison. We were able to estimate the difference between the two very precisely, and found in our study that there was no significant difference between these two methods looking at our science test outcome measure. Having kids dance and draw to learn science worked just as well as the inquiry method. The visual and performing arts method also has other benefits to students and teachers not captured in our science test, but nonetheless observed in qualitative observations by graduate students. Not sure about parental support and communication, but will have to ask the project team about it to learn more, so appreciate you getting us thinking about this aspect.

  • Icon for: Karen Purcell

    Karen Purcell

    May 19, 2016 | 12:42 p.m.


  • Icon for: Jorge Solis

    Jorge Solis

    Assistant professor
    May 18, 2016 | 10:51 a.m.

    I love this video and the ideas expressed here!! There are many synergies between visual arts and science. Im curious about how children talked about using ESCAPE ideas in their learning. Were they asked to visualize, draw, talk out, move…etc. in a particular way when doing science?

  • Icon for: Brad Hughes

    Brad Hughes

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 03:07 p.m.

    Glad you enjoyed the video. The visual and performing arts science lessons can be thought of in two groups: those that used visual arts (drawing, sculpture, crafts) and those that used dance. In either case, the students were not told exactly what to draw or construct, nor were they told exactly how to move. In the visual arts lessons, the teacher provided the arts materials and taught specific arts techniques, like shading in pastel drawing, for example. The students then used the materials and the techniques they learned to express the science concepts being taught in their own ways, often working in peer groups. The resulting artworks all look very different, but all of them clearly portray the science concept focus of the lesson. In the case of the dance lessons, visiting teaching artists taught these lessons for the first time and the classroom teacher observed as a part of their professional development. The teaching artist would teach specific dance techniques and vocabulary (high-mid-low levels of movement, for example) and then would have the students embody a science concept in their own way, often in groups. Students would form different shapes when embodying the germination of a seed, for example, but all students would demonstrate with their bodies some understanding of this concept. During qualitative observations, students apparently really enjoyed these lessons. They were more active, more engaged, talked more about science content, and interacted with peers more.

  • Icon for: Joseph Wilson

    Joseph Wilson

    May 19, 2016 | 08:22 p.m.

    #teamBrad — I love the incorporation of arts/dance/physical movement into the implementation of NGSS for teachers. You mentioned that you will be expanding into the online platform for Los Angeles coming up — can you talk a little bit about what that will look like and what has changed (if anything) from this iteration? Thank you for a great video and project!

  • Icon for: Brad Hughes

    Brad Hughes

    Lead Presenter
    May 22, 2016 | 10:03 p.m.

    It has been a fascinating experience taking video footage from the first year of the traditional weeklong ESCAPE Summer Earth Science Institute, follow-up implementation, and other professional development activities. We transformed it into an online course and are trying to mirror those activities, while building in interactivity and assessment. The lesson plans developed for the traditional cohort are being utilized without any major modifications, however we have added various experimental methods using integration through media arts, storytelling, music, dance, and visual arts. These new aspects are very exciting and we area learning great deal from the experimental production stages that we have underway. The online platform requires deep crafting with sustainability in mind and can bring about quality training for the very challenging endeavor of arts and science integration. We are studying ways of integrating MOOC learning through virtual coaching and team building, i.e. students will be asked to participate in various ways, like submitting videos of themselves by way of introduction to the online cohort. We are trying to make it as community-building as possible by creating opportunities for the teachers to add comments, images, and other media. The system will collect information about the teachers along the way via survey questions and they will be able to see how they compare to everyone else with cumulative graphics of participant answers to the questions. We are using a learning management system called Canvas, Zaption, and Storyline Articulate in case you are interested in some of the tools.

  • Icon for: Meghan Welch

    Meghan Welch

    Post Doctoral Research Associate
    May 23, 2016 | 07:15 p.m.

    What a cool project! I could relate (from our project) when the teacher said, “integrate, integrate, integrate….how?” I really like how you all have given the teachers practical and explicit tools to integrate. Have you seen the teachers try and use the techniques for other subject areas on their own?

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