For several years we have been running an “astro-animation” class (AstroAnimation.org) at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore where students work in tandem with research scientists from NASA Goddard and elsewhere to create animations. These combine results of cutting-edge research with an artist’s eye to create novel presentations of scientific results. They have been used for scientific outreach and educational purposes, including presentations at museums, and art, STEAM, and science fiction festivals. Astronomy has broad public interest with a “wow” factor related to black holes, dark matter, life in the universe and more. Animation is an ideal medium since it combines creative approaches, is highly popular, and the films produced are readily available for distribution.
An NEA-supported survey of the astro-animation project showed very positive perceptions from the public, scientists, and scientific-outreach specialists. Both the process of creating the animations and the resulting films have a wide variety of benefits. The making of the animations facilitates the science education of the students and encourages scientists to become involved in communicating with the general public.
We are now investigating expanding our program in various ways to facilitate informal STEM learning, initially focusing on Baltimore, with its wide and diverse population. We are working with several partners including museums, schools, and community groups to develop the best strategies. We are developing an exhibition using the existing animations in the context of artistic responses to science, where the audience will be invited to contribute.