December 3, 2018

The intersection of poetry and science is more likely than you think


If you remember, we talked a few posts back about the healing powers of poetry, but here’s another instance where poetry and science unexpectedly connects.

Photo via Hans Reniers/Unsplash

In a recent Bioscience paper review, University of Wyoming researcher Bethanne Garramon Merkle, along with her six co-authors, details how poetry can be used to teach scientific concepts and how it can become a vehicle for researchers in formation of new concept.

Merkle discussed a researcher on a State of Climate report who wrote haikus and started publishing them along the reports because “they were finding that it was an effective way to synthesize a huge amount of information.” Equally important, Merkle asserted:

It’s really important that in the sciences we don’t look at the arts and humanities just as a way to make science pretty. The arts and sciences can be really powerful ways of changing how people think about and do science

The other area of focus is how to implement poetry into teachings. Merkle advocates that teaching children poetry will aid them to think outside the box of concrete scientific frameworks and also encourage a deeper appreciation for the science itself. Referencing a previous study, the review revealed in particular:

For example, Furlan and colleagues (2007) merged poetry writing and illustration in a college-level chemistry course. Their students noted that including poetry in the assignments not only made chemistry more enjoyable but offered a creative way to learn and communicate with others about chemistry.

As we may know, there is a disconcerting decline in humanities enrollments as the focus pushes harder on STEM subjects, but we should remind ourselves that our society cannot just subsist on research and hard facts. Advancements in science is nothing without the spark of innovation, and that is heavily reliant on what we as a people create in the arts. Mentioned here in the beginning of the review abstract:

Creativity is crucial to the capacity to do science well, to communicate it in compelling ways, and to enhance learning.

That’s one for the humanities team, if we dare say so ourselves.




Erica Huang is former Melville House intern.