This chapter adopts Karen Barad’s agential realism as a theory to de/colonise teacher education. For an agential realist knower, subject and object, mind and body, theory and practice are always in relation. One binary does not exist without the other independently – they are a sympoietic system ontologically. Hence, theorising involves literally being in touch with the world. Teaching and researching are not located in human agency separate from the world representing them through linguistic or other semiotic systems that are “substantialising” – we allow them to determine our understanding of the world.
An example of student teachers’ engagement with picture-book art illuminates how the concept “animal” tends to be substantialised in (higher) education by working with definitions that “capture” the essence or meaning of concepts, including attempts to define what “animal” is by nature. Barad’s concept of intra-action at the heart of her agential realism differs from “interaction” in that “nature” and “culture” are never “pure”. Like the related concepts diffraction and re-turning, knowing, doing and being are always already entangled and affected by each other.
This chapter’s rhizomatic experimentation with a Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophical curriculum gives learning and knowing a flavour of a worlding process. As part of a teacher education program, a field trip to an abandoned zoo on colonised land made the students think radically differently about anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism and human exceptionalism. Their diffractive artwork shows how the agential realist methodology of temporal diffraction can work to disrupt the colonising non-fiction–fiction, culture–nature and science–art binaries and calls us to think from animals, thereby becoming more sensitised to human exceptionalism and anthropocentrism.
The current movement to integrate arts within STEAM education is relevant not only for responding to complex societal and economic problems of the twenty-first century, but in that it carries its own sets of processes, questions and paradigmatic shifts that decentre dominant discourses in education. This chapter argues onto-epistemologically that arts uniquely engender a “mutuality” of disciplines constituted in the intra-actively entangled production of new knowledges through knowing and doing enactments within STEAM (re)configurings. It argues this is a form of critical intradisciplinarity. This chapter, which draws on an exceptionally significant data set, reports a novel analysis of a sample of drawings called “math-artworks”. These were created by South African young people in Grades 8–12 following a series of mathematics-art-experiential workshops. Theoretically framed by posthuman feminist new materialism, the chapter diffractively reads three of these drawings. It asks what matters in mathematical-art drawings by using Karen Barad’s concept of diffraction as a methodological practice for reading these drawings as data. The chapter uses diffractive reading to evaluate what it is that “math-artworks” advance, as encountered in the material enactments of South African young people. It also asks whether these configurings of intradisciplinary knowledge making generate new pedagogic repertoires. It argues accordingly that STEAM is a form of critical intradisciplinarity that is capable of activating future-making education.
This chapter examines how STEAM education may transform education in the STEM subjects towards education for a sustainable future. Particularly, it examines the potential of combining science and arts in preschool practice (children aged 1–5 years) for the sake of fostering sustainable knowing and being in the world. Here, it pursues the idea that everyday science verbs (e.g., rolling, bouncing and sticking) may be referents for children–matter relations in which science learning and creativity emerge. The chapter includes two stories from a collaboration with preschool teachers who have implemented verb-based science-arts education in practice. In one story, the verbs “sprout and grow” were combined with painting and drama, and in the other story, the verb “shade” (to cast a shadow) was combined with music, dancing and painting. Grounded in Edvin Østergaard’s plea to make more room for aesthetic experience in science education, in Barbara McClintock’s scientific creativity and “feeling for the organism”, and in Karen Barad’s agential realism, the chapter portrays examples of science-arts education that allow children to be intensely involved in the world. It concludes that the arts may help children not only to communicate and explore science phenomena, but also to sympathise with nature’s goings on from within; from their own multifaceted experiences of what it is like to cast a shadow, sprout and grow.
This chapter takes up the feminist new materialist concepts of “diffraction” and “intra-action” as ways of thinking about children’s embodied and imaginative knowledge through, and in relation to, aspects of the world that can be classified as the non-human. It employs these new materialist frames of “diffraction” and “intra-action” to show how art/science intra-act through “quiet activism” in children’s art. It argues that this work can be considered a vernacular form of STEAM education that radically re-situates, and indeed deconstructs, forms of science education proposed through outcomes-based curriculum, and extends children’s sense of themselves as entangled in their environment. The data theorised in this chapter is drawn from findings from a multi-sited ethnographic project that runs in 13 sites in 6 cities. This ongoing empirical project utilises art as a research method in primary school classrooms and informal educational settings, ostensibly to explore issues of social value and community belonging. However, across the last three years working in the UK and Australia, children, unprompted, have returned repeatedly to concerns about the environment, climate change and pollution. The children are so enmeshed in their broader environment that some draw self-portraits of themselves as landscapes. The arts-making practices reported here have led children to create speculative and imaginative scientific inventions that were designed to respond to the now inevitable effects of climate change and that merge art and science in unexpected ways. In developing the concept of quiet activism as an inherently interdisciplinary art/science (STEAM) method of environmental and art education, this chapter argues for an intra-active and diffractive, interdisciplinary and speculative model of embodied pedagogy. Children’s creative, quiet activism teaches us interdisciplinarity in dynamic and applied ways.
The National Science Foundation conceived the term STEM with an emphasis on the links between economic prosperity and knowledge-intensive jobs that are dependent on science and technology. As such, traditionally STEM subject initiatives have aligned with and facilitated a largely economic conceptualisation of human and social development. It seems likely that the wellbeing crisis that we are experiencing in the West is linked to this. This is compounded by the rising influence of technology which has facilitated what is sometimes called the indoorisation of children, and the raised levels of parental concern about safety. From this follows an associated sense of disenfranchisement for children, with consequences for their wellbeing and happiness.
This chapter begins with an overview of the impact of STEM on wellbeing, arguing that a focus on human development after Sen and Nussbaum is a more holistic approach to understanding wellbeing. In this understanding, wellbeing arises from an entanglement of threads representing the different elements of an individual’s life, such as their physical health, their social networks, their access to wild, natural and outdoor spaces, and so forth. This chapter focuses specifically on this access to wild, natural and outdoor spaces (using the arts and arts-based research to mediate this access) to consider how the capability approach provides a foundation for a broadly conceived notion of wellbeing that incorporates environmental sustainability, social justice and future economic wellbeing. Nussbaum’s list of capabilities is used as a framework with which to analyse focus group data from artists working with the arts-based charity Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination (CCI). The chapter concludes by considering how working with artists as co-researchers and how the co-development of artwork between children and artists might expose a more holistic understanding of the entangled roles of art and wild/natural/outdoor spaces in the wellbeing of young people. In so doing the chapter adds to conceptualisations of childhoodnature which seek to demonstrate that children and nature are inextricably linked through shared characteristics such as freedom and a non-linear view of time.
This chapter explores STEAM from a transdisciplinary perspective where sense/ory experiences are made explicit in the process of teaching and learning. In dialogue with John Dewey’s last complete work, Art as Experience, possibilities of engaging a wider array of sensuous perceptions in the interface between sciences and arts are explored. Two innovative teaching activities are described and discussed where taste (ambiguity intended) and acts of tasting play key roles. Theory and research-based knowledge is sought put to work, thus shedding light on possibilities and challenges for teaching of, and through, inquiry in the interface between subject domains with distinct practices and epistemologies. Through rich descriptions, looking closely and paying attention to details and specifics, simplistic and overly optimistic descriptions of STEAM initiatives are sought avoided. Departure is taken from some major challenges in science and STEM education, ultimately seeking to open a space where some challenges in arts education may also be met. Finally, challenges, frictions and the possible transformative power of such integration for the respective subjects is discussed.