Hanna Rose Shell

Leo Marx Career Development Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society, MIT

Making Science: Models, Images and the Production of Natural Knowledge

Making Science — Rhode Island School of Design

Making Science: Models, Images and the Production of Natural Knowledge was a course I designed and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design in the spring of 2006. This class examined the history of modern science in relation to the hands-on production of artifacts intended to explore and explain nature through its representation. Focusing on the natural sciences from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first, we considered how crafting objects (e.g. clay models, painted illustrations, photographic negatives and film reels) has been, and remains, a vital — and highly productive — mode for, the pursuit of natural knowledge. The course combined primary sources (texts and artifacts) with short readings in the history of science, material culture studies and science studies. Assignments combined reading and thinking, with written and art-based projects.

The students in the course developed beautiful and creative projects, their own "scientific artifacts." Among these were "fossils," cast in plaster, and a variety of interpretation on different ways in which "science" can see birds (samples seen at right) Student comments about the course are below.

"Great instructor, very understanding, very creative."

"The class is very well organized. The instructor is really interested in what she teaches and makes us enthusiastic about it."

"The course was extremely interesting . . . All the topics discussed held my attention throughout the different time period we were studying it . . . The instructor was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. It was obvious she was always willing to help her students."

"The instructor assembled very interesting lectures, projects and films. The homeworks were very creative and enjoyable. Brings up great topics and subjects."

"The instructor helped us to develop writing skills about the objects we make."

"She encouraged participation in the classroom by creating a fun environment for the students."

"She is really good and I like that she brought in two guest speakers, which was a really nice experience. She helped me with everything I had doubts with."