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  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

Advice for incorporating sketching into your summer science education & outreach efforts

I'm on leave for the next several weeks, so I have queued up a series of "reboot" posts, revisiting evergreen material from the early days of this blog.


Four students bend over a table full of plant specimens. Each student is sketching their observations of the plants. The entire scene takes place in a greenhouse.
Students in a Harvard Forest field sketching workshop I led years ago

Right before I went on leave, I received an invitation to lead a sketching workshop for a science camp. Since I would be on leave when the workshop was scheduled, I instead shared a few resources the science camp leaders could use themselves. In case you're in a similar position to those camp leaders, here are those resources!

Framing is key!

Students are more likely to believe you that the goal really is to use sketching as a tool to learn/notice if (a) you keep the focus on learning and observation (not "good" art) and (b) you draw, too.

Drawing isn't magic, but most people think it is.

A lot of people have major hang-ups about drawing.

As I explain in this paper reporting on how instructors can use drawing to teach about nature, there are important reasons why most people don't learn to draw, and yet, drawing is a skillset, not some magical talent that only certain people get to have. Some students lean on their art skills as a shortcut, while others can feel shame that they don't know how to draw. So, as much as possible, don't comment on or make a big deal out of the student work that "looks good" -- that usually just reflects the student has previous experience with drawing/art.

Top resources for getting you started


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