Monday, 17 December 2018

Poetry as a Creative Practice to Enhance Engagement and Learning in Conservation Science

Stephanie R Januchowski-Hartley Natalie Sopinka Bethann G Merkle Christina Lux Anna Zivian Patrick Goff Samantha Oester BioScience, Volume 68, Issue 11, 1 November 2018, Pages 905–911, Published: 04 October 2018 Abstract Creativity is crucial to the capacity to do science well, to communicate it in compelling ways, and to enhance learning. Creativity can be both practiced and enhanced to strengthen conservation science professionals’ efforts to address global environmental challenges. We explore how poetry is one creative approach that can further conservation scientists’ engagement and learning. We draw on evidence from peer-reviewed literature to illustrate benefits of integrating science and poetry, and to ground our argument for the growth of a science-poetry community to help conservation scientists develop skills in creative practices as a component of professional development. We present examples from literature as well as two short poetry exercises for scientists to draw on when considering writing poetry, or deciding on forms of poetry to include, in their practice. Opportunity exists to grow science–poetry projects to further our understanding of what such initiatives can offer. Issue Section: Forum Current interdisciplinary dialogue generally perpetuates the ideology that scientists do science and artists do art. However, research and experience shows that scientists—and society more broadly—benefit from scientists creating works beyond their discipline (Swanson et al. 2008, Opermanis et al. 2015). Broadly, creativity is defined as the production of original and useful ideas (for a broader discussion of creativity, see Stein 1953, Barron 1955, Runco and Jaeger 2012), and a variety of creative approaches, primarily from the arts, are increasingly appreciated in science education, communication, and practice (Jacobson et al. 2007, Swanson et al. 2008, Opermanis et al. 2015). For example, in Latvia, the Nature Concerthall brought science and arts (poetry, music, dance, photography, and videography) together as part of an information campaign to enhance public knowledge and awareness of nature conservation issues and resulted in both greater attendance and perceived greater knowledge of biodiversity issues by attendees (Opermanis et al. 2015). At the same time, the integration of creative practice in professional development opportunities for scientists is increasing; the last several years have seen multiple speakers at ecology and environmental conservation conferences (e.g., Society for Freshwater Science 2018, World Conference on Marine Biodiversity 2018, Resilience 2017) using different creative practices to highlight the role and value to ecology and environmental conservation of these practices. At the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity 2018, in Montréal, Canada, Linwood Pendleton's plenary, “Rethinking marine conservation science in three acts,” brought together poems, music, video, and dance to demonstrate how creative approaches can help to achieve and celebrate breakthroughs in marine conservation science (Pendleton 2018). Research focused on innovation in science also demonstrates that creativity is something we can practice and improve and that proficiency in a fine art, craft, or literary pursuit is a significant predictor of scientific productivity and innovation (Root-Bernstein 2003). Poetry, the focus of our article, is one creative practice that conservation scientists can use to enhance their capacity to innovate, to communicate their work in compelling ways, and to enhance their own learning, as well as that of others. We recognize that there is a well-established body of environmental writing; the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment was established in 1992. We also recognize the growing area of environmental humanities research, which is strongly driven by those working in the arts and humanities. People working in environmental humanities are building interdisciplinary collaboration and research and reflecting on and critiquing actions and inactions when it comes to the use and management of our natural world (e.g., Magrane and Johnson 2016). Our article is directed at conservation scientists who have included or who are interested in creating poetry in their practice and are not poetry or literary specialists. The article is directed primarily at conservation science and scientists because of our own backgrounds and experiences, but we draw on examples from and our arguments are applicable to diverse fields. We do not see our article as separate from the ongoing work or research in environmental humanities but complementary to it and supportive of the idea that we require interdisciplinary lenses and creative approaches to action, critique, and reflection when it comes to environmental conservation and sustainability. Indeed, conservation scientists can benefit from engaging the writing and research of the environmental humanities; doing so would reinforce what we present below and would potentially encourage new and broader interdisciplinary research opportunities and directions. In the present article, we encourage a more explicit linking of conservation science and poetry by engaging scientists in poetic practice that can shape their work and believe this goes beyond wilderness literature, nature poems, and ecocriticism to consider how scientists can learn from creative practices in poetry to enhance their scientific practice. Our focus in this article is on the unity of science and poetry, and we draw from evidence in science education, creativity, and problem-solving literature to demonstrate the potential benefits of science and poetry integration and ways in which conservation scientists can use poetry with their science as a component of professional development. To further illustrate, we reflect on our experiences and provide resources from our own ongoing science-poetry projects. To support a growing science-poetry community, we highlight new approaches of integrating science and poetry that may foster creativity and inspire others to find their own ways of building creative practice in their science. Integrating science and poetry: Lessons from the classroom