Naturally creative

Two new short courses invite participants to explore the intersection of science, nature and art.
May 21, 2024

Biologists are, by definition, keen observers of the natural world. They are students of life after all and there’s a long tradition of naturalists documenting nature in word and image. This summer, Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories is offering a unique opportunity for anyone interested in exploring their creative side in a science context to step into that world with short courses on nature journaling and nature writing led by scientists with creative credentials. The courses are designed to allow participants to explore their curiosity and develop their ability to capture insights gained from close observation of nature on the page.

Some of the inspiration comes from the increasing popularity of “folk schools” where people can learn traditional crafts from experienced artisans. IBSL leaders saw an emerging niche for their own version that weds science and craft, hence the name Science of Craft. Director Jonathan Schilling describes the courses as “somewhere between a folk school course and a regular science field course.”

The inaugural courses are each three days long and offered back to back for those who would like to participate in both. Dr. Jennifer Powers (professor, Plant and Microbial Biology) will lead a course on nature journaling — Drawn to Nature: Observing and Documenting Itasca State Park. Dr. Marlene Zuk (professor, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) and Dr. Kathryn Nuernberger (professor, English) will co-lead a class on nature writing — Writing the Wild: A Northwoods-Inspired Poetry and Prose Course.

The courses are about more than learning a new skill, says IBSL Associate Director Emily Schilling. They are about getting outside, slowing down and observing the natural world. “It’s just as much about the process as the product.” — Stephanie Xenos