A Honda FCX hydrogen fuel-cell car from the City of Los Angeles made an Earth Day appearance Friday, April 22nd, at Westminster Avenue Elementary School in Venice as part of the Start Teaching Science Through Art program that was developed by Playa del Rey resident, artist and biochemist Susana Maria Halpine.
“Students absolutely love science and art,” Halpine said.
“Combining the two subjects helps elementary school students grasp science concepts more quickly because they use visualization, computer models and hands-on experiments,” she said.
At Westminster Avenue School, students learned about hydrogen, oxygen and other science concepts by drawing their own designs for cars of the future.
Halpine asked the City of Los Angeles to bring the fuel-cell car to the school so that students could see a demonstration of what they learned in class and see an actual car of the future.
Student artwork on cars of the future is currently on display at the front entrance of Westminster School and a larger exhibit of student artwork will be on display at the school during Venice Art Walk, Saturday, May 21st.
“Through art, students are able to integrate the concepts of atoms and molecules into their understanding of the world around them,” Halpine said.
Halpine first taught the Start program in 2001, using demonstration workshops at an elementary school in Redondo Beach and the program came to Westminster Avenue Elementary School last year.
“A lot of students at Westminster come from low-income families or are learning English as a second language,” Halpine said. “They do not have access to science and art materials or computers at home.
“Because the Start program uses visualization, these students can comprehend basic science vocabulary after a one-hour discussion,” Halpine said.
The Start program is for students in first grade through high school.
Halpine gives students an assessment test before and after each presentation.
She said 88 percent of third-grade students could accurately describe a molecule by using artwork.
Halpine has a bachelor of science degree in biology and art from Worcester State College in Massachusetts and a master of science degree in nutrition from Columbia University in New York.
She is currently pursuing a doctorate in education from UCLA, where she will use research and statistics to study the effectiveness of the Start program.