August 3, 2016

DC #SciArt – Icebergs and Washed Ashore

Posted by Laura Guertin

I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC and explore two exhibitions that focus on communicating science through art.

ICEBERGS – National Building Museum, July 2 – September 5, 2016
Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea – Smithsonian National Zoo, May 27 – September 5, 2016


This is a unique opportunity to view glacial sea ice through the eyes of landscape architects. This art installation focuses on “building, assembly, materials, spatial experience, design and imagination.” Here is a video by Reuters that describes and showcases the exhibit, and I’ve included some of my own photos below. I found the exhibit to be sparse on educational facts but filled with large geometric shapes.

I appreciate that the National Building Museum included a webpage with Facts & Resources about icebergs, and they worked with the DC Public Library to generate ICEBERGS-related reading lists for adults, teens, upper elementary, and early elementary ages.


Washed Ashore

It is amazing how marine debris, which causes such harm to our oceans, can be turned into objects of beauty. Environmental artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi has taken the plastic that is washing up on our shores and transforming it into educational conversation pieces. Her collection of marine animal-themed sculptures promotes discussions on environmental conservation, sustainability, and human impacts on the planet. And I can confirm that her artwork does just that, through my quest to find and photograph all 17 sculptures on display at the National Zoo, there were many conversations among zoo visitors and volunteers about ocean pollution. The signage at each sculpture helped trigger these conversations and encouraged visitors to look deeper at the composition of the sculptures. Here is a PBS News Hour video with additional exhibit information, and some of my photos are included below. More information can be found on the Washed Ashore website.

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau


These were both inspiring and creative exhibits. Although both end in September, I look forward to sharing photos and the online videos and supporting materials with my students. I hope to inspire each of them to pause and take a deeper look at science art installations, and perhaps even design their own creative works to communicate their science knowledge and passion.

*If you are looking for another science art exhibit in the DC area this summer, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) has mirror mosaic mushrooms to explore ecosystem conservation and the concept of people as part of ecosystems and nature.


Additional sources for exploration

Blog posts

  • L. Guertin, (March 23, 2016), Women in #SciArt [Women’s History Month], AGU Blogosphere [blog post]
  • D. Mogk, (March 7, 2016), Put a little ART in your eARTh science!, Earth and Mind: The Blog [blog post]

Battles, D.A., & J. Rhoades Hudak. (2005) Exploring the Interrelationships of Art and Geology through a Course Module on European Ice Age Cave Art. Journal of Geoscience Education (53)2, 176-183. doi: (PDF online)

Kelley, C., A. Jordan, & C. Roberts. (2001). Finding the science in art. Journal of College Science Teaching, 31(3): 162-166.

Papacosta, P., & A. Hanson. (1998). Artistic Expressions in Science and Mathematics. Journal of College Science Teaching: 250-252.

Swanson, F. J. (2015). Confluence of arts, humanities, and science at sites of long-term ecological inquiry. Ecosphere 6(8):132. (PDF online)