Earth Science Week Classroom Activities

Enliven Data With Art

Activity Source:

Science Friday, Adapted with permission.

There are many reasons people look to art for expression. Art is a means to express emotion, document events, and convey information. In this exercise, you will select a scientific graph that addresses an important real-world issue, create an illustrated graph from that original, and craft an effective artist’s statement that connects the two. Once you’re done, keep an eye out for other ways you can merge science with art. The possibilities are endless!


  • Paper
  • Coloring utensils, paint, brushes, coloring pencils, etc.


1. Observe a few examples of art inspired by real-world, geoscientific data with your class. Some examples can be found at Discuss some of the following questions:

  • What do you see? What do you feel?
  • What do you think the artist is attempting to express?
  • Does anything strike you as powerful in this art?
  • Can you spot the line graph?
  • Before you read the artist’s statement about each piece, consider, what data do you think the original graphs depict?

Read artists’ statements:

  • What is the focus of the written descriptions that accompany each piece?
  • What is the tone and style of the written descriptions?
  • Are there similarities among the various written descriptions? Distinct differences?

2. Find some Earth science data that is relevant and meaningful to you. This may be related to work you are doing in school or something else that interests you. Make sure the graph demonstrates a clear trend, pattern, or change.

Make note of the source of your data and be sure to use reputable data. Consider how you can integrate the graph into a visual story. Are you trying to express causes, consequences, or something else?

3. Now, create art. When you have decided on the data you will use, print the graph, or create your own version of the graph on which you will create your art.

Sketch out a few drafts of what your final piece will look like on extra sheets of paper, or you may use a computer to create your art. Create your final version of your piece, with color.

4. Create an artist’s statement: Designate a title for your work. Describe the significance of the original graph. Explain the relationship between the illustration and the underlying scientific data. In other words, briefly tell the story that your image conveys about the data. Also, explain any personal connections to the data or why this particular graph/data set inspired your piece.

Provide a link to the source of the original graph that viewers can visit to learn more. Beneath or to the side of your art, show the raw data used in your art. This may be a table or the graph itself.

5. Finally, display your work! Share it in a school gallery, or post it online for your friends and family. And check out the hashtag #illustratedgraph online!

NGSS Connections

Science and Engineering Practices-Analyzing and interpreting data; Obtaining, evaluation and communicating information
Crosscutting Concepts-Patterns
Disciplinary Core Ideas-Earth’s place in the universe; Earth’s systems; Earth and human activity