Creative Learning in Anatomy

facial muscles workshop photo

Facial muscles made from wax on plastic skulls, How Do We Make Facial Expressions?

I am a Teaching Fellow in Anatomy and a freelance Medical Illustrator with a passion for the enhancement of anatomy education through the use of art and technology. Anatomy is a visual subject; one which students must be hands-on with to allow for them to understand the three-dimensional composition of the body. The use of creative learning techniques compliments anatomy education extremely well as it allows students to recreate the anatomy through different materials. I am interested in the different resources we can create for students outside the anatomy lab to aid in their learning, but also the resources we can offer to people with an interest in human anatomy, so what could be a better place than the Festival of Creative Learning?

As part of the Festival of Creative Learning I organised two arts-based workshops, with the help of my colleagues, focusing on different areas of the body; How Do We Make Facial Expressions? and Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts. Both workshops were hands-on creating the anatomy from either wax or clay, to build up a three-dimensional representation of the muscles of facial expression or the structure of the heart.

Clay Hearts

Anatomical clay hearts, Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts

The workshops were open to anyone with an interest in human anatomy and trying new creative ways of learning. Both workshops had to accommodate for the varying levels of anatomical knowledge to allow for everyone to understand and also to enjoy the information they were learning. Therefore for both workshops I used a presentation to display images and anatomical terminology to help guide the attendees through the anatomy.

The goal of the workshops was for the attendees to feel that they had learnt something new by the end of the workshop, whether that be anatomical information or a new artistic skill. The great thing about using art as a learning resource is that it can make your mind focus on the task of creating something, and help you relax from our busy everyday lives. This kind of learning technique also allows for us to create an end product, which can be taken home and admired, such as the clay hearts, or photos taken to show everyone your creation, like the muscles of facial expression sculptures.

Both workshops received positive feedback, which I was extremely pleased about, not only as it showed people enjoyed the workshops, but also because the comments showed that people left feeling like that had learnt something new. The words used to describe the workshops were brilliant; therapeutic, fun, innovative and relaxing, to name a few! The Festival of Creative Learning was an excellent place to try out these new ideas, and I would highly recommend the festival to anyone who wants to try out a new idea!

To find out more about ArtBeat: Art & Anatomy Edinburgh, a group running art-based anatomy workshops at the University of Edinburgh, follow us on Twitter @ArtbeatEd and on Facebook @artbeatedinburgh. You can also keep up-to-date with anatomy events on the Anatomy@Edinburgh website; www.ed.ac.uk/anatomy or follow us on Twitter @AnatomyatEd.

Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires more people to think about using art to learn more about the human body!

Victoria McCulloch