What is Creative Science?

Creative Science is run by Dr Niamh Kelly, associate professor in Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine, UBC. Dr Jane O’Hara is the project coordinator. The project brings university students from the arts and sciences together in dedicated groups, with the goal of providing mentorship to High School students, in an online forum, as they work on individual projects representing a concept in their science curriculum by producing a creative/artistic piece. Since its inception in Vancouver schools in 2010, it has engaged 300+ High School students and over 100 university mentors.

Our reasons for conceiving this program are:

  • to introduce students to different ways of learning
  • to improve attitudes toward science among High School age students (who are the future generation of people governing the world)
  • to connect the Sciences and the Arts, which are both creative enterprises, and give students more confidence in their abilities in both
  • to expose students to university role models, and get them thinking about their future goals and dreams


The program began in 2010 when Dr Kelly began a collaboration with Gladstone Secondary School in Vancouver, whereby all grade 12 Biology students were challenged to represent the cardiovascular system with an art work or creative piece. Since then, several other schools have taken part in Creative Science, in different grades and various areas of the science curriculum including DNA Replication and Protein Synthesis, and Art and Body Systems.

The first three years of this program have resulted in a very high calibre of artistic work ranging from visual art to photography; from culinary art to fabric art; from short stories, novellas and comic books to a Shakespearean play; and from board games to YouTube videos. A selection of these works can be viewed at the Creative Science website.

Effect on High School students

High School students working on Creative Science to date have produced works of a consistently high quality, and have been enormously enriched by this unique approach to learning.

To quote some High School students:

“The body can be interpreted in many different ways but what always fascinated me was how well it all worked together. I found it so perfect how every little piece made up a bigger picture. These pieces reminded me of a machine which leads to what inspired me to create this. To conclude, the human body is a complex machine of art that is dependent on every piece to keep ticking on.”

– Maya Marino, Body Systems Rube Goldberg Device, 2013

“In the end, I would say that I am quite proud of myself. At the start, I knew that I definitely had a disadvantage in art. However, when you put in lots of hard work and effort, you can surprise yourself. Big time!”

– Andrew Yong, Respiratory System in Clay, 2013

“The Creative Science program allows for a deepened understanding into the realms of science through different methods…Quintessential [scientific] expressions, formulas and theories are the regurgitations of what science students have to repeat….yet this project does not encompass such premises.”

– Jackson Liang, Author of “Life’s Multitudes”, Shakespearean-style play, 2012

Mentorship arm of program

A hugely successful aspect of this program has been the virtual mentorship component wherein university students make themselves available to support the High School students in working through their creative pieces. This has been rewarding for both High School students and the mentors!

The mentors were credited with providing support for students: “..the mentors were a tremendous help in the project”, ““[Thanks to] the mentors of UBC for the amazing support and suggestions”.

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