About

About Biophilia Educational Project

The Biophilia Educational Project is a large-scale pilot project that builds on the participation of academics, scientists, artists, teachers and students at all academic levels. It is based around creativity as a teaching and research tool, where music, technology and the natural sciences are linked together in an innovative way.

The project presents an example of dynamic collaboration between different areas in society, such as the education system, cultural institutions, science and research institutes. It creates a platform for dialogue and debate which encourages both personal and social development, thereby contributing to a sustainable society where new approaches are actively explored.
The project was originally developed by Björk Guðmundsdóttir, the City of Reykjavík and the University of Iceland, in connection with the release of Björk’s 2011 album Biophilia.

The Biophilia Educational Project aims to inspire children to explore their own creativity, while learning about music, nature and science through new technologies. The project has thus far mainly been aimed at children aged 10-12 years, and the programme is based on Björk’s Biophilia app suite of music and interactive, educational artefacts.

Students learn through hands-on participation, composition and collaboration. Participants acquire the skills to develop their musical imagination, to push their creative boundaries and make music in an impulsive and responsive way, inspired by the structures and phenomena of the natural world. The Biophilia Educational project has the potential to bring arts experience to children who might otherwise not have access to it.

To commemorate its 2014 presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Icelandic government sought collaboration with the other Nordic countries to further develop the project. Local collaboration networks are being set up in all Nordic countries.

Read more about the Nordic collaboration here.

Objectives

The objectives of the project are:

  • promote innovation in schools through the development of educational methods which combine natural sciences, creativity and technology
  • break up traditional teaching practices through a cross-disciplinary approach, across all ages, subjects, and disciplines
  • set up a Nordic collaborative network that will share experiences, ideas and further develop the project based on common Nordic values
  • encourage young people’s interest in creativity, natural sciences and technology, thus progressively increasing the competitiveness of the Nordic countries

Background

In 2011 Björk released Biophilia, a multi-media project comprising a studio album, an app album for ipad & android, a live tour featuring custom-made instruments and educational workshops. The app album was the first of its kind – a fully interactive and educational entity to accompany the album, where each song is represented by its own touchscreen app. Each app takes one key feature of music theory (chords, scales, counterpoint etc.) and pairs it with a corresponding scientific phenomenon.

The Icelandic model for the Biophilia Educational Project was developed in 2011 during Björk’s Biophilia Recidency in Iceland. Over sixty Reykjavík grade school students attended the first Biophilia workshops in the Harpa music hall, under the supervision of Reykjavík school teachers and scientists from the University of Iceland.

Since then this model, developed by Björk, Reykjavík City and the University of Iceland, has toured the world and inspired children from Buenos Aires to New York to Tokyo.

The Icelandic Ministry for Education, Science and Culture made the Biophilia Educational Project one of its focus points during its 2014 presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The project will therefore be implemented and developed in all the Nordic countries over the next two years.

How To Teach Biophilia

The Biophilia Educational Project aims to inspire children to explore their own creativity, and to learn about music, nature and science through new technologies. The project has thus far mainly been aimed at children aged 10-12 years, and the programme is based on Björk’s Biophilia app suite of music and interactive, educational artefacts.

Students learn through hands-on participation, composition and collaboration. Participants acquire the skills to develop their musical imagination, and to make music in an impulsive and responsive way, inspired by structures and phenomena in the natural world.

Each app has its own theme (in connection with a corresponding song) and combines a natural element with a musicological feature. The layers of content in each feature include: an interactive game based on the song’s scientific and musical subject matter; a musical animation of the song; an animated score; lyrics; and an academic essay.

Anyone is welcome to use the Biophilia educational guidelines/material. Enter the world of Biophilia by browsing the menu on the left.

Listen, learn and create!

Acknowledgements

Many people have contributed to the development of the Nordic Biophilia Educational Project. Thanks to all the teachers who have taught Biophilia in Reykjavík and scientists from the University of Iceland. Special thanks to:

Björk, James Merry, Arnfríður (Adda Rúna) Valdimarsdóttir, Auður Rán Þorgeirsdóttir, Curver Thorodden, Guðrún Bachmann, Harpa Rut Hilmarsdóttir Skúli Gestsson, Elfa Lilja Gísladóttir, Björn Kristjánsson, Þórdís Guðmundsdóttir, Nanna Hlíf Ingvadóttir, Jens Karl Ísfjörð, María Sophusdóttir, Kristján Leósson, Ari Ólafsson, Ármann Halldórsson.

Learnteach

Get the teaching guidelines

Learn and Teach Guide

“Welcome to Biophilia: A love for nature in all her manifestations. From the tiniest organism, to the greatest red giant floating in the farthest realm of the universe. With Biophilia comes a restless curiosity, an urge to investigate and discover the illusive places where we meet nature. Where she plays on our senses with colours and forms; perfumes and smells.”

Biophilia is much more than a collection of songs, linked by a common idea or concept. Each song is accompanied by an app, and furthermore the whole album can be viewed as, and referred to as an app or appsuite. In the face of novelty, sometimes language fails us. Referring to each item as a ‘song’ seems to me to draw too much attention to one aspect of the work. Therefore, I propose the term ‘songapp’, which I will henceforth use.

To teach is to learn twice, and when it comes to Biophilia this is doubly true; all the songapps teach about (one or more) aspect of music and (one or more) aspect of nature. This explains the title for these guidelines: ‘learnteach’; the experience of learning and teaching are inextricably interwoven. Learnteach contains proposals, speculations, ideas, links and connections to help bring Biophilia into a classroom or other learning contexts.

Originally conceived as a work of art, the wider educational potential of Biophilia soon became apparent. Workshops for local children featured on the original Biophilia tour, and Primary schools in Reykjavík have participated in experimental teaching using Biophilia with great success. The ideas, activities and methods presented here are results of this work, thought of, tried and tested by a number of creative, resourceful and dedicated teachers and experts in a variety of settings.

The human psyche, music and nature are systems that hang in a balance; a balance between order and chaos, they are borne out of the creation and release of tension. This dynamic view is powerfully presented in songapps like Virus and Mutual Core; and there is always more than meets the eye, what may appear to be harmful and bad may turn out to be a vital part of the system. Some natural systems last longer and are more regular, such as the movements of the stars, and there are also such reliable aspects to music. A piece of music, no matter how weird, will have some kind of pattern and some kind of rhythm, this is can be seen in different ways in Solstice, Moon and Crystalline.

One of the serious problems we have when we face science is the question of scale, scale in space and scale in time. A normal popsong will appeal to us on our familiar human scale. Biophilia slows us down, speeds us up, takes us down to the molecular level, up to the galactic one and beyond; the microscopic is explored in Virus, the fast in Thunderbolt, the slow in Mutual Core, the planetary in Moon and Solstice and the infinity of space and time in Cosmogony

The human mind operates in a variety of ways, verbal communication being one, visual presentation and music being others. Biophilia has a strong multisensory aspect, where visual, aural, i.e. non-verbal, communication comes to the forefront. This provides a welcome change from the heavily verbal focus of traditional education. It also provides a deeper level of abstraction than can often be achieved with words, and people who prefer non-verbal methods respond powerfully to the world of Biophilia.

Biophilia, restless and curious, seeks inspiration in many different places. These include the tradition of Western art music in the 20th century, and other musical traditions from all over the world. An example of this is the generative music in Virus, scales in Dark Matter and rhythm in Hollow. Furthermore the instruments: harps, hang drums and various electronic devices do not carry the meaning and power implicit in grand pianos, violins and guitars, in a sense this music is more democratic than what we are used to.

Education, like art, music and love is a contested field. Opposed forces collide and infectious ideas invade the core of the operation, while a huge number of people seem to enter and leave without notice like the dark matter of the universe. Biophilia forms part of one such force; or possibly maybe more an infection; a seed that may be planted; find its kin and possibly spread out through large parts of the system; meeting resistance, adapting and maybe finally metamorphosing into something unrecognisable. We’ll see.

How to Teach Biophilia

The Biophilia Educational Project aims to inspire children to explore their own creativity, and to learn about music, nature and science through new technologies. The project has thus far mainly been aimed at children aged 10-12 years, and the programme is based on Björk’s Biophilia app suite of music and interactive, educational artefacts.

Students learn through hands-on participation, composition and collaboration. Participants acquire the skills to develop their musical imagination, and to make music in an impulsive and responsive way, inspired by structures and phenomena in the natural world.

Each app has its own theme (in connection with a corresponding song) and combines a natural element with a musicological feature. The layers of content in each feature include: an interactive game based on the song’s scientific and musical subject matter; a musical animation of the song; an animated score; lyrics; and an academic essay.

Anyone is welcome to use the Biophilia educational guidelines/material. Enter the world of Biophilia by browsing the menu on the left.

Listen, learn and create!

Biophilia In A School Setting

There are a number of practical considerations that need to be addressed for any educational project. A very important issue is that of time. Biophilia and the approach offered here is very adaptable in this respect: from an hour spent on one songapp to a whole course stretching over months. It could form part of a programme in music, science or technology science teaching for one class, or be a thematic project for the whole school, for one day or even up to a week.

Another dimension is space and facilities. Well-equipped music and science classrooms are a great bonus, preferably not too far apart. Wifi and generally good internet access is desirable, and generally speaking flexible spaces where equipment can be set up and taken down. Nevertheless, a lot can be done with very little and many of the activities only require a bare minimum of resources.

Ideally the teaching of Biophilia should be in the hands of music teachers and science teachers. Teachers of art, drama, dance, social sciences, religion and in a variety of other subjects could form part of the teaching teams. The interdisciplinary nature of the work is one the fascinating things about Biophilia, this is a great platform for fertile cooperation across subject lines that are not often crossed. This also has the great educational benefit of counteracting the compartmentalisation of students’ minds, helping them to see and seek out connections they would otherwise have remained blind to. The ideal way to achieve this is for teachers to be together in the same space taking turns and cooperating in carrying out the activities.

Biophilia can appeal to a wide age range. While it has mostly been used for children between 10-12, younger children will be drawn to certain aspects of Biophilia, while teenagers and adults may appreciate the emotional depth of some of the songapps better. In reality some of the more abstract themes seem to be appropriate for graduate level university work.

Biophilia is in some ways like a sandbox, an amazing space for learning and exploration, where all manner of adventures and creativity take place, either using only your bare hands or elaborate gadgets like shovels, plastic trucks and whatnot. To me it seems that Biophilia offers a comparable thing for education, offering exciting democratic and creative opportunities for today’s schools and educational institutions.

Evaluation of students’ performance is always a challenge, and more so when the complexity and level of freedom in activities increases. Educators will find ways to approach this issue, in line with the student group involved and the time and space allotted to the project.

A Key To The Texts For The Song Apps

Learnteach will provide a few short texts for each songapp. The texts provide theoretical background and suggestions for teaching activities. These are the types:

  • A question that opens up the area which the songapp in play will deal with. These questions will mostly be personal and general at the same time, open and philosophical, yet accurate and obvious.
  • Musical idea. For all the songapps there will be one of these, sometimes more.
  • Natural phenomena and scientific theories that apply, for almost all the songapps there will be one of these, sometimes more.
  • Human, emotional, psychological themes for the songapp.
  • Connections. Some obvious, and maybe less obvious, connections between musical and natural, and possibly the human ideas in the songapp in question teased out.
  • Connections of the songapp in question with other songapps and overreaching themes of Biophilia.
  • Activities: experiments, projects etc. For every songapp a few of these will be provided. Here there are suggestions for methods and approaches that have been tried and tested.
  • Out there:  More complex undertakings, for those who want to delve deeper into the songapp dealt with, that have extra time or facilities to take things to the next level.

Samples. These are links to useful material connected to the songapp’s themes online.

  • Science sample.
  • Musical Sample.
  • Activity Sample.
  • Human Sample.

For each song a link to an app tutorial is provided, and here‘s a general overview for all the apps, by the programmer Scott Snibbe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8c0x6dO2bg

Elements in Teaching Biophilia

What follows is a list of elements in teaching Biophilia. Note that not all of these approaches are used always, some of them may not be practical for you, and very importantly there is no rule as to the order in which they should be implemented; this depends for example on the songapp in question.

Co-teaching. Ideally all the teachers should work together on carrying out the various activities presented.

An introduction of the musical / natural / human themes. This could take the form of a short lecture collaborated on by the teaching team, a video on the topic, a brainstorming session, a hand-out etc. Note that if the idea is that students discover the ideas themselves this part could be put later in the process or might be unnecessary. The ideas in the M/N/H/C/ BC texts are useful here, and many of the videos provided as well. This is the ideal place to open the students’ eyes to the connections between the musical and scientific concepts.

A focused moment of listening to the songs or viewing the videos. Sit still, mind your breathing and focus on the experience at hand – either directly without any preparation, or possibly with the opening question for the songapp in mind. For the more accessible songs this might be a good way to start, for others this could be left for later.

Kid-in-own-space. A significant amount of time should be devetod to allowing students to experiment with the songapps on their own with headphones, allowing individual creativity to thrive.

Products. Make sure products of work can be shared, any art works, writing or songs created should have a venue for being shared with the universe.

Socratic discussion circles. To seal and finalise the experience a period of settling down to discuss, share, listen and digest can be valuable. The best approach here is the simple one of sitting in a circle and taking time to listen to everybody’s experiences, views and thoughts. In some cases there may be questions that will call for urgent resolution, in others this will be a more free flowing exchange.

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Think Tank

The Biophilia Educational Project is a dynamic platform in constant development. We believe that by sharing our ideas and experiences we can strengthen the project even further.

Do you have an idea or a link you’d like to share? Contact us to share, your contribution matters!

The Nordic Team

About

In 2014, Iceland held the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the platform for Nordic governmental co-operation.  As part of this presidency, the Icelandic authorities sought co-operation with the other Nordic countries in the development of the Biophilia Educational Project.

Each country chose a region to take part in the Biophilia project; each of these regions has a steering committee responsible for implementing and shaping the project in collaboration with interested local parties. The steering committees form the Nordic collaborative framework around the Biophilia educational project.

The expected outcomes of the Nordic collaboration are to:

  • promote innovation in schools through the development of educational methods which combine natural sciences, creativity, and technology
  • break up traditional teaching practices through a cross-disciplinary approach, across all ages, subjects, and disciplines
  • set up a Nordic collaborative network that will share experiences, ideas and further develop the project based on common Nordic values
  • encourage young people’s interest in creativity, natural sciences and technology, and thus progressively increase the competitiveness of the Nordic countries

Nordic Collaborators


Åland Islands: Mariehamn
Department of Education
NIPÅ
Ålands Music Institute

Denmark: Ålborg
National Center for Science, Technology and Health Education
University College Nordjylland
Jyske Musikkonservatorium

Faroe Islands: Torshavn
University of Faroe Islands
NAM
The Nordic House

Finland: Grankulla/Kaunainen
Grankulla municipality
Grankulla Musikinstitut
Helsinki Pop & Jazz conservatory
Martin Wegelius Institute

Greenland: Sisimiut
GUX – Gymnasiet in Sisimiut

Iceland: Reykjavík
Reykjavík City
University of Iceland
Björk Guðmundsdóttir

Norway: Stavanger, Strand municipality
Strand kommune school authorities
University of Stavanger
Jærmuseet

Sweden: Sundsvall
Kulturskolan i Sundsvall
Teknikhuset

The Nordic Team

In 2014 a group of Nordic people, each an expert in their own field, met in Iceland to hone and refine the teaching guidelines for the project.

The group is made up of Sunleif Rasmussen, one of the Faroe Islands’ leading composers; Anja Andersen, astrophysicist with the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr foundation in Denmark; Pipaluk Jörgensen, playwright and director from Greenland;  Cecilia Björck, Ph.D. in music education philosophy at the University of Gothenburg; Esko Valtaoja, writer and professor of astronomy at the University of Turku; Alex Strömme, professor of science education at the University of Trondheim; Guðrún Geirsdóttir, chairman of the board of the University of Iceland’s Teaching Centre, and professor of education, and Björk Guðmundsdóttir.

The work and ideas devised by this group form the basis of the Biophilia teaching guidelines. The guidelines will continue to be developed in collaboration with each participating Nordic region, since a special effort will be placed on incorporating local emphases and circumstances.

Contact

For further information contact:

Arnfríður Sólrún Valdimarsdóttir, project manager
Auður Rán Þorgeirsdóttir, project manager

Ministry for Education, Science & Culture
Sölvhólsgata 4
150 Reykjavík
Iceland
Tel. +354 545 9500
biophilia@mrn.is