Hallå STEAM! A Performative Recasting of History, Science, Art, Language and Education

In and beyond the Academy

Series: Critical Issues in the Future of Learning and Teaching, Volume: 23 Volume Editors: Pamela Burnard, Elizabeth Mackinlay, David Rousell, and Tatjana Dragovic

by Kristof Fenyvesi, Christopher Brownell


In 1736–1737 the French mathematician Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698–1759) and the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701–1744) travelled together to Lapland or, more precisely, to the Tornio River Valley, to settle the scientific question of the shape of the Earth, and Celsius was there to test his new ideas for a thermometer. This chapter tells the story of how the historians of mathematics and science, Osmo Pekonen and Johan Stén from Finland, use this piece of scientific history to reconnect contemporary culture to less known scientific and artistic contributions from the ‘Age of Enlightenment’. With a commitment to multi-sensory exposition, these contemporary researchers, together with the education expert, Kristof Fenyvesi launched the Hallå [Hello] STEAM program, a series of Swedish-Finnish STEAM learning days in Finnish schools, offering various STEAM (integrated science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) activities, partially based on historical connections between art and science in the Swedish-Finnish context. They took on the persona of eighteenth-century scholars, artists, clergy and more so they could provide Finnish schoolchildren an unusual experience of their own Finnish-Swedish intellectual history. An interview with one of the key figures of the Hallå STEAM project, Osmo Pekonen, is presented to highlight the story of a researcher working towards the goal of legitimacy but doing so against the grain of traditional research and dissemination practice.

Book review by The Guardian

The book was featured at The Guardian in the 4th of June 2022 edition here.

Finland’s Hallå Steam programme introduces students to the French mathematician Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis and the Swedish scientist Anders Celsius via a “performative recasting of history, science, art, language and education”. It explores the discoveries that resulted from their 18th-century expedition to Lapland, including Celsius’s experiments for a new thermometer and Maupertuis’s efforts to prove the shape of the Earth.

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