Creating an Environmental Impact

Director of the Institute For Figuring Margaret Wertheim combines science and art to educate community.

Saving the world’s underwater ecosystems is too large a project for any individual to tackle alone. Director of the Institute For Figuring Margaret Wertheim knows this all too well, so she’s working to raise environmental awareness—especially among students—through the Crochet Coral Reef project.

As part of Steward’s 2015-16 Visiting Innovator series, Ms. Wertheim presented “The Intersection of Nature, Technology, Arts, and Math: Contributing to the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” in the Bryan Innovation Lab on February 16.

“Coral reefs all over the world are being destroyed,” she said. “It’s only by working together that we can solve this problem. We see the project as a way of helping people to understand that the environment is impacted by the sum total of all of our actions.”

Founded in 2005 by Ms. Wertheim and her twin sister Christine, the project encourages communities around the world to build large-scale sculptural installations of coral reefs using crochet techniques. Participants engage in science education by learning about the characteristics and purpose of coral reefs. Mathematics comes into play because the methods used to crochet representations of organisms like corals, kelps, and nudibranchs involve the principles of hyperbolic geometry. The act of creating the various parts of the installation, then gathering it all together to display, reflects an understanding of art and handicraft.

“The final project always ends up being a beautiful work of art, one that is rooted equally in several important educational disciplines,” Ms. Wertheim said.

So far, the project has reached 12 countries and 35 cities, according to Ms. Wertheim. Installations have been exhibited in art and science museums worldwide, including the Hayward Gallery in London and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

As a participant in the IFF’s ‘Satellite’ program, Steward School is creating its own, local School Reef. During her visit, Ms. Wertheim met with students and community members who had been crocheting in anticipation of her arrival. She led hands-on sessions and thoughtful discussions with students on campus throughout the day. The activities culminated in a Fiber Arts and Science Fair where students learned crochet techniques, wove with different types of wool, created coral reef shapes with Play-Doh, built three-dimensional structures with Straws and Connectors, and more.

“Students can do what we can all do as human beings—become aware of our own daily practices,” Ms. Wertheim said. “We are all capable of using less than we currently do, and I think every one of us can do something to contribute to the betterment of the planet.”





Copyright 2019 The Steward School

The Steward School Mission

Our mission at The Steward School is to prepare our students for college and for life in a community defined by robust academics, inspiration, engagement, and care. We invite you to learn why so many families have chosen to become part of our community.


Explore Campus      Learn from the Experts

Experience "The Steward Way"

The Steward School is committed to the kind of education that recognizes individuality and fosters potential through a differentiated approach. If you value small class sizes, close connections with faculty and fellow students, and a challenging yet supportive academic environment with broad opportunities, then Steward may be the right school for you.


Learn More     Schedule a Visit    Apply Online

An Education as Unique as Your Child

We are proud to offer a comprehensive curriculum to students in junior kindergarten through twelfth grade. Discover the incredible opportunities we provide for each learner.


Lower School     Middle School     Upper School

Explore the World of the Arts

Whether setting the stage, striking a chord, creating a masterpiece, or simply exploring individual talents and interests, exposure to the arts develops important life skills necessary for students to succeed in academic areas and everyday life experiences. By providing our students with multiple creative outlets, we seek to nurture talents, build confidence, and help students discover passions.


Visual Arts     Music     Theatre

One School. One Team.

Participation, skill building, and sportsmanship are the cornerstones of The Steward School’s athletic program. At all levels, our coaching program is dedicated to giving students the training and experience necessary to develop a lifelong appreciation of physical activity, skill development, and, above all, teamwork.


Athletic Calendar     Sports Programs

A New Way of Learning

The Bryan Innovation Lab is a 21st-century, problem-solving environment. Through experiential learning in this cutting-edge facility, students are able to grapple with real world issues, challenging their critical thinking and resourcefulness.


Explore the Lab

Beyond the Classroom

The Steward School is a place of learning for the greater Richmond community through various campus programs. Whether you're interested in attending our annual gala, signing your child up for one of our summer camps, or learning more about LEAP, we welcome you to the Steward community.


Special Events     Summer Experience

It's for Steward Students!

Your gift helps ensure that each student recieves the best educational experieance at Steward. Learn more about the Steward50 campaign, annual giving, and other ways to support Steward.


Learn More     Give Today