Center for Creative Energy


Art/Science Fusion is Famous!

The Institute for Museum and Library Services has recently featured Art/Science Fusion as their project profile for June! The Center for Creative Energy  is

gaining some national attention for our creative approach to interdisciplinary learning and collaboration. Check out our profile here: IMLS June Profile.

Please keep visiting the blog to keep up with our summer programs Aqua Squad and Camp Odyssey. We will feature posts from students, SAISD educators, and other special guests in the next few months. Learning is a fantastic journey, you should join us!

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Learning with Leonardo

Summer is almost here, and as I found myself researching for our upcoming Summer for Kids curriculum, I stumbled upon this archived article about an elementary school in the D.C. area: Leonardo’s Curriculum

It was published in the late nineties, but I really liked the idea at the heart of this article(and really at the heart of Leonardo’s life) which is living to learn. Discovery, imagination, science, art and many other disciplines connect in ways that not only make for a dynamic learning experience, but also a more meaningful life.

Does anyone have any other examples of quality interdisciplinary curriculum like this one they could share? If you’re an educator, how do you connect themes, topics, and different disciplines in your own curriculum design?


Reflecting on WebWise 2011: STEM in Education, Learning, and Research

Last month, March 9th -11th, I was fortunate to be able to attend the IMLS sponsored WebWise conference in Baltimore, Maryland. A signature initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the WebWise Conference annually brings together representatives of museums, libraries, archives, systems science, education, and other fields to explore the many opportunities made possible by digital technologies. The focal topic this year was Science, Technology, Engineering + Math (STEM) in Education, Learning, and Research. I was amazed by the variety of projects related to STEM learning happening around the country.

Dr. Milton Chen's presentation at WebWise 2011


I particularly enjoyed hearing Dr. Milton Chen speak. Dr. Chen is the former executive director, now senior fellow, with the George Lucas Foundation and Edutopia. Dr. Chen reflected on President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This campaign includes not only efforts sponsored by the Federal Government but also those promoted by leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies. Libraries and museums are leading partners in this national effort, making significant contributions to both formal education and informal learning in the STEM disciplines. A significant trend in library- and museum-sponsored informal learning, especially in STEM-related fields, has been the support of social constructivist activities where youth learn through group investigation and creation. Dr. Chen also emphasized the the value of creativity and community involvement in STEM education.

Additionally, I found the session Friday morning to be very relevant to our work here at SAMFA. Speakers friday talked about STEM, Arts and Humanities: Intersections and Inspiration. Essentially, what  moderator Tom Scheinfeldt and panelists Chris Wildrick, Fred Gibbsand Michael Benson discussed was that years of Science and Technology Studies have exposed the STEM disciplines not as disembodied fonts on knowledge but as deeply social and cultural processes. Just as society at large is influenced by the insights and inventions of scientists and engineers, those insights and inventions are shaped by the influence of culture. In recent years, museum and library professionals and scienists alike have come to embrace the complex symbiotic relationship between science and culture to the benefit of both groups’ work. They highlighted examples of crossover projects that have brought librarians, museum professionals, humanists, artists, scientists, and engineers together to explore the productive tensions between science, technology, society, and culture.

If you would like to get the whole content experience, IMLS has a web archive of all the speakers that can be found at this link: WebWise 2011 archive

I strongly urge you to explore the content from this conference. There are brilliant minds and content that await you!


Environmental Education Webinar

Hi Everyone! Lillian just brought this awesome webinar to my attention. Sounds like a great opportunity to discuss the importance of programs like Art/Science Fusion. Best of all it’s free! I will definitly be participating.

 Shades of Green: Developing Artistic Approaches to Environmental Education 
Thursday April 7, 2011, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. EST 

Presenter:  Hilary Inwood

This webinar explores the emerging field of eco-art education, an integration of art education and environmental education, as a means of helping to develop environmental literacy in students and teachers. Hilary will introduce artwork and artists focusing on environmental issues in Canada and beyond, as well as some of the eco-art work that has been created in Toronto schools in recent years. Participants will be invited to share their own ideas and projects for creative approaches to EE.

Age appropriateness:  K-12

Hilary Inwood is a Lecturer in the Initial Teacher Education program at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She holds degrees in education (M.Ed, University of Toronto), art history (MA, York University) and art education (Ph.D), Concordia University. Her research focuses on integrating art education with environmental education to develop learners’ environmental literacy in school and community settings. Her work as an educator and artist extends beyond the classroom to include school gardens, outdoor education centres, parks and galleries.

To sign up for this event, go to:  http://greenteacherwebinarinwood.eventbrite.com


Connecting Art and Science for the 21st Century

Lillian and I just returned from the National Art Education Association national convention in Seattle, Washington. While there we shared Art/Science Fusion with museum and school educators from around the nation, and came home feeling confident that this program is aligning positively with the national conversation about education. There were lots of discussions about collaboration, making interdisciplinary connections in our curriculum, and about what skills young learners will need as they progress into the 21st century. What was most apparent to me is that educators have to keep pushing at boundaries and barriers in order to make real progress in education. Below are some inspiring highlights from our trip.

Artists as Thinkers and Collaborators: Mark Dion’s Neukon Vivarium

Neukon Vivarium, an installation located in the middle of Seattle,  is a dead Hemlock tree sustaining an entire ecosystem as if  it had been left in the forest to decay. The work is stunning in the middle of the city, as is the immense effort it takes fo r humans to recreate the conditions necessary for this natural process to happen in an urban area. The ecosystem in this artificial space thrives because it is constantly cared for by a staff in totally stable conditions within a custom built greenhouse.  Think of how the earth could continue to thrive if we cared for it as carefully as this work (which happens to be part of the collection at the Seattle Art Museum)!  Think of how the earth might thrive if we simply left it alone.

Are either of these options a possibility? What role do humans play in sustaining and destroying the environment? What is our place in nature? These questions are important points of departure for our programs at the Center for Creative Energy.

Education in the next century: 21st Century Skills

With technology, digital media, and science changing rapidly it becomes more pressing everyday to ensure that students are coming away from their school years as adaptable, creative, and critical thinking citizens. A vast number of educators have expressed their concerns with No Child Left Behind and the emphasis that legislation places upon standardized testing at the expense of meaningful learning. As that legislation comes up for re-authorization educators must be prepared to articulate what we envision education to be, and what policies will best help us to make those visions a reality.

An interesting advocacy initiative called 21st Century Skills re-imagines what knowledge and abilities are necessary to live successfully in the 21st century. 21st Century Skills places equal emphasis on building factual knowledge and on developing creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills. This approach is exciting because it prompts us to think about education from a fresh perspective. Think about this: 

How could we help children develop creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills through our curriculum?

How would doing so change the way we approach curriculum design?

These are just some of the questions that were floating around in my mind as I wandered Puget Sound. Now that I am back in San Angelo, it’s time put these questions to work by developing quality programs for our students.

In the next few weeks we’ll be focusing more on education policy, as well as keeping you updated with what’s happening with Art/Science Fusion! As always, comments, new ideas, and suggestions are welcome.


Center for Creative Energy: STEM and STEAM, part 1

A Ryken High School student attending a STEM summer camp, July 2010

A Ryken High School student attending a STEM summer camp, July 2010. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

You may be wondering about the conversations and motivations for developing the Center for Creative Energy and its associated programs. While Megan DiRienzo has written about the Museum’s local motivations, I would like to introduce a few of the larger conversations that continue to be influential in the development of our work and its context in the U.S. education conversation. Here’s a quick introduction to STEM and STEAM, and next time I’ll expand on their direct relevance to the Center for Creative Energy.

Nationally, many educational institutions, research organizations and foundations responded to the alarming reports of U.S. students’ declining performance in STEM subjects when compared to international students by re-evaluating curriculum and programming for its ability to reinforce deeper and more meaningful STEM learning. For the unacquainted, the acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  According to both the United States National Research Council and the National Science Foundation, the fields are collectively considered core technological underpinnings of an advanced society. In both political and academic forums the strength of the STEM workforce is viewed as an indicator of a nation’s ability to sustain itself. Most recently, President Obama launched the Educate to Innovate initiative to support STEM education in K-12 schools.

As the national conversations about the need for STEM curriculum pushed schools, universities, museums and other educationalinstitutions to shift their processes, an urgent  voice emerged. Dr. Joseph Piro urged educators to adopt an A for arts in the STEM acronym. Essentially, Piro (and others) argued that the arts have held a traditionally marginalized place in both American society and the school curriculum. This de-emphasis of the importance of arts education is

upended by a 2008 study from the National Endowment for the Arts, “Artists in the Workforce,” This study showed that artists make up a larger occupational group than lawyers, medical doctors, or agricultural workers. The size of the artistic community gives it an astonishing $70 billion aggregate annual income. The country’s $316 billion communication and entertainment business employs a diverse range of artists, most of whom prepared for their careers by participating in some sort of arts education program. This massive economic contribution to the U.S. economy alone should provide the case for support of arts education, argued Piro.

The STEM/STEAM conversation has motivated our thinking and curriculum approaches to the Center for Creative Energy. The conversation (and debate) continues amongst politicians, educators and other stakeholders. In my next post, I will share more about the converging paths of STEM and STEAM.


Watercolor

SAISD second graders laying down washes

This week, many of our Art/Science Fusion 2nd graders put the finishing touches on their landscapes. The children spent three weeks on their artworks. During the first week, they completed pencil sketches of their landscapes. The next week they masked off everything they wanted white, and laid out broad washes of color. During their final week in the studio, they added details with smaller brushes, speckled, and used sea salt to add texture.

Watercolor artists will create quick watercolor paintings en plein air (a French phrase meaning in open air, which is most commonly associated with French Impressionists who, obsessed with light, loved to paint outdoors), or over time in the studio. Walt Davis, whose work the students looked at on their gallery tour, paints en plein air while traveling and creates larger works back home in his studio.  All of Josephine Oliver’s works were created en plein air during her trips to to west Texas in the 1920s and 1930s. If your students don’t remember these works, check out the All About Texas Tour Ppt. for a refresher!

Here is a great video of an artist doing a watercolor sketch. Please feel free to share this with your students. Do they recognize any familiar techniques?

 

en plein air

Our Rivers Inspire Us!

What a wonderful way to start our Art/Science Fusion! As the “science person” in this venture (I am Christy… at the UCRA Water Education Center), I just love bringing in all of this art at every opportunity.

We managed to integrate not only science and art, but also geography and Texas history in this first round of sessions.  Texas is simply just so huge!  That means that the waterways that serve as our borders have some very different ecosystems!  Our 2nd graders became “Eco Region Experts” and sorted images of different plants and animals and presented these to the whole group. These regions were based on those waterways that serve as our borders:  Rio Grande River, Red River, Sabine River and the Gulf Coast. As students  explored sketching and watercolors, they learned what it meant for artists to be inspired by their surroundings.  The humid Sabine River with bald cypress trees and alligators looks very different from the Rio Grande River as it runs through the Big Bend area of Texas.  After learning about these different ecoregions of Texas, the students could decide which one truly inspired them.

After our long journey around the borders of Texas, I was ready to head straight for the Gulf Coast for a relaxing time on the beach hanging out with dolphins and sandpiper birds! I am pretty sure our 2nd graders were too!

 


Lessons About Water

San Angelo had a crazy snow/ice storm last week, so Art/Science Fusion readjusted scheduling to make sure that SAISD 2nd graders still get the most from the program. Christy and I (Meg) shared a couple of sessions, and it got me thinking about how important water is to this program.

One of our major themes and goals for the Center of Creative Energy is to connect the curriculum to water. For the All About Texas Art/Science Fusion curriculum we use water in a couple of ways:

Laying down washes of color.

1. We’re using watercolor. Okay, a bit literal, I know…BUT Walt Davis, who is featured in the All About Texas exhibition at SAMFA, created beautiful watercolor paintings to document the journey he and his wife took around the edges of Texas. Our 2nd graders are learning some basic techniques like masking, washing, and dry brushing to create watercolor postcards of the Texas landscape. At the end of the program, the kids will exchange their postcards along with a letter sharing their thoughts about their time at the Museum and Water Education Center.

Christy and students organizing Texas wildlife according to region.

2. We’re focusing on how water (in the form of rivers and an ocean basin) helps create the shape of Texas. This naturally leads to a great discussion about how ecologically diverse Texas is. Texas has 7 ecologically unique regions featuring deserts, swamps, canyons, prairies, and beaches.

Why does Texas have such an awesome terrain? Because different amounts and kinds of water (salt vs. fresh) can create different ecosystems and landforms. Of course, Texas being really, really big helps a lot!

As we continue to teach this program, we hope that students are starting to think about the important role both water and art play in their lives.

If you have a moment with your students, ask them why water is important. Then, feel free to share those responses in the comment section below.

Thanks, everyone!

–Meg


First Week Highlights

Well, the first week of Art/Science Fusion has come to an end,  and the All About Texas Road Trip Tour was lots of fun.  Below is a PDF of the tour outline, a PowerPoint presentation of the featured artworks, and some photos of our “trip” so you can get a feel for the week.

We would love for educators to use this tour in their own classrooms, especially if your students are learning about Texas, different art mediums, or plant life and animal habitats.

Also, it’s a great exhibition, so if you can’t make it out to San Angelo to see it, you can save some gas and view it in the download (although art in real life is ALWAYS better…)

All_About_Texas_Road Trip Tour Guide

All About Texas Tour Ppt.

If you do use these resources, we would love to hear your feedback and any creative uses or new ideas you may have added.  Feel free to post below, or email me at megan@samfa.org.

chatting about Mary Baxter's work

sketching a view of the Concho River


Art/Science Fusion Kick-Off

The first group of Art/Science second graders just got on the bus to return to Santa Rita Elementary School. I expected to feel exhausted, but I actually feel energized! Who knew that 3,000 + mile trip around Texas with 20 second graders could be so awesome?

We took a “road trip” tour across the state of Texas in the All About Texas exhibition (don’t worry, we wore seat belts). To keep ourselves occupied on journey, we chatted about artist materials, scale, and what the weather might feel like if we able to step into one of Mary Baxter‘s beautiful oil paintings, or perhaps join Josephine Oliver on one of her fantastic summer art making trips.

At the end of the tour, we did a little sketching of our own. Below are some wonderful drawings the students created. Later this month they will be adding color and detail using watercolor.

view of the pedestrian bridge across the Concho River to downtown San Angelo

In the top image, you can see SAMFA's director, Howard Taylor, showing some fellow museum folks around the grounds.

 

view of the Cactus Hotel and the Oakes St. Bridge from the Museum balcony

Stay tuned for updates about on student progress. Next week the students will visit Ms. Christy at the Water Education Center to learn about the science that makes the Texas landscape unique!


Where Art and Science Connect

Welcome to the Center for Creative Energy! We are stationed in San Angelo, Texas on the banks of the Concho River prepared and excited to kick off a great year of Art and Science programming for San Angelo students.

Monday is the first session of our Art/Science Fusion program.  Santa Rita will tour the new All About Texas exhibition and experiment with some basic sketching techniques.

Our staff will be updating this site as the 2011 Center for Creative Energy programs get underway. You can learn more about what the Center for Creative Energy offers in the About Us section.

Be sure to visit later this week to see photos and updates about the tour! We’ll also be posting lesson plans, art/science musings, and entries from guest contributors as the year progresses.



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