Center for Creative Energy


Flood and Drought: Art Science Fusion gets Serious (but we’re still fun!)

This fall’s Art/Science Fusion couldn’t be more timely for West Texas, or serious! Just today, USA Today featured San Angelo in a front page story about one of the worst droughts in Texas history. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the 1936 Flood, during which the Concho River took out 12 buildings downtown and destroyed 300 homes!

The theme for Art/Science Fusion is Flood and Drought: With and Without Water in West Texas. The goal is to get 2nd graders thinking about the critical role water plays in everyday life, and how we in San Angelo can work to respect and conserve this precious and powerful resource. They will take a tour of the West Texas collection at SAMFA with Megan, learn about desert adaptation with Christy at the UCRA, and then make prints about our water situation with Bekah in the Education Studio. Below is a sneak preview of some of the art the 2nd graders will see, and some useful links related to the program.

A great story from the USA today about the drought in Texas: USA Today

A nice resource about plants that thrive in the desert. What can we learn from them? Plants

The National Weather Service’s report on the 1936 Flood in San Angelo: Flood

An interactive site about Early Texas Art.  Be sure to click the link on the left to see the unique regions of Texas! Texas Art

Check back for a  full curriculum, and also be sure to see Old Fort Concho’s new exhibition on the 1936 Flood opening on Saturday, September 17th (the actual anniversary)!

Although visiting the Fort for the flood exhibition isn’t possible during the Art/Science Fusion sessions, we STRONGLY encourage your class or school to take a trip over to check out this timely exhibition either after one of your Art/Science Fusion sessions or later in the year. It would be a great way to add some local history into your curriculum. We’ll be touching on Texas history a bit, but nobody can do it like Bob and his team of educators next door! I will officially say the more interdisciplinary the better. Plus I love the Fort–they have good history and a couple of ADORABLE mules!

See you soon!

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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!


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.


Creative Collaborations

Student learning through Art/Science Fusion

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about collaboration, especially after a successful bout of Art/Science Fusion.  Lillian’s post about STEM to STEAM led me to consider how important it is for educators to find common ground between disciplines so that the strengths of each can create a dynamic learning experience for students.

The big questions we ask ourselves here at the Center for Creative Energy while we develop curriculum are:

How do art and science connect?

How can these connections help our students create?

Create what? Artworks, inventions, new ideas, ground breaking research, a new museum exhibition? The challenge here is to successfully collaborate without using one discipline as just a tool to teach about the other. The UCRA and SAMFA try to meet this challenge through our programs, but it often takes some creative collaboration to make sure students are participating in a truly interdisciplinary program.

There is a lot of discussion about how the arts help students build observation skills, recognize and invent patterns, and to imagine and think creatively. These arguments are usually designed to stress how important the arts are to scientific progress. This argument is less commonly reversed to argue that scientific progress also leads to great art. However, I don’t believe education is only about teaching one subject for the benefit of another.

In education policy, as Lillian noted, disciplines that will advance our future economic viability garnish the most attention. Although I agree with Piro that the arts contribute significantly to that viability, the idealist in me wants a comprehensive education to be more than just the road to riches or a comfortable middle class life.

What if STEAM was about ensuring students become creative, engaged, thoughtful and empathetic citizens with a broad understanding of what makes up our world both physically and culturally?

I understand this last sentence is rather mushy, and dodges the meaty politics that ensue when defining education policy. Developing education policy has proven to be an arduous collaboration between many stakeholders with competing interests.

However, collaboration is defined as a group of people or institutions working together towards a common goal. So in the interest of inspiration, I would like to pose one last question:

As educators committed to interdisciplinary learning through STEAM, what are our common goals for our students?





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