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!


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?




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.



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