By Jerry Valdez
In the vast rural and agricultural San Joaquin area of the Central Valley of California you will find the unique SAM. Academy (Science, Art & Music), a community-based ”maker” program located in downtown Sanger, California. The SAM Academy houses a music studio, a STEM Workshop with ample space for up to 40 students at a time, and a mobile STEM program that travels to schools in isolated rural communities. Programs within this youth-focused non-profit are for free or low-cost, creating opportunities for underserved youth to tinker, make, and explore their world through activities embedded with the arts, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM). Bins and boxes of wood, plastics, cardboard, and a large variety of materials are available. Tools adorn the walls, hanging on pegboard, and are also stored in rolling tool chests. Scissors, pencils, pens, rulers, glues, and assorted paper are always available to support the ‘making’ of simple to complex projects. Aquariums and life science artifacts are visible throughout and are part of the learning environment. The music studio is busy every day with students streaming in for voice, piano, guitar, or drum lessons. The art studio has become a high-energy space of creativity and innovation for elementary, middle, and high school youth. The environment and culture of the spaces found within have become so inviting and motivating that children immerse themselves with a passion for learning with each new project, activity, or exhibit. Many have become regular participants, and parents visit often to observe or even work alongside their children.
By Juliana Texley
Afterschool Programs Step Up as Key Partners in STEM Education.
A groundbreaking survey report has documented the clear advantages of afterschool STEM. The report, America after 3 PM: Full STEM Ahead focuses on four of the nation’s largest youth-serving organizations, 4-H, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Girls Inc., and YMCA, that have recently launched “Imagine Science,” an initiative which aspires to reach millions. The report covers both the expansion of traditional programs and innovative collaborations.
According to the survey, a majority of children in afterschool programs in these organizations’ programs are offered STEM learning opportunities. Seven in 10 parents (69%) report that their child is offered STEM learning opportunities in their afterschool program, which equates to approximately seven million children who have access to afterschool STEM.
Parents of children from low-income families express higher support for afterschool STEM programs than more affluent parents. Low-income families place a higher emphasis on STEM when selecting their child’s afterschool program.
With increasing recognition that STEM is a natural fit for afterschool programs, the report also recognizes a broadened base for evaluating the results of those programs. including not just academic, but social goals.
Read more at http://afterschoolalliance.org/AA3PM/STEM.pdf
STEM Brief: Arts Improved Our Soft Skills
Reporting at the AWS (Amazon Web Services) Public Sector Summit in Washington in June 2019, six students documented how studying the arts as well as “soft skills” were keys to success in their STEM fields. Courses such as acting help STEM professionals communicate with teams. One key point made: “… humanities courses, most importantly ethics, are key to those looking to enter tech fields so they can ground themselves in understanding how their inventions, research and discoveries will play a role in the world.”
Read more at https://www.educationdive.com/news/stem-students-arts-improved-our-soft-skills/557013/
Encouraging Creativity in STEM Class
In the July issue of NSTA Reports, Deb Shapiro describes efforts to make STEM topics more engaging, from scientific Haiku to the integration of historical background into college chemistry lessons. The report also provides information on how robotics and physics links can be expanded to provide more relevance for students, and the potential of creative play in STEM. Summarizing one example of an interdisciplinary unit on disease communicability, Gigi Carunungan describes the value of using broadly based contexts for traditional lessons: “Students remember [the content] because it’s emotional. Emotional memory is more powerful than content memory in this case because the students have so much fun.”
Read more at: http://static.nsta.org/pdfs/nstareports/nstareports201907.pdf
By Andrew Watson
In Washington, D.C., the Kennedy Center’s newly opened REACH Moonshot Studio is a one-of-a kind, drop-in space dedicated to learning through the process of artmaking. Creativity, critical thinking, curiosity, risk-taking, and imagination are essential as visitors of all ages spend time delving into various art forms, exploring stories and themes from the Center’s stages, and creating their own works of art.
By Kimberly Olson
Looking to See is a Donors Choose project based on the integration of Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards into my PK-grade 2 Art and Art History curriculum. Specifically, my goal for this project was to move toward the application of specific grade-level science standards in the areas of biomimicry, light & sound, motion and stability, and Earth's systems. In the project, students recognized the similarities between the design process and the science inquiry process through the use of hands-on art materials, experiments, engineering design challenges, and developing prototypes from sketches and block models. We explored materials collected from nature to develop skills in the areas of contour line drawing, texture, and form, to develop diagrams, and to ponder the intricacies of nature-made "architecture" to inspire our own inventions. Students explored our classroom nature lab in support of honing necessary shared observational skills spanning art and science.
By Jennifer Edelen
Early childhood STEM experiences can improve the diversity of students who demonstrate later-in-life involvement with STEM as a field. Engaging a broad range of learners with positive STEM experiences is essential to combating gaps in STEM achievement, an ongoing challenge that has been confirmed in studies, along race, socioeconomic status, and gender.
By Ralph Tillinghast
As you canvas the country to identify STEM programs, one of the prevalent activities is robotics teams at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Although the primary focus of these is STEM, many also incorporate STEAM into their programs. As these programs expand schools find that they need to work with all of the school departments, including visual art, graphic design, and business. Some of the teams even form subcommittees related to graphic design, t-shirts, marketing, for fundraising, team spirit, and promotional materials. A good example of this is a Flanders, New Jersey team known as MORT. Team Mort has had a long history in robotics competitions, fielding robots since 1996. Over the years, they've added a junior varsity team, MORT Beta. Combined, the teams have 130 students. The MORT teams have adopted the sub-committee model, having groups for programming, electrical, mechanical, business, marketing, and travel. Each year, the marketing team develops multiple t-shirts, stickers, and other marketing to use for fundraising and for lifting the team spirit during competitions at both their JV and Varsity levels. A quick scan of the Internet will lead you to a wide range of creative logo and t-shirt designs from other robotics teams from throughout the country. This creative application of marketing and graphics demonstrates how the arts can easily be integrated into STEM to build a more holistic systems approach to solving problems in multiple subject areas and broaden student learning at the same time.
Ralph Tillinghast is a Collaborative member and is Lab Director, Collaboration Innovation Lab, US Army.
By Bob Reeker
The National Art Education Association (NAEA), in collaboration with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and the National Science Foundation, hosted its first of four STEAM workshops for educators on April 26-27, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Twenty-five educators from five states, in the fields of science, higher education, elementary academic classroom, community arts, and visual arts gathered for the two-day training that investigated a series of five units to explore with students. These investigations included paper marblizing, beet paper painting, red/blue/green light variations, animal habitats and coverings, and the use of ultraviolet light.
Attendees received $200 in supplies to use towards STEAM investigations in their learning environments. On-line college credit was also available following the workshop. Dennis Inhulsen, NAEA Chief Learning Officer; Lorinda Rice, Lincoln Public Schools Art Consultant and NAEA Supervision and Administration Division Director, and Bob Reeker, Lincoln Public Schools art specialist and NAEA Western Region Vice President, hosted the event. The Fall, 2019, STEAM Workshop was in the Pacific Region in Provo, Utah, with workshops scheduled spring, 2020, in the Eastern Region and fall, 2020, in the Southeastern Region.
Bob Reeker is the NAEA Western Region Vice President
By Mary Dell’Erba
STEM Education has captured the attention of state policymakers who are concerned about preparing students for an evolving workforce. By 2030, the Institute for the Future estimates that 85 percent of the jobs that today’s K-12 learners will be doing haven’t been invented — demanding a workforce that is creative and prepared to respond innovatively to real-world problems. Thanks to generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education, the Arts Education Partnership (a member of the Innovation Collaborative) has been expanding its work to explore the role of the arts in STEM. Since 2018, AEP has been exploring opportunities for STEAM in state and federal policy, and across the K-12 and higher education spectrums.
Here is a fascinating story of how curiosity led to the development of the inquiry process and a network of science education centers in national governments across sub-Saharan Africa. It is due, in large part, to the leadership and expertise of one of the Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders, Hubert Dyasi, Ph.D.
What does curiosity have to do with the development of the inquiry process and a network of science education centers in national education departments throughout sub-Saharan Africa? One of the Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders, Hubert Dyasi, Ph.D., originally from South Africa, and who was instrumental in developing the inquiry process and in setting up these centers, shares his experiences and insights.
Interview by Lucinda Presley
The Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders help provide the strong foundation upon which the Collaborative’s work rests. Each Thought Leader is nationally and internationally recognized in his/her own field and brings an extensive depth of experience and expertise. They also are adept at working across disciplines.
A Thought Leader and their work are featured in each Collaborative newsletter. In this issue, we visit with Hubert Dyasi, Ph.D., whose research in the teaching and learning of science, including the inquiry process, helps inform the work of the Collaborative. Hubert—now retired—was a professor of science education at the City College, City University of New York (CUNY). He is widely known for his teaching of science in pre-college education in the United States and Africa (see the “Curiosity Leads to Science Education Centers across Africa” article elsewhere in this newsletter)
The Innovation Collaborative has received an additional National Endowment for the Arts Art Works grant of $10,000 during the 2019-20 school year. With this grant, it will study dissemination methods for sharing its effective practices in K-12 STEAM teacher professional development and classroom practices with the arts, STEM, and humanities fields.
With NEA support, the Collaborative has studied these effective practices for the previous 2 years. Also, with NEA support, the Collaborative, in partnership with the National Writing Project, was able to convene its Research Thought Leaders in DC to initially strategize the underpinning for this work. The Collaborative is now ready to implement these practices on a broader scale.
To do that, it developed a model for gaining school administrative support and dissemination. It convened in Houston, TX, its Innovation Fellows, the top teachers identified in its first round of research, and partner administrators. The Fellows, who have been developed as teacher leaders, will train their administrators in the Collaborative’s Rubrics, strategies, and thinking skills. Both Fellows and administrators will then help develop strategies to study models of all virtual vs. a hybrid of in-person and virtual professional development dissemination. Fellows and administrators, along with selected other administrators, will begin dissemination on their campuses or in their districts, recruiting other teachers to participate. Through this, the Collaborative will study the most effective methods and strategies for dissemination. In the process, the Collaborative’s research-based Rubrics and strategies will be made available for the arts, STEM, and humanities fields.
In reflecting on this NEA grant, Collaborative Board Chair Lucinda Presley commented, “We continue to be especially grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts for its support of the Collaborative’s work. It is through NEA support that the Collaborative is able to develop a strong, research-based foundation for the rapidly-growing STEAM movement.”
In Phase 2 of its 2015-16 K-12 Effective Practices Research Project (2015-16), made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Collaborative identified 10 teachers nationally who most closely met its Effective Practices criteria. These criteria include problem-solving, analysis, synthesis, and processing skills across disciplines, in addition to life skills such as persistence and collaboration.
These educators were designated Innovation Fellows and are being trained as teacher-leaders, with support from NEA funding. They completed their 3rd year in the Collaborative’s K-12 Effective Practices Project in May, 2019, helping to lead the project’s conceptualization, development, and implementation.
Since their involvement with the project, 100% of the teachers have received significant professional recognition. They credit the Collaborative for helping foster these successes. These recognitions include:
The Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders help provide the strong foundation upon which the Collaborative’s work rests. Each Thought Leader is nationally and internationally recognized in his/her own field and brings an extensive depth of experience and expertise. They also are adept at working across disciplines.
In this issue, we visit with Bob Root-Bernstein, whose research in the arts-sciences and scientific creativity helps underpin the work of the Collaborative. He is a Professor of Physiology at Michigan State University, where he conducts research on autoimmune diseases, the nature of scientific creativity, and arts-sciences. You can learn more about Bob here.
In a conversation with Lucinda Presley, Collaborative Executive Director, Bob talked about his work and its relationship to the Collaborative.
Lucinda: Tell us about how your arts-science research developed.
Bob: I’ve been doing research in this field since graduate school in the 1980s. I always have been interested in many things. For example, although I majored in science at Princeton, I also am an artist and a musician. Like my parents, I am a polymath, with interest and expertise in a number of disciplines. I was interested in not just one narrow field, but in how disciplines intersected. I wanted to be a scientist, but I didn’t like the narrowness of the training. So, as a graduate student, I studied and received my doctorate in the history of science, which allowed me to work across disciplines. In my research, I saw that famous scientists such as Pasteur and Darwin also were artists and that it was these artistic skills that very positively impacted their work. For example, Darwin was polymathic, making breakthroughs in geology, geography, biology, and botany, and using photography as a scientific tool.
Here are some resources where you can learn more about Bob Root-Bernstein’s research.
Root-Bernstein RS, Pathak A, Root-Bernstein MM. PART 1. A Review of Studies Demonstrating the Effectiveness of Integrating Arts, Music, Performing, Crafts and Design into Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medical Education, Part 1: Summary of Evidence that Integration Is Professionally Useful and Effective. LEONARDO 2017: doi: 10.1162/LEON_a_01579
Root-Bernstein RS, Pathak A, Root-Bernstein MM. PART II. Review of ACD-STEMM Integration, Part 2: Statistically-Validated and Controlled Pedagogical Studies of the Root-Bernstein’s “Tools for Thinking”. LEONARDO 2017: doi: 10.1162/LEON_a_01580
Root-Bernstein RS, Pathak A, Root-Bernstein MM. PART III. Review of ACD-STEMM Integration, Part 3: Statistically-Validated and Controlled Pedagogical Studies of Eleven ACD-Integration Strategies Utilized by STEM Professionals and General Conclusions. LEONARDO 2017: doi:
Root-Bernstein, R., et al. Arts Foster Scientific Success: Avocations of Nobel, National Academy, Royal Society, and Sigma Xi Members. Article (PDF Available) in Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology 1(2):51-63 · October 2008.
Robert Root-Bernstein STEMM education should get “HACD”. Science 06 Jul 2018: Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 22-23. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8566
Are you an out-of-school educator who is engaged in STEAM-based teaching?
Learning environments can range from after-school programs in community centers or school-sponsored field trips to summer camps or other experiences held outside the formal classroom. This research will look at the intersections of STEM and the arts as well as STEM and the humanities.
If you are an out-of-school educator serving early childhood through higher education students, the Collaborative welcomes your participation in this important study. To find out more and to access a brief survey go here. It should take you 15 minutes or less to complete.
Upon conclusion of the research study, an archive of validated strategies and tools will be available to help advance and refine STEAM teaching practice that can ensure maximum learning and success by students that ultimately will help promote vital innovative thinking skills.
Over the last four years, the Innovation Collaborative has engaged in research activities investigating effective practices in integrating the arts with science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and humanities, focusing on K-12 classroom implementations.
Phase I of the project involved the examination of Arts and STEM integrated lessons, units, and experiences. From this analysis the following themes were identified as most important to effective lessons: providing deep content knowledge in both STEM and Arts fields, connections across content areas, specific criteria for assessment, and collaborations between teachers and between students.
Phase II of the project involved using the top lessons, units, and experiences that had been identified in Phase I to study the criteria in classroom settings.
Phase III of the project, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, involved providing professional development to the top K-12 teachers identified in Phase I, who then implemented high-quality lessons in their classrooms. This phase measured outcomes for teachers, students, and student products. It also led to the improvement of the rubrics to assess critical and creative thinking and arts integration of these lessons, units, and experiences.
With the continued support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Innovation Collaborative is continuing its K-12 Teacher Professional Development Study of STEAM-based learning and teaching in the 2018-19 academic year. Working with its Innovation Fellows, the top teachers identified in the first round of research in 2017-18, the project is now studying how to further develop teacher leaders and networks. During this second phase of the research, the Fellows selected teacher mentees whom they will help to develop their own STEAM-based teaching strategies.
The mentees assembled in Houston, TX, December 7-9, 2018, for an in-person workshop that focused on the content and methodology that will anchor their work in 2019. The Fellows, who will work with their mentees throughout the year, joined the workshop virtually. Collaborative Executive Director Lucinda Presley led the session. Also participating in the training were the grant’s researcher, Bess Wilson, the grant’s arts specialist, Fellow Juli Salzman from Angleton, TX ISD, and the science specialist, Dodie Resendez from Texas Education Agency Region IV in Houston.
When educators move from traditional instruction to innovation, there are many structural challenges that can slow their progress. It’s not just a matter of teacher enthusiasm. They also need access to materials to support new ideas. The National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) four-year old effort to identify and encourage the best in children’s STEM literature was no exception. It would not be enough to recommend a few good books. The initiative was led by Missouri educator Carrie Launius. Among the goals were ways to encourage publishers to recognize how creativity and innovation could be fostered through reading, and to provide materials that met those goals. And, of course, they had to be confident that these books would sell. A well-publicized national competition would go a long way to accomplishing these goals.
Towards that end, in 2014, NSTA, working in partnership with the Children’s Book Council, set out to recognize and encourage the best in STEM process-based literature. To begin, they had to develop a rubric featuring criteria that didn’t focus on content. The structure of the publishing industry doesn’t easily adapt to new ideas and new genres—especially when their use in the classroom has not yet demonstrated profitability. Trade books that are used to support various school content areas (like science or engineering) are often marketed and sold by specialized sales reps in those areas. Very few teachers use reading to support lessons in mathematics or technology (coding) so there isn’t an easy path to creating that niche. The rubric would have to clearly encourage publications that emphasized creativity and problem-solving “habits of mind.”
References You Can Use
Here are three great articles for teachers on STEAM, from the National Science Teachers’ Association’s journals, Science Scope and Science for Children:
STEAM to Your Classes, by Cheska Robinson
(Science Scope, September, 2017, Volume 41)
This column shares recent conversations taken from the NSTA listserv community about current science education topics, including how to add STEAM to your classroom by using STEAM-based icebreakers and team-building activities on the first day of school; strategies for creating a STEAM-centered classroom makerspace: and how to gradually replace end-of quarter assessments with STEAM design challenges throughout the school year.
Moving Beyond STEAM: Art as Expression, by Cassie Quigley, Judy Harrington, and Dani Herro
(Science Scope, July, 2014, Volume 40}
An overview on how to move STEM to STEAM by adding the arts to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education to produce powerful and authentic learning opportunities: Link
STEAM education can be looked at through many lenses, but there is a tendency to view it primarily through the needs of classroom teachers. There is a good reason for this as teachers ultimately make STEAM happen. But STEAM isn’t a lesson. STEAM isn’t usually a class. STEAM is a culture and culture is systemic.
What does that mean exactly? It means that every organization has a culture set by patterns formed by interrelating and interconnected attitudes, goals, norms, and practices. If a culture is not intentionally set, it will develop organically.
An organization’s culture is nurtured by the vision and practice of its leadership. The leaders in a STEAM education program depends on the scope, ranging from a teacher practicing STEAM in their room to a superintendent overseeing a division-wide program. When resources improve, and the impact of the program grows with the scope, the values and practices necessary to grow an effective STEAM program remain similar.
Here are the attributes of a positive STEAM culture:
STEAM is successful when leaders value all the STEAM subjects. In most states, only two of the STEAM disciplines are assessed, but they all have equal value. This belief can be demonstrated in many ways, but an understanding that each of these disciplines has their own standards, body of knowledge, and vocabulary is an important start. It’s also important that the teachers of these subjects are regarded as professionals with valuable contributions.
The Innovation Collaborative’s new website brings exciting changes that are a result of input from members and stakeholders.
The new website reflects goals in the Innovation Collaborative’s new strategic plan (see Improving Practice and Convene). It features blogs about important topics at the arts/sciences/humanities intersections. It also houses the Collaborative’s newsletter and features enhanced graphics design.
A special tribute goes to the Innovation Collaborative’s website designer Priya Komala for her unflagging efforts to develop this new website.
The findings of the Innovation Collaborative’s early phase of its K-12 Effective Practices research has been published in Roeper Review, an international journal focusing on scholarly articles related to gifted education.
The Innovation Collaborative’s K-12 Effective Practices research is a multi-year national project identifying effective practices that promote creative and innovative thinking at the intersections of the arts, sciences, technology, engineering, math, and humanities. This recently-published article analyzes the findings from the early phase of the K-12 research. In that phase, top lessons at these intersections from across the US were identified and the Collaborative’s metrics for effective practices were analyzed.
This early study also was selected for presentation at the American Education Research Association 2017 annual conference.
The K-12 Effective Practices study is led by Innovation Collaborative researcher and founding Board member, Bess Wilson, PhD. Dr. Wilson is associate professor of education at the University of North Florida. She is Chair-Elect for the Research and Evaluation Network for the National Association for Gifted Children. She also is President-elect for the Florida Association for the Gifted and is an associate editor for the Journal of Advanced Academics. Also guiding the study is Innovation Collaborative Executive Director Lucinda Presley. Ms. Presley has been teaching and developing curriculum at these intersections for 25 years and holds a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. She was recently awarded the adjunct faculty of the year award at the college where she teaches.
More information about this K-12 study can be found here.
The Innovation Collaborative has received an additional Art Works grant of $10,000 to continue its study of K-12 STEAM teacher professional development. This study will build on the NEA-funded teacher professional development pilot study conducted during the 2017-18 academic year. These studies will provide research-based effective practices for K-12 teacher professional development that promote creative and innovative thinking at the intersections of the arts, sciences, technology, engineering, math, and the humanities.
Innovation Collaborative Board Chair Lucinda Presley commented, “We continue to be exceedingly grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts for supporting this important work of the Collaborative. Through these NEA-funded studies, we are helping create a solid, research-based foundation for the growing STEAM movement.”
This grant is one of $80 million in grants approved by National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018. The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, click here.
Research Thought Leader
Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D.
Founder and Chief Director, Center for BrainHealth, University of Texas at Dallas
The Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders help provide the strong research foundation upon which the Collaborative’s work rests. Each Thought Leader is nationally and internationally recognized in his/her own field and brings an extensive depth of experience and expertise. They also are adept at working across disciplines.
A Thought Leader will be featured in each of the upcoming Collaborative newsletters. We begin with Sandi Chapman, whose work in neuroscience helps underpin the work of the Collaborative. In a conversation with Lucinda Presley, Collaborative Chair, the two talked about Sandi’s work and its importance to the Collaborative.
Lucinda: What is the mission of the Center for BrainHealth and what are its contributions to society?
Sandi: The Center’s mission is to help people maximize their brain potential, their cognitive abilities and their overall performance. To do that, we have 120+ researchers and clinicians from the following fields: cognitive neuroscientists, psychologists, biostatisticians, medical staff, brain imagers, neuro-engineers, teachers, speech-language pathologists, and computer-gaming designers who develop technology-based eLearning platforms. These experts focus on discovering ways to strengthen the brain’s systems’ broad-based thinking networks and expand cognitive capacities to promote real-life functionality. Our team is interested in how the brain best learns and works efficiently to stay energized. This helps people face and solve the complexities of the world around them. We uniquely focus on how to empower individuals to harness their brain’s potential – by taking it to the next level of performance. The double win is that individuals, whether gifted or those who struggle with some disability, are able to increase functionality.
Lucinda: What is your individual research focus?
Sandi: I work across the lifespan to help people inoculate the brain against cognitive decline, making each day for that person better than the day before. This work also helps people rebound when the brain has had insults from such factors as poverty, depression, chemotherapy, anesthesia, brain trauma, sleep problems and drug or medication effects, to mention a few.
Lucinda: How does your research align with the Collaborative's work?
Sandi: The work of the Collaborative immensely inspires me to work even harder. The Collaborative is promoting innovation thinking in real life contexts. Innovative cognition is the most powerful function of the human brain. Our brain was designed to create new knowledge – not just be a vast fact storage-retrieval machine. Innovative cognition is the driver of brain health, not just for the brain’s neurotransmitters, but also for strengthening the cognitive system. Innovative thinking builds a more engaged brain. When we innovate, the brain can increase the production of dopamine, the “happy drug” as well as norepinephrine, the “faster learning drug”. Increasing student innovation thinking capacity will help them to solve the complexity of problems they face, even ones that that don’t yet exist today. Innovative thinking is important in all types of theaters, from sciences, technology, engineering and math to the arts and humanities. The Collaborative’s focus on higher-level reasoning to maximize our students’ potential better prepares them for college and the workplace. To improve the well-being of our society, we must introduce innovative cognition starting in youth to build lifelong desire for ingenuity.
Lucinda: What have you discovered in your research that points to the importance of the Collaborative's work?
Sandi: We have been able to show a major impact of learning performance across all content areas when we teach students how to learn, not what to learn. We train them to aggregate information across learning domains to create new ideas that they can apply to their own lives. This dynamic mental exercise engages students to become deeper-level thinkers, which serves to enhance the brain’s frontal networks and help with the brain’s executive function and problem-solving performance. Deeper level thinking is the power exercise that strengthens the brain’s most important networks to support agile and adept thinking in this rapidly changing world. In short, this mental training serves to build a futuristic brain.
This is what the Collaborative is dedicated to: elevating abilities to aggregate knowledge across disciplines to innovate and create new ideas, solutions and broad-based perspectives. We must teach students to generate new understandings and applications of knowledge and innovate instead of just spitting back the knowledge they are given.
Lucinda: How do you see the Thought Leaders and the Collaborative benefitting from their work together?
Sandi: The Thought Leaders benefit from the Collaborative because we learn practical applications and new directions for our research. This makes our research more meaningful, since it’s driven by practical application in classrooms. Science without application is unproductive. The Collaborative provides us insight into the hurdles and opportunities in the educational setting. We, in turn, help the Collaborative develop new ways of understanding the potential of the human brain and how it best learns. We need to know what constitutes innovative thinking and problem-solving and what optimizes learning in the young brain. The Collaborative is helping develop that metaview. It has inspired me to (1) expand assessments of both higher order reasoning and innovative cognition to measure gains from the multitude of educational practices and (2) to advance classroom teaching-learning with a guide of cognitive strategies to hone these valuable cognitive capacities..
Lucinda: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Sandi: When I think about our students, I realize that health starts and ends with brain health. For example, factors such as stress and poor sleep have a significant impact on humans’ brain health. What is the learning environment in our classrooms – does it empower student learning or cause it to self-destruct? We, at the Center for BrainHealth, are dedicated to working with the Collaborative to build teaching and learning environments in classrooms and corporations that empower individuals to embrace with confidence the control they have to harness their unlimited potential to increase their brain performance.
The Collaborative extends deepest gratitude to Sandi Chapman and to all of the Thought Leaders for their enthusiastic support of the Collaborative and its work.
For more information on Dr. Chapman’s work, go to
First-Ever SMART Think Tank for Adolescents and Link to the Frontiers article for Adolescent Reasoning
Thanks to generous NEA funding, the Innovation Collaborative convened in person its mentors, the Research Thought Leaders. The in-person convening was held in Washington, DC, the Collaborative’s home base, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). They also meet virtually to continue their work with the Collaborative.
The Thought Leaders involved in this work are: James Catterall, PhD – arts (deceased August, 2017); Hubert Dyasi, PhD – science; Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, PhD – humanities; Bob Root-Bernstein; PhD – arts-sciences; Bonnie Cramond, PhD – creativity; and Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD – neuroscience.
At the DC convening, each Thought Leader shared with Collaborative Board members their research that directly impacts the Collaborative’s work. They also learned in depth about the Collaborative’s research and worked collaboratively to develop recommendations for deepening and expanding the Collaboratives research initiatives and its framework. These discussions were inspired by NMWA gallery activities, virtual presentations by Collaborative model teachers in the K-12 Effective Practices project and by an evening networking event with stakeholders.
An important finding from this project was that a convening such as this offers rich and valuable opportunities to learn not only from individual Thought Leader input but also from their extended conversations among themselves. Additionally, the Collaborative learned that extended exposure to these meetings and concepts over time generates the most positive outcomes.