When in Doha

Wow, what a week! This was my first time to the Middle East, and it gave me a whole new perspective on education at a global scale. Over a series of blog posts this week I’m going to capture the incredible journey I had “when in Doha."

Before diving into our two-day STEAM meeting, we had the chance to explore Doha with 20 school leaders from the U.S., Qatar and Brazil who held a similar meeting in parallel to ours. Our group of business and education leaders came together to enjoy an entertaining guided tour at the Museum of Islamic Art followed by a Dhow cruise along the Gulf with views of the sparkling skyline.

Day 1: From a former astronaut, the South African National Research Foundation and the Smithsonian, to Sesame Workshop, Boston Arts Academy, GameDesk and the Supreme Education Council among others, I was blown away by depth of experience in STEM, arts and education. We spent most of the day working through what STEAM means to us, concerns about its messaging alongside STEM and overall barriers for schools adopting STEAM. It was a challenging day trying to negotiate different perspectives in the room, but by the end of the day we had a sheets of poster paper and a wall of sticky notes filled with great ideas.

Ainissa Ramirez, materials scientist and author of Save Our Science – “All children have an inner scientist, we need to put memory back into the system.”

Day 2: With a fresh eye on STEAM after some much needed rest, the group powered through the morning fine-tuning their definitions of STEAM and hashing out questions around school support, funding and scalability, curriculum and assessment, and what students can learn from a STEAM program.

By lunch everyone was energized and excited to dig into mini STEAM project plans. We heard four different project pitches and the group dispersed based on interest. We now have actionable concepts including the STEAM card game, science music videos, a STEAM program for Qatari schools, and a creative, space-related mashup of two participants’ existing work.

“The future never just happened, it was created.” – Mae Jemison, former NASA astronaut

At the close of the two-day meeting, we went around the room sharing reflections on the experience. Everyone agreed it was incredibly productive, it opened up minds to the potential for STEAM, it gave the group actionable STEAM projects to move forward with, and that this is just the beginning of the great work we can do together across the world.