Takeaways from WISE 2013

My first time at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was eye opening. I was surrounded by more than 1,200 education leaders from 100 countries and with a wide range of perspectives on what’s working and what’s not. I captured dozens of snippets from the sessions I attended at @KimberleeSD, but here are a few standout highlights that really stuck with me:

  • STEM gives us “a sense of wonder, the same effect as music, art and literature do.” She likens STEM to seeing a flower and its beauty as others do, but also seeing its inner beauty. “There’s science behind the beauty.” – Maggie Aderin-Pocock, an English space scientist.
  • “We should be teaching an appreciation of science, not just trying to get more researchers.” – Claudia Dreifus, Columbia University and New York Times science writer
  • “There are currently 6,000 languages in the world. 3,000 will be gone by the end of the century. We need to be sensitive to cultural and linguistic diversity.” – UNESCO
  • “We need to teach the capacity to deal with the uncertainties of our daily lives. We don’t know where the future will take us.” – Edgar Morin, French philosopher and sociologist


We are clearly in a major transition period in education with a lot of work still to be done, but let’s take some time to step back and reflect on all of the positive steps individuals and organizations are taking forward all over the world. The WISE crowd alone is making leaps and bounds.

While soaking in the thought-provoking sessions, I also had the chance to immerse myself in more cultural activities in Doha like the famous Souq Waqif market, dune bashing and a camel ride, as well as camel races and a trip to Dukhan beach. I return to my life in San Diego with new perspectives, great new friends and an excitement for what the future holds connecting STEAMConnect with the world.

I’ll close with this: We experience life differently depending on where we sit in the world, but there is an underlying commonality between all of us. As Dr. Pai Obanya, Chairman of the Board of the West African Examinations Council said, “it’s our ‘humanware’ that is most important.” Well said.

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.

Reflections on the Plane to Doha and Excitement for What’s Ahead

As I sit on the plane on my way to Doha, Qatar, I’m getting excited about the adventure ahead. Since starting www.STEAMConnect.org with UCSD Extension in early 2012, the momentum around STE+aM (science, technology, engineering, +arts, math) education has grown tremendously.

From San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and San Francisco to Portland, Oregon and Chicago, to Texas and Rhode Island, the push to integrate arts with STEM education is stronger than ever. The discussion is also happening all over the world, which is the impetus for my current travel overseas.

I was invited to co-facilitate a meeting on Oct. 27-28 in Doha hosted by the Qatar Foundation International (QFI) and New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) called STEAM: Powering Creativity & Collaboration. Meghan Groome, executive director of education and public programs at NYAS, is my partner in facilitation. I’m looking forward to getting to know all about her work and how we may be able to partner to link NYAS to the STEAMConnect network of 700 teachers, nonprofits, community members and business leaders.

In addition to co-facilitating, I also have the opportunity to make a short presentation on what STEAMConnect is and what the network is up to, particularly in southern California. We’re a hotbed for STE+aM! I’ll provide access to the slides by Oct. 28. Others participating in the meeting include Charlotte Cole, SVP of global education for Sesame Workshop; Dr. Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut; Vijay Kumar, MIT; Roger Mandle, Qatar Museum Authority; Stephanie Norby, Smithsonian Center for Education, and several more. For a copy of the brochure with the agenda and full participant list and bios, contact Ann Marie Price at annmarie@kdrpr.com.

This STE+aM event is an official pre-event for the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), which I’ll be participating in from Oct. 29-31. It’ll be an incredible opportunity to learn from and share with forward-thinking education leaders from 100 different countries around the world.

Keep an eye on www.kdrpr.com for periodic blog posts, and @KimberleeSD andwww.facebook.com/kdrpr for regular event updates and photos. I welcome your questions and suggested topics to address during the events as well, which you can share via social media or to me directly at kim@kdrpr.com. More soon!

Bon Voyage Kim: T-Minus Six Weeks to Qatar!

Our very own Kim Richards is heading off to Doha, Qatar this October for a STEAM Roundtable to discuss the importance and impact of integrating the arts into STEM curricula.

Qatar Foundation International (QFI) in collaboration with The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) is bringing together 25 STEAM and school leaders from around the world to participate in a unique two-day roundtable from Oct. 27-28 to discuss and explore STEAM in practice and to help enhance understanding and adoption of STEAM by teachers and schools globally. Out of the 17 representatives from the U.S., only two are from California, one of which being Kim.

“I’m honored to join QFI in their mission to put STEAM into practice to change the face of education in Qatar and throughout the world,” said Kim. “The work that I’ve done building STEAMConnect with UCSD Extension has shown me just how transformative STEAM can be.”

Taking with her the knowledge and experience gained from working with STEAMConnect, Kim will have the thrilling opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge with other STEAM experts from Qatar, U.S. and Brazil. Not only will she learn from other uniquely creative STEAM minds, but also be able to represent the great work being done in San Diego and southern California.

The STEAM roundtable will include presentations from the participants about how they define STEAM, how they are incorporating the “A” effectively in STEAM, examples of what is happening in STEAM and other concepts used to help push the STEAM movement forward.

“I’m eager to share what we’re doing in San Diego, to learn what others are doing around the world, and to find ways to collaborate and shift the movement to a global one,” said Kim.

Immediately following the STEAM roundtable, Kim will also attend the 2013 WISE Summit in Doha from Oct. 29-31 where more than 1,000 prominent education, corporate, political and social leaders from more than 100 countries will come together to explore innovation in education and to inspire collaborative solutions to education challenges.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates and live posts from Kim’s trip and stay tuned for a recap complete with photos and video from her travels as well as the STEAM roundtable and WISE Summit.

TED Talk: 3 Rules to Spark Learning

In this TED talk, chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam reflects on the moment he transformed his teaching style. When faced with a life threatening condition, an unexpected exchange with his surgeon inspired Musallam to create the following rules for his classroom:

  1. Curiosity comes first. Questions can be windows to great instruction, not the other way around.
  2. Embrace the mess. Learning is ugly.
  3. Practice reflection. What we do is important. It deserves our care, but it also deserves our revision.

These rules are exactly what we talk about in STE+aM. We have the opportunity to spark curiosity, inquiry and imagination in any subject matter, it boils down to perspective and intention vs. following a standard lesson plan. Musallam asks in his closing, “can we be the surgeons of our classrooms?” I say yes. What do you say?

Math + Art = Match Made in Heaven

I was never much of a math person. Well, I thought I was until I hit pre-calculus in college. Nothing seemed to resonate with me, so I gave it up…academically. I use math every single day of my life and yet somehow I feel completely resistant to it. That is until I attended a brown bag lecture called “When Mathematical Instruments Become Art Instruments” at CRMSE, the Center for Research in Math and Science Education at San Diego State University, a new client of KDR PR.

I was inspired by the creative potential in both teaching and learning math. The professors seek reflection and a more in depth understanding of the concepts from the students, and the students as a result are expressive and able to apply the learnings to their own lives.

Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Making math creative. Students use a math instrument called Alberti’s Window to peer through an eyehole through a vertical drawing pane to an object on the other side. Then they draw projected images of what they see on the pane, their “projective sketch,” an exercise inprojectivegeometry. The shape and size will vary depending on the angle they’re looking from and which side of the glass the object is on. Students are asked to use their imagination to figure out the shape and size before starting.
  2. Making math beautiful. Students are then asked to create a cluster of shapes using math software called Geometer’s Sketchpad based on their projective sketch. The resulting shapes are cut into stencils and then airbrushed into beautiful art pieces. One student who is a dancer wanted to create spirals because it reminded her of dance, so she found a creative way to use a projection to create another one to get the effect she wanted. Reflecting on her piece, she said she had never thought of her dance from a math perspective, and is now opening up her creativity in new ways and incorporating math elements into her dance.

What I loved hearing in the student testimonials is that art is no longer intimidating to them. That we’re all artists and mathematicians, we just may not have uncovered it yet. I say we all step back for a moment to figure out what we “think” we can’t do and then go try it out. It’ll be fun!

Video testimonial: My journey to find my passion

It’s an exciting journey I’m on blending my passions in life with my career building KDR PR and . The following is a testimonial of this journey that started with the wonderful Marcy Morrison of Careers with Wings. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you’re on the right path! My takeaway from it all: Take a risk and jump into the unknown because you truly never know.

Video: Catching up on STEAM

If you’re asking what STE+aM stands for, it essentially marries the arts and creativity (+a) with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. STE+aM utilizes our whole brains, it integrates, inspires, empowers, and prepares us for what’s ahead (see: “What STE+aM Means to Me”). The STE+aM movement shows no signs of slowing down, so in partnership with UCSD Extension, STEAMConnect.org is bringing together individuals, organizations and policymakers throughout the U.S. to make change. STEAMConnect provides the platform for resource-sharing and collaboration, both on- and off-line. Here’s a quick video update from Kim Richards, founder of KDR PR and partner in STEAMConnect.