Priming the Innovation Economy: From STEM to STEAM: Dallas conference Feb 2016


This week I attended a fascinating event called Priming the Innovation Economy: From STEM to STEAM- where

the organisers announced a conference on this theme in February in Dallas. It is an unusual collaboration between

the Texas Association of School Administrators ( the people who run our public schools), the Dallas Museum of Art and

the event was held both at the DMA and the Dallas Perot Museum of Science and Nature.



Priming the Innovation Economy: From STEM to STEAM

TASA and the Dallas Museum of Art to Present February 2016 Conference Addressing America’s Education Pipeline for Tomorrow’s Innovation Economy

Sponsors of STEAM 2016,”Priming the Innovation Economy ‘Include Representatives of Arts, Education and Industry


Dallas, TX -June 15, 2015-The Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) are pleased to announce their co-sponsorship of a major national event to focus educators, artists, scientists, policymakers, and the public on the importance of coupling the arts and STEM in the development of key skills for the 21st century American workforce. The three-day conference, Priming the Innovation Economy: From STEM to STEAM, is being planned in partnership with Syfr Learning and key organizations representing both industry and formal and informal educators.

The conference convenes at the DMA and the Fairmont Dallas, February 17-19, 2016, and will explore intersections of the arts with STEM education as the crucial drivers of the innovation economy. The interchange of ideas between formal and informal educators will provide the pathways for the successful development of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math) as the educational foundation for our students entering the innovation economy.

As stated in January 2014 in The Atlantic, “In order to bridge the chasm between  abstract idea and utility, some educators  are advocating for an expansion of the popular STEM acronym-Science, Technology, Engineering,  and Math-the list of  skills many experts believe more students need. They believe STEM should include the letter ‘X.for ‘art and design’.” As Margaret  Honey, CEO of the New York Hall of Science commented in a STEAM workshop  at the Rhode Island  School of Design, “It’s not about adding on arts education. It’s about fundamentally changing education to incorporate the experimentation and exploration that is at the heart of effective education’.’

According to Richard Erdmann, co-founder and CEO of Syfr Learning, “Itis not about just adding more arts courses. The arts-as-a-discipline views the learning process differently than the traditional approach in STEM. Where formal education in science and math tends to explore in order to discover the known, formal education in art tends to explore in order to discover the unknown. Artists are asked to observe closely, simplify observations to abstractions of the original, and combine or connect observations in unique and creative ways. Itis time to integrate what is natural in the arts into the learning processes for science, technology, engineering, and math’.’

The conference will  organize participants  to identify new ways that informal and formal  educators might work   together
to equip their students with the sldlls necessary to fuel their own future innovation. The conference will explore a range of topics from how to engage K-12 learners to how technology can deliver high quality field-like experiences to rural students, connecting educators  and students with more real-life learning. Increasing public awareness of the advantages of STEAM  over STEM among outside stakeholders like parents  and students will be a key challenge  addressed by the   conference.

While businesses are keenly aware of the shortfall in soft skills, most people are unfamiliar with the term STEAM, let alone  its connection  to STEM careers  and the  innovation  required  to promote  the nation’s economic competitiveness.

TASA’.s Executive Director, Johnny Veselka, welcomed this first-of-its-ldnd collaboration in Texas, stressing the connections between the association’s school transformation initiatives, including the work of the Public Education Visioning Institute, and enhancing student success through STEAM curriculum. “This initiative is aligned with TASA’.s mission that is focused on creating and sustaining student-centered schools and developing future-ready students;’ said Veselka.

“The Dallas Museum of Art is thrilled to present this event with TASA. The connections between the arts and innovation that this conference will highlight are an essential part of our mission at the DMA. We believe that the health of our national economy will increasingly depend on the ability of today’s students to think creatively about the challenges that will face them”, added Robert Stein, the museum’s deputy director.

“To compete in the global market, we must move from STEM to STEAM by adding arts education;’ said Mayor Mike Rawlings. “I applaud the Dallas Museum of Art and the Texas Association of School Administrators for initiating this conversation:’

The 2016 event, Priming the Innovation Economy: From STEM to STEAM , will lay the foundation for future meetings to build a national conversation  and action plan  originating  from the Dallas conference. Participants  in 2016 will  create points of action that can provide tangible evidence of progress toward the integration of creative sldlls and innovation into public education, policy-maldng,  and  the national  dialogue  about  STEAM and our national  economic competitiveness.

Reflecting the expansive scope of integrating creativity and innovation into public education, TASA and DMA are seeking support for the conference from major corporations and organizations interested in transforming student learning through the successful implementation of STEAM in public education.

About TASA

The Texas Association of School Administrators is the professional association  of choice for Texas’ top public school administrators. TASA’s legislative  and policy advocacy efforts, professional learning offerings, and   targeted

communications support superintendents and other school leaders in all aspects of their key leadership roles, from the day-to-day operations of their districts to the important work of transforming pnblic education. TASA represents more than 2,500 members in school districts and other education entities throughout Texas. Through its work, TASA supports and promotes the development of innovative, future-focused leaders for every public school student in the state.

About the Dallas Museum of Art

Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history,

representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum welcomes over 650,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country. It currently has over 90,000 members. For more information, visit

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

About Syfr Learning

Syfr Learning is professional development organization focused on transforming learning. Syfr’s principals are the co­ authors of The Art of Learning. To learn more about Syfr Learning, visit

Media Contacts:

Eric Reeves  ( Michael Glover (

Amy Francisco, Director of Communications and Media Relations, TASA ( Jill Bernstein, Director of Communications  and Public Affairs, DMA  (

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