Increasing K-12 Student Science Engagement and Learning through Integrating Mandated Content with Innovation Thinking Skills

Lucinda Presley, Executive Director, ICEE Success Foundation, an arts/science/creativity institute, (ICEE: Institute where Creativity Empowers Education Success), USA

Linda Scott, Ph.D., Executive Director, School Science and Technology, Weiss School of Natural Sciences, Rice University, US

Working Group Members:
Rob Gorbet, Professor of Engineering and Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo, and engineer for the Philip Beesley Hylozoic Ground project, Canada
Rick Hall, Director of Programmes, Ignite!, an arts/science/creativity initiative, UK

Additional proposed members:
Mike Petrich, Director, Making Collaborative, Exploratorium, USA
David Delgado, Outreach Coordinator, Mars Public Engagement Team, Jet Propulsion Lab, USA
Alex Hesse, Director, The Leonardo arts/science/technology Museum, USA Carol LaFayette, Associate Professor, Department of Visualization, Texas A&M University, USA
Mary Hobbs, Ph.D., Coordinator for Science Initiatives, Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science and Mathematics, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Elda Christian, Science Specialist, Texas Education Agency Region 1 Education Service Center, USA
Linda Scott, Ph.D., Rice University, USA
Dara Williams-Rossi, Ph.D., Director of Undergraduate Programs and Assistant Clinical Professor, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Southern Methodist University, USA

According to a number of nationally-recognized researchers, authors, educators, businesses, governmental panels, and studies, the United States’ future place in the global economy could be significantly impacted by the degree to which today’s students are taught to think innovatively (Friedman, 2011, 2009; Florida, 2003; Robinson, 2011; Zhao, 2009; President’s Councils of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2010; National Science Board, 2010; Gardner, 2008; Bransford, 2000; MIT, 2003; Edwards, 2008). They point out that, in order to be competitive in this rapidly-changing world, our students must learn to integrate vital 21st century innovation thinking skills with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning skills. The thinking skills include: conceptual and visual thinking, creative/critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. The integration of these skills with science, technology, engineering, and math concepts promotes students’ abilities to problem-solve and design innovative solutions. (Starko, 2003; Cropley, 2003; HMIE, 2006; NAS, 2002; P21). In the current test-driven education environment, it is vital to develop ways to integrate these important thinking skills with the mandated, standards-based learning. While strides are being made by such groups as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P1), and some state education agencies, there remains significant room for further examination of the education roadblocks and opportunities. While the test-driven culture provides roadblocks, it also provides opportunities to develop ways to deeply integrate the vital thinking skills with content delivery. Opportunities include: state, national, international collaborations among disciplines and forms of content delivery. These integrated disciplines include the fine arts, science, technology, engineering, language arts, and math. Forms of delivery can include the integration of formal and informal education methodologies. For this paper, we propose to discuss the roadblocks that the education world faces in promoting creative thinking, along with the opportunities that this situation presents. Additionally, we will present solutions that have been implemented and are being researched by the members of this group, along with specific calls for action. The calls for action will include the integration of state, national, and international resources to produce research-based proposals for education changes that can be presented to education stakeholders.