2019 California STEAM Symposium

The weather provided a metaphor for December’s CA STEAM Symposium in Anaheim, an initiative of Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF) co-hosted by the California Department of Education and the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. As more than 2600 participants were arriving at the 7th annual gathering, stormy skies cleared and sunshine highlighted the excitement of students, educators, researchers, community partners, and sponsors convening under one roof to network, be inspired, and learn from each other. Together they shared ideas on how to joyfully engage all students, how to collaboratively create innovative learning pathways, as well as how to intentionally build thriving STEAM teams. A teacher shared, “We are currently planning to become a STEAM-focused school, so it was great to have sessions offered in the arts, EL and literacy, history, special ed, in addition to science and tech. Also, we appreciated hands-on sessions of simple activities that we can implement now.”

At the heart of the event, over 100 students demonstrated their STEAM explorations by showcasing their hand-built robots, rockets, drones, custom cameras, Rube Goldberg machines, coding projects and more! Dr. Tony Thurmond was on-site to celebrate their accomplishments and share his vision for STEAM education in California today. The keynote speakers challenged participants to focus on equity, inclusion, and culturally responsive learning environments.



Kareem Abdul-Jabar, former astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa, and #HipHopEducation founder Dr. Chris Emdin each shared their passion for connecting to students in authentic ways where all learners are valued, engaged and expected to reach their potential. A resident teacher shared, “Christopher Edmin’s talk was so inspiring. I went back to my classroom feeling the importance of engaging and inspiring my kids.”

Participants were active in nearly 400 peer-led breakout sessions as they discovered strategies for bringing best practice to their classrooms, networked with colleagues from across California and 31 additional states, and found themselves re-energized by a spectrum of educational thought leaders and creatives. One elementary teacher, “loved getting to hear from other educators. I learned a really cool collaborative art lesson, ideas on how to integrate math and science (start with the math!), the 5 Es (which I’ve heard of before but didn’t know too much about), plus ways to bring play and game-creation into the classroom.”

The expanded Makerspace included a hands-on Sandbox area with guides for exploring, a Playground for free expression of learning, and presentations by Makers who shared lessons learned. This K-8 STEAM Teacher on Special Assignment left, “Ready to use some lesson ideas from the Maker Space in my own classroom!”

Whether a first-time attendee or a long-time STEAM champion, participants were eager to share their takeaways:

“My teachers who attended came back energized” -Principal

“We were presenters and not only did we learn a tremendous amount from other presentations, but also from the people who attended our sessions. I went to several presentations that will help me reinvigorate people at our site.” -Presenter

The Symposium brought passionate people together who were willing to re-think their practices, re-imagine the possibilities and re-commit themselves to their work for the benefit of all learners. Participants left feeling connected and motivated. Thank you to our partners for their generous support, including Co-Presenting Sponsors Chevron and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation as well as the California State University. We look forward to reconvening again in 2020.


Alight Solutions


Robert Half