Creative Minds Meet at NEA-Sponsored Imagination Summit

America’s Imagination Summit 2011, which kicked off Thursday at the Lincoln Center in New York City, is bringing together leaders from education, science, business and the arts to talk about the best ways to provide our students the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century: imagination, creativity and innovation.

Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge, and that’s the philosophy behind the summit, of which the National Education Association and the Walt Disney Company are lead sponsors. The centerpiece of the two-day event will be the presentation of an action plan for policy makers, educators, and community activists to put imagination at the forefront of our school curricula.

“America has always been a leader in innovation, and we want to ensure a new generation has the imagination and creativity to not only lead a 21st century economy, but also to visualize innovative solutions to the problems they will inherit,” says NEA Executive Director John I. Wilson. “Tackling climate change will take imagination; finding alternative energy sources will take imagination; and leveraging advances in technology to help the greater good will take imagination. We want to be sure we foster that imagination and creativity across the curriculum.”

Watch live streaming video from imaginationsummit at

Wilson, who has chaired the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a coalition of businesses and education groups that advocates for every child in America to graduate from high school with 21st century skills, and also chaired the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of leading education organizations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools, will participate on a panel at the summit called “Get Reel With Your Dreams.”

The panel showcases award-winning Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos created by students who not only learned about the creativity behind the video production process but also about the real sacrifices and determination they’ll need to fulfill their dreams in their professional and personal lives.

In addition to NEA and the Walt Disney Company, some of the world’s most imaginative minds will be at the summit, including Sir Ken Robinson, a British author and expert in the fields of arts education and creativity; physician and spiritual author Deepak Chopra; Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy; Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy; former astronaut Charles Camarda, now a senior advisor for innovation at the Johnson Space Center; and Jim Shelton, the assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

The summit is the culmination of “The Imagination Conversations,” a project of Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) and a part of the Lincoln Center 50 Years celebration, which ran from the fall of 2009 to the spring of 2011.

The conversations brought together a variety of professionals ranging from an astronomer and an investment manager to a high school principal and a pediatric reconstructive surgeon to discuss the importance of imagination in their work. During the conversations, hosted in towns and cities throughout the country, the panelists shared intimate accounts of their personal and professional experiences as imaginative thinkers. They addressed the obstacles facing advocates of imagination and asked provocative questions to spur audience members to action. The summit hopes to spur action in our country’s schools.

“Today, imaginative thinking is as critical to career success as a college degree,” says Scott Noppe-Brandon, director, Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education. “Teaching students to examine a work of art, bring their own experience to it, and take away a new awareness and original ideas prepares them for a world that demands, and thrives on, innovation and ingenuity.”