FableFive: Richard Tavener, Fused Learning & STEAM-Infused Curriculum

“The whole world is for learning,” explains Richard Tavener, founder of Fused Learning and the creative brains behind FableVision Learning’s STEAM-Infused Curriculum.

Based in California, Richard is an Emmy-award winning documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Imagine It™, multimedia curriculum for teachers to integrate the process of creative and critical thinking in the classroom – a series that connected him to FableVision almost 17 years ago.

“I was making the first in a series of documentary films about creativity in schools, or the lack thereof. I had randomly found a name in the bibliography of a book I was reading for research that looked like someone I should call,” he says. That call connected him with  an “‘up and coming company’ called FableVision, who were blazing trails in creativity and education. I talked with Paul and we’ve been dear friends and colleagues ever since.”

Those films evolved into Fused Learning and became the tools for teachers to raise awareness about the importance of imagination and creativity in education.

“Fused Learning combines technology + arts in education. We develop curriculum that puts the ‘A’ in STEAM. When, we put the ‘A’ in it STEAM opens the door to many kids who may not connect with the S.T.E. or M,” he said.

Richard has been moving full STEAM-ahead in hands-on learning in California and connected the dots with FableVision Learning and Fab@School Maker Studio – a digital design and fabrication platform – to launch STEAM-Infused Curriculum. For this FableFive post he shared a bit about the program and his love of solar cars.  

I hear you love solar cars!?! Can you share a bit about STELLA?

I do love solar and cars. What I love even more is innovation. For me that’s what it’s about, imagination in action. Ideas that come to life. The STELLA solar car is a means to an end, to illustrate the power of ideas in action that can help make the world a better place.

The STELLA solar car was invented and built by a team of young students in The Netherlands. It’s their idea in action. They asked a good question, “What if the sun could power cars?” They then set out to answer that question, 18-months later they built what is called STELLA (meaning star in Latin), the world’s first and fastest solar-powered family car. This amazing team of students are two-time winners of the Bridgestone World Solar Car Challenge. I know they’d agree that their STELLA was a means to showcase new ideas, new technology and new innovations. The STELLA solar car project for elementary-age students is based on the actual STELLA story.

What is STEAM-Infused Curriculum and how can folks get involved?

Well let me start by saying what it isn’t. STEAM-Infused curriculum isn’t a specific thing, or another topic to teach or box on a shelf, if you will. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of looking at the world. STEAM is everything and everywhere. Instead of trying to “teach STEAM” we flipped it around whereby we take any project, any subject, any topic then unpack and deconstruct the STEAM within. In other words there’s science, technology, engineering, art and math in everything.

We help teachers; parents and students experience the STEAM that is all around them. That’s what we mean by STEAM-Infused. Through FableVision Learning we now have a fancy new STEAM-Infused website, that’s the best place to go for more info!


What has been one aha moment working with students this year?

Wow that’s a great question. It’s hard to pick ONE because there are a gazillion of these Aha moments going on all time. Wait! Maybe that’s it. There is an Aha moment right there; It is that these moments are everywhere all the time. So the key then is to be able recognize that there are a gazillion Aha moments going on and the trick is to be able to pick one and go for it. I think. 

What would be your dream-learning setting?

Hum. Dream learning setting eh? To me learning happens everywhere all the time for a lifetime. So it’s not necessarily a specific space or place that needs to be “designated for learning.” The whole world is for learning. I think it’s personal. I believe people have a space or setting that works for them where it’s best to learn. There are characteristics that can help facilitate learning; such as spaces and places--inside or outside, online or on-site--that are inspiring, creative, safe, fun where risk is encourage, failure is ok. More specifically, for me I do believe in spaces, physical spaces and actual places. The more we are connected via technology; online for example, the more I tend to like on-site, in-person spaces for deeper learning.

Your work combines story, hands-on learning, and multimedia – can you share a bit about why this combination is important?

CUSD student overhead.JPG

Yes! Glad you asked this question. The combination of these is important as it gives students a whole brain learning experience. But, the STORY is the center. Storytelling may well be the most powerful means of learning. I put storytelling at center of the learning experience and the rest are flights of fancy that grow in and out from the story. Talking about story, the key question I ask each student, as poet Walt Whitman inspired a long time ago, is “What will your verse be?” The goal is to help each student to be able to answer that question, to help them open their unique gift. That’s our mission.

Learn more about STEAM-Infused Curriculum, here.