EdCamp Beach

by David Glenn,  NHCS Regional STEM Specialist

Join Us This Month at EdCamp Beach!
April 28, 2018 – Castle Hayne Elementary

New Hanover County Schools has countless selling points: its historic downtown, the Cape Fear River, the balmy weather, and let’s face it, its beaches. So, when it came time to decide on a name for our annual Ed Camp conference, there seemed to be no better title than EdCamp Beach. There is significant connection between the beach and our profession, and I couldn’t help but reflect on the symbolism as I sat at the shore during my spring break. Each day, we meet the waves of students head on.  Each comes bringing varied backgrounds and paths traveled. Our days are filled with highs and lows, just like the rising and ebbing of the ocean’s tides. The currents cut new swaths of shoreline just as we are constantly adjusting to new trends and ideas. Despite the stings of sunburn and jellyfish, we continue to return to the beach to enjoy its experience; just like despite the regular challenges of the classroom, we continue to return and invest in our students – to guide them in their learning as we nurture and guide them through new experiences to prepare them for success in the world.

The journey to our third annual EdCamp Beach on Saturday, April 28, 2018, at Castle Hayne Elementary School (8am-3pm) has been one filled with lots of learning and growing. Our vision for this gathering is to create an opportunity for the wealth of collective educational brain power in this area to learn from and share with each other. We want the voices of passion in this profession to be heard. We want those who desire to be better in this calling to feel empowered by their own knowledge and inspired by the knowledge of the teachers from other schools and districts that they don’t often get to collaborate with.

If you’ve never participated in an EdCamp before let me share with you my story of how this unique learning experience came into my life and forever changed the way I seek professional development. October 2015 was a transitional time period in my career. I had just left my comfortable classroom position to embark on a new journey in NHCS as an elementary STEAM facilitator. It was my 11th year in education, and just as many others in this field can relate, I had attended numerous seminars, conferences and classes in order to continue my professional development as a teacher. I had started hearing about this ‘EdCamp’ thing – an ‘UNconference’ for educators. I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the concept of this unorganized professional development with sessions that evolve organically out of conversation topics relevant to participants at that time…usually on Saturdays.  I heard nothing but rave reviews from people that had attended these events, so I signed up for my first EdCamp.

On the Saturday before I began my new job, I rose early and drove two hours through gray and rainy weather to Wilson, North Carolina, to attend EdCamp EastNC. This was the first place I saw a Sphero or heard about the Hour of Code. I recall working with two teachers during one session to demonstrate how Google classroom could be an effective tool for managing student assignments. In another session, I remember discussing the use of citizen science with 6th grade science students. Makerspaces were a new edu-buzz word, and I recall one session driving home the point that it wasn’t about “the makerspace” but more about giving students the chance to explore and create! Vividly, I recall a conversation I had with a district assistant superintendent, who clearly relished the chance to dialogue with classroom teachers and hear their concerns. Looking back, that Saturday was a pivotal point in my career, where I made connections with other educators I might otherwise never have met, and I my eyes were opened to new tools I could use that Monday with my own students.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway was not in something I learned or discussed, but an idea that I pondered the entire drive home: Why not have a similar gathering of educators in southeastern North Carolina? In my years in Pender and New Hanover counties, and in working with other professionals in North Carolina, I have met amazing and passionate teachers. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel we lacked a way to share this with one another. Was an EdCamp the perfect venue we needed in southeastern NC? Unbeknownst to me, other educators in New Hanover County Schools – Beverly Ladd, Jeannie Timken, and Jen LaGarde – were also starting to have this conversation. When I reached out to my then-principal Cyndy Bliss about the idea of doing an EdCamp in Wilmington, we soon connected with them with the common desire to bring this unique and impactful professional development to our district. From those moments, EdCamp Beach was born. It has continued to grow with each school year.

Yes, the structure of an Edcamp is the absolutely opposite to the traditional vision of professional development:

➔     No set agenda of sessions in advance.

➔     The power to walk out of a session mid-discussion if it isn’t for you.

➔     No instructor or formal presentation in each session.

The EdCamp experience allows opportunities to:

★     be a professional and drive your own learning and growth.

★     connect with other education professionals and learn from, and with, them.

★     take away ideas and strategies that will positively impact your students.

We hope you’ll sign up and join us on for EdCampBeach on April 28 to share your ideas, collaborate with other professionals, and walk away ready to navigate the shorelines that are the hallways to our classrooms. Come learn with us at the beach: EdCamp Beach.

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