Business Breakthroughs // Education Evolutions

Continual training and professional development fosters successful after-school programs

Lana Learn values continual training and professional development to empower its educators to run successful programs.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant stresses continual training and professional development. Our program staff strives to learn about and implement best practices. I recently had the opportunity to attend the Beyond School Hours Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference brought together educators, administrators, community leaders, and advocates to share innovative ideas, best practices, and cutting-edge research in out-of-school time learning.

Empowering educators

One of the most inspiring aspects of the conference was its focus on empowering educators. I had the opportunity to participate in workshops and seminars led by industry experts. These gave valuable insights into effective teaching strategies, curriculum development, and student engagement techniques. One session I attended, titled 20 Tools in 75 Minutes: Free and Innovative Resources to Raise Our Game, taught me unique student call backs, appropriate music mashup websites, icebreakers and much more. It left me feeling invigorated and excited to use the resources in our program!

The Beyond School Hours Conference also celebrated innovative practices in Out of School Time (OST) learning. From interactive technology tools to hands-on learning experiences, I had the opportunity to explore a wide range of innovative approaches to education. In Project-Based Learning… Hands-On for Kids, Hands Off for Teachers, we learned about an interactive online platform. This platform teaches students background information about a real-world problem then has them create a hands-on solution. During the session, we built a wind turbine while learning about clean energy. Then we tested our turbine with a hairdryer!

In another session, Books, Bubbles, and Beakers, we learned how to integrate science into story telling through the story of Gilbert Gas. Gilbert Gas showed us how gas forms in a chemical reaction through an experiment with antacids. Innovative practices like these make learning more engaging and effective. Moreover, they help prepare students for success in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

Fostering community and collaboration

Additionally, we were encouraged to network and share ideas with colleagues from around the country, fostering a sense of community and collaboration. The conference did an excellent job of creating spaces for this. Each session allowed for small group work and discussion. Additionally, there were numerous happy hours and shared meals that facilitated networking. Learning about the variety of other programs, and their successes and failures, cemented the value of out-of-school time programming. 

By providing educators with the knowledge, tools, and inspiration they need to create high-quality OST learning experiences, the conference will extend far beyond New Orleans. I may have left exhausted, but I also left having gained invaluable knowledge and feeling a renewed sense of inspiration. These OST programs not only enhance students’ academic achievements but also contribute to their social, emotional, and physical well-being, ultimately strengthening communities.

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