This post is way overdue. It is almost a week since the event and I have just struggled to find words. Not in a bad way, but in a way to bring all these powerful and eye opening ideas that are floating in my head to this electronic paper.
I will start this off by simply stating that #StuCamp has changed me. Yes, that might sound cheesy, a bit dramatic, and strong, but the four hours working and listening to students during the event has me really thinking about several key issues in education right now.
Before I jump into those issues, I want to give thanks and my deepest gratitude to the handful of students(Iowa High Five) who worked to make this event happen. I had four 8th grade students really do a nice job working behind the scenes and staying after Friday for a few hours setting everything up. Additionally, we had two high school students help with the planning along the way starting back in December.
After months of planning with Dane Barner through Voxer, Google Hangout, and email the structure was in place to make this event happen. We had over 140 students sign up for the two events. At our location in Bettendorf we ended up with over 40 of those students showing up. This is a great turnout for the first event where not many people could really grasp what StuCamp was all about. Those 40 students were one of the most powerful groups I have been part of as I listened to their ideas and PASSION about education and topics that impact their learning. I give much praise and thanks to all of the students, admin and educators who gave up a Saturday to talk education.
Saturday morning started in a bit of a panic. We walked into our school to have everything the students put together taken down and discovering we had to move location. Despite my frustration and panic with this, we did not have time to mess around and quickly transported the whole event to our media center and surrounding classrooms in about 45 minutes as students started to show up. We pulled it off and it worked out great. Once again showing the power of students.
Starting at around 8:15 people started to show up. We had breakfast served and after most people had consumed their food we had students take lead and assemble the Awkward Family Photo Challenge which was designed to mix students up and get them talking with other students from different schools.
At 9:00 we kicked off the event and it was important to stress the power of student voice. I felt it necessary to remind them time and time again that those of us who organized these events believe in student voice and their ideas WILL be heard. This is not just a feel good day, but a day to inspire students to connect and come back to their schools and make education better.
After explaining the concept of EdCamp and how to create sessions we dived right into developing the day. I thought I had this recorded, but it did not record. To me, this was the most powerful part of the day. Listening to students share ideas, tweak the sessions, move and merge ideas being shared was amazing. Grades 6-12 were talking on the same level. In a matter of 15 minutes we were ready.
We grabbed some food and headed off to the rooms for breakouts. For each session students formed circles and started sharing, talking, brainstorming, and developing awareness, connectedness, and inspiration for their own schools.
This is the beauty. Students begin to realize that perhaps grass is not greener on the other side. Perhaps they are all in this together. Perhaps they can learn the great things other schools and students are doing and import those into their own schools. Perhaps they can develop an action plan to make positive change. This whole event is about sharing the good in education to make the good –> great. When issues arise that need to fixed instead of complaining they worked to develop solutions.
But it takes agency. It takes action. It takes adults to REALLY listen to their ideas. I mean really listen. We don’t have to agree, but when was the last time schools actually stopped and really listened to what students are wanting, saying, and thinking?
After all the sessions we wrapped back up with some closing activities. We did a gallery walk with all the notes shared in the hallways. Some sessions ran longer because they had so much to say. Some just connected back in the media center. There was some real powerful conversations happening. At this point there was no need for adults. They were in complete control making this day about and for them.
We concluded with students working in teams to develop paper slides of what they learned. They had 15 minutes to create their slides, record and share out.
Here are the three that I received
Finally, we took one big awkward family photo and called it a day.
Overall, it was one of the proudest things I have done as an educator. I was and still am moved by the power of students. I see my job as an educator and advocate of students to provide the platforms for their voices to strengthen and move into agency. This is something students need help with and I can help. I can help put together an event like StuCamp and leave it to them to make the day special.
I could not believe how fast the event flew by. It took so much time and effort to organize and get ready and just like that it was over. To operate on a budget of zero(except for a small sum of grant money left over for food) and pull this off is amazing.
I hope that students are organizing plans to make change. From the event we have created a Google Community for students to stay connected to share what they are working on in their schools. We would love to get more students and educators involved to keep the momentum going. Even if you did not attend StuCamp, but want to learn more and get involved please do.
Working with Dane we are so excited for the potential of the future of student voice. There are so many great things in development and I cannot wait to share when they are ready and look forward to pushing the boundaries of student empowerment.
To all of you who attended StuCamp at either location THANK YOU! Thank you for being brave to activate your voice. Thank you for taking charge of your education and learning. Thank you for taking the risk to join us as we work to find ways to allow students to take charge in their education.
Please take time to look at the photos, read the notes, check the drawings. We have many more coming in so check back soon. Feel free to reach out and let me know your thoughts.
We hope to gather more strength in numbers and voice as we plan for another event next year.
Until then, keep believing in what matters most……students.
Last, here is what you can expect in the near future.
- Check out the Student Voice rally coming up next month
- Be on lookout for a podcast from students as well as myself
- Be on the lookout for a video from the day as well as my own paper slide video coming shortly
- If you would like to get involved and get connected please reach out to me as we work to build a structure that is open to all students, schools, and educators
- Join the Google Community mentioned above
- Follow the #stucamp and #stuvoice hashtags
- Keep checking back for some big announcements.
In the near future I will expand on the issues in education based on the sessions, but for now I celebrate the day and the students.