Camp Make Redefines Professional Learning, Especially in Virtual Spaces

Camp Make Redefines Professional Learning, Especially in Virtual Spaces

Traditionally, teachers all over the country gather before school starts for pre-service professional development. For some, this can be one or two days. For others, it can be a week or even more. Depending on the organization, the goal of professional development may include instructional and curricular advancement, policy and procedural updates, technology training and even good ol’ motivation or inspiration. 

Camp Make, the pre-service and yearlong professional learning effort at iLEAD Schools and the Maker Learning Network, works to accomplish the aforementioned and much more. Now in its fifth year, Camp Make is a learning journey led by iLEAD’s Maker Team. Each August, this includes a four-day pre-service learning experience for all facilitators and staff, as well as two days of sessions for all new instructional staff. The journey continues throughout the school year, with one week of sessions in October, one day in January, two days in March and one day in April. 

Unlike years before, this year the August portions of Camp Make will be 100 percent virtual. But as in the previous four iterations, they will be organized around what iLEAD and the Maker Learning Network believe are the most important aspects of a child’s education: social-emotional learning (SEL) and project-based learning (PBL), according to Angie Nastovska, iLEAD Schools’ Director of Humanities and Innovation. 

During these experiences, participants can choose from a wide spectrum of differentiated and scaffolded sessions under the lenses of both PBL and SEL. According to Nastovska, the Maker Team folds in cross-disciplinary literacy, as well as tools and strategies for mindful guidance and support, such as Love and Logic, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective People and Character Lab, to name a few. 

Participants learn how these fit into iLEAD foundational elements, such as ILPs (individualized learning plans), LLCs (learner-led conferences), Showcases of Learning, literacy-structured benchmarks and assessments, Advisory/Morning Meetings, POLs (presentations of learning), outdoor classrooms and play-based education.

“Camp Make helps introduce, train on, implement, assess, refine, calibrate and sustain best practices for all learners,” said Nastovska. 

This approach to professional learning also models for all staff members the iLEAD definition of personalized learning, which facilitators then model for all learners.

“Educators know that no two students are exactly alike and that each requires a different approach to achieve optimal success,” said Matt Watson, iLEAD’s Director of Maker Outreach. “We recognize that each of our facilitators and staff members has a unique set of talents, experience and background. And so, just as with our students, we must differentiate the learning for them as well.”

With that approach in mind, Camp Make provides a plethora of options and opportunities for staff to choose from as they further their individual professional learning and growth, according to Watson. This year the Maker Team — along with directors from other Maker Learning Network departments, such as Technology, Student Support Services and Facilities — have prepared well over 60 hours of asynchronous options for staff members to choose from.

Furthermore, each school program will receive individualized training on racial equity, bias and sensitivity. Finally, there are opportunities for many hours of one-on-one coaching and mentoring, as well as addresses from keynote speakers each day on topics ranging from diversity to pedagogy and integrating the arts into core curriculum.  

Nastovska adds that the team models choice by presenting numerous “choice boards,” “learning menus” and other strategies for delivering high-quality distance learning. Each session includes multiple paths, such as novice, apprentice, practitioner and beyond. There are CORE (mandatory) sessions, alternative (choice) sessions, as well as optional sessions on upskilling in the digital world, mindfulness, personal growth, virtual collaboration spaces for teaming, feedback and coaching, and synchronous and asynchronous opportunities.

After the organizers have experienced their own professional and personal learning curves over the last few months, Nastovska said that the team had to collect a great amount of data over time to follow proper trends and analyze what staff members want, need and expect. 

“These times are extremely challenging, and we must meet people exactly where they are to help them develop and grow,” Nastovska said. “As such, we were faced with the most difficult task: to prepare staff for unknown and unpredictable circumstances on a longitudinal level.”

Using the feedback from staff, learners, parents and community members, the Maker Team has designed sessions to help educators gain tools, strategies, ideas, models, methods and systems for what their learners and families need. As an example, Nastovska offered up this driving question: “How do I plan a highly rigorous, engaging, equitable but scaffolded, organized and differentiated project in a distance learning environment?”

As in all things project-based, Camp Make has very individualized outcomes for participants. According to Nastovska, by the end of these sessions, facilitators will have planned at least one month of engaging, rigorous, diverse, PBL and SEL educational experiences conducive to a distance learning environment with support for a high level of equity and access to all learners.

Ultimately, Camp Make works to continually redefine both learning and a learning culture that are unique to iLEAD and Maker Learning Network schools. 

“Camp Make is focused on going from good to great for our learners, preparing them — as always — to not just succeed but lead in an ever-changing world,” Watson said. 

Featured image: Camp Make 2019, Keynote Speaker Yong Zhao