Somerset to host first MBC PLC Ed Camp

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When all of the schools in the Middle Border Conference hold their in-service day on Friday, Oct. 14, six of those schools will head to the Somerset School District campus for the first-ever MBC PLC Ed Camp.
“It started with a conversation between the superintendents of the Middle Border Conference,” said district Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Trish Sheridan. “They started talking about trying to put something together to bring all the Middle Border Schools together to share knowledge and network. They created a calendar to set aside one specific day that all of the districts would have in common so that we could set something like this up. When they brought the idea back to us here at Somerset, it was the perfect timing since many of us had just been part of an Ed Camp. So we decided to put one together here.”
According to Sheridan, Ed Camp is a nonprofit organization that was started years ago by the Gates Foundation with a small grant. The Ed Camp concept is an innovative professional development model that connects educators with their fellows from other districts to contribute to discussions. The whole development day is dedicated to discussion, connections and the giving and taking knowledge.
“The nice thing about an Ed Camp is that it is completely driven by its participants,” Sheridan said. “The participants are the ones that chose the topics that they want to talk about, the hotspots they want to talk about, in order to come to a greater good. It is really quite the interactive professional development model.”
On a typical professional development day, a school district would pick one topic that they wanted to address, bring in a professional speaker and get together afterward to talk about how they can apply the things the speaker talked about in their classrooms.
“The way this works, we decide on what topics we want to talk about. It might be assessment, it might be ACP — which is coming around the corner — it might be the ACT,” Sheridan said. “Everybody has something that they are doing every day to help their kids that is not just like the person next to them. And being in a smaller district, we only have one Project Lead the Way teacher. So this is an opportunity for that teacher to talk with other Project Lead the Way teachers about how they do things.”
A total of 750 teachers will attend the Ed Camp in Somerset. In order to make sure the teachers had as much time as possible to collaborate, the staff at Somerset sent out a survey to get an idea of what the teachers and staff wanted to talk about. Common themes were taken from the answers given on the survey and then used to guide the staff in creating the sessions for the Ed Camp.
“It doesn’t matter what a teacher teaches, they can attend any session and if they find that they don’t think what they are learning applies to them, they can get up and go to a different session if they’d like to,” Sheridan said. “We will also give everyone the chance to meet with people from their departments from across the different schools.”
“There is great energy around the Ed Camp right now. As we are talking to the other administrators and staff around the Middle Border, we are hearing a lot of people looking forward to the event.”
Sheridan said that a lot of time was taken to parsing out the details of the Ed Camp, from parking to food to where the teachers would gather when they broke off into smaller groups.
“There are a lot of little details that we hadn’t thought about before that we started to realize we needed to address,” Sheridan said. “We hope that it is so well received that we will be able to make it an annual event,” Sheridan said. “We have a survey that all of our participants will take at the end of the camp to give us feedback on how it went and what they think we could improve on. We will then evaluate the feedback afterward, make tweaks and keep it going. Or maybe we will try something different.”
Along with all the help Sheridan and the Somerset School District had from the other districts and its own staff, Sheridan said the Ed Camp wouldn’t be the same without the help of local businesses from around the Middle Border Conference.
“One of the good things for us is that we have had a lot of good support from our local businesses in putting this event together,” Sheridan said. “Between the six districts, we have had a lot of businesses donate gift certificates and products to just try and add a little fun to the day through drawings throughout the day. So, a big thank you to them.”