Yesterday was Edcamp STL at Grand Center Arts Academy. This was my third edcamp and I was lucky enough to help out with the planning and get more involved in this edcamp experience. With over 500 participants from all around Missouri and the country, it was easy to accomplish the day’s goal to “unlock creative genius.” In fact, I engaged in so many thought-provoking conversations and left with so many new ideas that I don’t know if I can fit them all in one blog post. So here is part one of my reflection…

First, the environment itself inspired creativity. The Grand Center Arts Academy has an interesting history. The school building started off as a parking garage. To walk around and see how a building with a completely different purpose was transformed into a place of learning automatically inspires creativity. As a school, GCAA specializes in teaching students the arts and it’s evident all over the school. No matter where you go, you see the students’ and teachers’ unique artistic sensibilities on display. GCAA also teaches the “core” subjects and with rigor, but they infuse creativity into learning. Take a walk through the makerspace and anyone will turn into a kid again wanting to tinker and play with everything. So at GCAA students are engaged with learning. Everyone saw it on the faces of the students who put on a dance performance to kick off the event. So, GCAA provided the perfect backdrop for everyone to tap into their creativity.

Second, the knowledge and experiences of the people at edcamp offered huge learning potential. True learning happens as a result of exchanging ideas and collaborating with different people. I often feel isolated in my own classroom–and even my school–on a day-to-day basis. It leads me to feel stagnated and uninspired in my teaching. During edcamp, I got to talk with people who teach a variety of subjects in all kinds of schools. I also spoke with people who work outside of education and I gained their unique perspective. Hearing from all these people challenged my beliefs and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. Together, all of us at edcamp unlocked the potential trapped by our everyday work.

Lastly, the edcamp “un-conference” style offered all participants the opportunity to create a learning path that motivated them. This meant I could seek out the sessions and people that captured my personal interests. I tried a new strategy this edcamp and instead of planning out what sessions I wanted to attend I just walked around the building and dropped in on a session when I felt inspired. And it worked. I engaged in meaningful discussion everywhere I went and I let the conversation guide my learning. I had many “ah-ha” moments sparked by everyone else’s genius.

My day at edcamp STL was successful and enriching. I accomplished the goal, but I know that what I took away from yesterday is just the beginning. All that I learned has unleashed so many thoughts and ideas that have re-energized my passion for education.

My main takeaway from the day: We are doing school all wrong.

But more on that in part two.