What do skiing, books, and microcontrollers all have in common?
The CLiF Community Literacy Conference, of course!
In all honesty, the skiing was only a background as attendees sat slopeside in the conference room at The Mountain Club on Loon. While the spring skiers glided past the window, teachers, principals, librarians, and other eager past, present, and future participants in the CLiF Year of the Book (YOB) grant shared ideas on how to make CLiF programming efficient, effective, and sustainable.
Over sixty attendees joined CLiF staff and board members, as well as our presenters and panelists, Jenn Karson, Doug Webster, CLiF Board of Advisors member Bruce Johnson, Mary Joyce from the Circle Program, and Carol Varney from Educational Development Corporation, whose display of beautiful Usborne and Kane Miller picture books lit up the room. Bruce, Mary, and Carol doled out helpful advice on engaging communities, parents, teachers, and students, while Jenn and Doug discussed the maker movement.
Chief among the conference topics was the life cycle of a YOB grant and what struggles and/or epiphanies happen along the way. In smaller groups, attendees chatted about scheduling logistics, engaging teachers, how to organize book giveaways, parent nights, and what CLiF events drew the most excitement.
We at CLiF know that while we strive to be a resource for all of our grant recipients, the experts are the ones on the ground. Thus, we asked participants to share with one another, pick each other’s brains, engage and discuss what only they know best. And, wow, do they have a lot to share!
With ears full and minds racing with new ideas, we moved on to something completely different – the maker movement and, more specifically, how we can meld the Arts with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiative. Jenn Karson, founder of Vermont Makers, and Doug Webster of Champlain Makers Faire showed us not only what maker culture entails but how it can spark creativity and innovation in children of all ages.
New doors open when STEM becomes STEAM, and students are invited to think in a whole new way. Some components of the makers movement can be difficult or expensive to implement in schools, but what Jenn and Doug wanted to show us was how simple makers activities can engage students. Jenn introduced us to microcontrollers and explained how they are a gateway to countless maker projects. Similarly, she showed us how something as simple as conductive tape or gel can be used to light up playdough (Squishy Circuit) or even origami (E-origami).
Jenn and Doug sought to inspire teachers to meld technology and the arts and ultimately – as was the theme for the conference itself – open new doors to literacy, inquiry, and creative thinking.