Educational “unconference” to be held May 13

The new style of workshops, called EdCamp, calls for sessions and structure to be determined by attendees on the morning of the event

Washington Township High School will host a new style of educational workshops on Saturday, May 13, where attendees create the schedule, topics and format on the spot. The free “unconference,” known as EdCamp Happy Camper, will be held in the nine-10 cafeteria from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Open to all teachers, administrators, Board of Education members, educational aides, college professors and college students who are interested in joining the educational field, the event is participant-driven with sessions developed and facilitated by attendees the day-of. There is no predetermined list of subject matter; therefore the content discussed is guaranteed to be of interest to those participating.

A committee of 10 school district employees and administrators coordinated the event, which is expected to welcome approximately 200 guests from multiple districts across the state, as well as from Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Kathi Kersznowski and Jessica Soulliard, technology integration specialists for the district elementary schools, collaborated to have the event take place in Washington Township.

Kersznowski, a self-proclaimed EdCamp enthusiast, said she has been to about 20 events in the region within the past three years and was waiting for the timing to be right to have her own.

“I think they’re wonderful. By networking with educators and knowing all of these people from the educational field, I’m so much more connected and have gained so much knowledge,” Kersznowski said. “I’ve always wanted to have one here, but the timing had to be right, and this year was the perfect storm.”

EdCamp was started in 2010 by a team of educators in Philadelphia who wanted to talk about issues in education, Soulliard said. Since then, it has grown worldwide, with more than 700 conferences held in at least 25 countries.

“There haven’t been a ton of these in South Jersey,” Soulliard said. “To be a part of this global event, on the map, it’s nice to be able to offer this. We get to showcase our town and our pride in our district.”

The conference will have 12 classrooms allocated for sessions, with at least 36 sessions taking place throughout the morning.

“The EdCamp model mentions the ‘rule of two feet;’ you have two feet, use them,” Kersznowski said. “Go to a session, and if it’s not what you’re expecting, use your two feet and leave for another one. No one’s feelings will be hurt by that; session hopping is OK. Get what you need to be a better teacher and make education a better place.”

Soulliard described the conference to be an upbeat, casual, fun environment. In the morning, free breakfast and coffee will be served as attendees mingle, network and make friends. There will be an EdCamp 101 table available for those who are new to the “unconference.” There will also be a blank session board where participants will add topics they want to learn about or share to create the day’s schedule. A free lunch will be served, followed by closing events, favorite sessions of the day and prize, or “swag,” giveaways.

“For those already in the field, this is a nice way to have larger conversations around topics you’re interested in and talk with other districts,” Soulliard said. “College kids can make connections, and also get their wheels turning on where they’d like to work.”

Kersznowski said the difference between an EdCamp conference and a traditional conference is the aspect of choice.

“Educators are so often told what education we’re supposed to get, and give. Now, we can have the option to choose our own development, and it’s thrilling,” Kersznowski said. “To be able to choose your learning, wants and needs, it’s invigorating. Discussion topics will be fresh and timely.”

For more information or to register for the event, visit www.sites.google.com/site/edcamphappycamper.