From September 30 – October 2, more than 400 of Nebraska’s afterschool and summer learning leaders gathered to learn, share and grow their youth development professional toolkits as part of GetConnected2020, Nebraska’s annual statewide afterschool professionals conference.
However, concern over the spread of COVID-19 prevented this group from gathering in person. So, showing their afterschool ingenuity, Nebraska’s afterschool professionals gathered via a virtual conference platform provided by Beyond School Bell’s long-time partners at the C.S. Mott Foundation. Get Connected 2020 was the result – www.getconnected.org
The annual conference, jointly organized by the Nebraska Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center program, Nebraska Extension / Click2SciencePD and Beyond School Bells, allows Nebraska afterschool professionals from across the state to learn from each other, network and share best practices.
Utilizing an innovative online platform, participants were able to connect in several different ways, including via live plenary sessions, over 40 on-demand workshop and in various, thematically-oriented exhibit halls and meeting rooms. The conference was organized around five Es:
- Emotional Health and Wellness
- Equity and Inclusion
- Environmental and Outdoor Education
- Engineering Mindset
The on-demand videos explore aspects of these themes as well as an additional E: Elevating Programs.
Reflecting the importance of wellness, each day started with an introductory yoga session provided by Lincoln-based Lotus House of Yoga and included evening social hours exploring different elements of this unique virtual conference platform. A virtual Exhibit Hall featured information from 20 partners engaging in Nebraska’s afterschool programs. As part of the Equity and Inclusion strand, all registered participants received a copy of the e-book – The Other Wes Moore, by the 2017 Nebraska Children Changemakers speaker and president of the Robin Hood Foundation, Wes Moore. Participants were provided with material to facilitate book clubs and were invited to discuss the book in the virtual lounge.
Using the live streaming platform Zoom, three hands-on workshops provided registered participants the opportunity to utilize materials in kits to walk through both engineering and environmental activities for youth in real time. Building on the Entrepreneurship theme that was woven throughout the meeting, a key feature of the conference was the Virtual Youth Marketplace, a platform for Nebraska youth to sell their products to a statewide audience. Conceived of as an element of our partnership with the national organization Young Entrepreneurship Institute, the Marketplace was the culmination of a journey into the world of business for nine Nebraska youth entrepreneurs. Building on the energy of the Youth Marketplace, we will be exploring opportunities to launch a holiday marketplace at the end of the year.
Clearly a conference of this magnitude would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors, and Get Connected 2020 included a diverse group of local and national funding partners including the following lead sponsors:
- A national leader in mobile technology, Verizon supported Get Connected 2020 efforts to build more high-quality, locally relevant STEM learning opportunities for all students.
- A long-standing partner of Beyond School Bells, STEMNext is supporting Nebraska’s efforts in the Million Girls Moonshot – a national initiative to build more equitable and inclusive afterschool STEM programming to grow the Engineering Mindset nationally.
- The C. S. Mott Foundation, the nation’s biggest supporter of afterschool programming, generously provided us with the online platform behind Get Connected 2020 and information about Mizzen by Mott – a FREE tool to enhance Afterschool and afterschool and summer programs.
- The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is a major supporter of Nebraska’s high-quality school-age childcare providers, supported Get Connected 2020’s digital platform.
- A new supporter of Beyond School Bells, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, is supporting efforts to deepen connections between afterschool programs and environmental and outdoor education, as youth in today’s afterschool programs grow into tomorrow’s environmental stewards.
All conference materials will be available on the conference website – https://www.getconnected2020.org/ until October 16, at which point they will be archived with links on the Beyond School Bells and other conference partners’ websites.
An annual event, planning has already begun for GetConnected 2021, scheduled to take place at the CHI Health Center in Omaha next September. More details on that conference will be forthcoming in future newsletters.
Thanks to all those who planned and participated in GetConnected 2020 – a groundbreaking gathering for Nebraska’s afterschool professionals.