Imagine looking at the globe, then zooming into middle America. As you hover over Nebraska and descend, you can peer into an inspirational story.
Once upon a time, several years ago, in Lincoln, two young girls began attending a Summer learning program at the Asian Community Center. Thanks to this experience and the support of their parents and mentors, they discovered a talent for speaking Mandarin Chinese.
Those talents grew through countless hours with teachers and mentors across Lincoln, including annual speech competitions at UNL’s Confucius Institute, and periodic trips to China as part of family adventures (and work).
Now, imagine yourself fast-forwarding into 2022, except halfway across the globe. One of those girls, now a young woman, is responsible for obtaining a $25,000 grant from MICRON USA to build out a team promoting cross-global expanded learning in Taiwan.
This example of Hana McMahon-Cole isn’t a fairy tale. This story is a true-to-life example of how far afterschool and summer learning can propel young people and how Nebraska can connect them halfway across the globe.
One could argue that, from the beginning, quality expanded learning opportunities (ELOs) were always a part of Hana’s life. A graduate of Minerva University, Hana is a longtime proponent of experiential education, which can take place during afterschool programming.
Before her passions expanded to her current home of Taipei, Hana took her talents from afterschool into high school when she enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program.
Hana then traveled to Turkey, where she pursued her studies as a Rotary International exchange student during a gap year between high school and college. This enthusiasm followed her into her undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and finally to Minerva University, a unique university designed to engage students in both 21st-century skills development and global explorations, all through a combination of online learning and real-world, hands-on problem-solving experiences in seven cities in different countries around the world.
As she attended Minerva, Hana deeply resonated with their mission as a higher learning institution that values experiential learning. Hana has since completed her Biology and Data Science degrees.
Today, Hana is a BSB Consultant laying the foundation for the Taiwan-based Think Make Create (TMC)™ lab.
Although Hana’s path has been worldly and creative, one could argue that this success began in afterschool.
The daughter of Jeff Cole, the Network Lead of Beyond School Bells (BSB), Hana has taken our mission for children and youth to thrive and delivered it halfway around the world.
A Nebraska Children initiative, BSB is committed to creating and sustaining high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs.
Of course, we’re delighted that Hana continues to implement her knowledge that will eventually connect Nebraska and Taiwanese students’ expanded learning! Hana has an equally expansive mission.
For many, the imminent value of afterschool can be misunderstood and underestimated. Although some may misinterpret expanded learning programs as babysitting, these efforts are anything but that.
Yes, there is a component to ELOs that ensures your children are cared for and safe; but as Hana’s story shows, safety and care are the tip of the iceberg. When you examine these quality learning experiences more closely, you’d be stunned to see that there are many stories like Hana’s.
Afterschool provides added educational opportunities outside of school hours, chances for youth to explore their passions and find a spark igniting lifelong learning. Quality programs do everything from engaging kids in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities, something the TMC™ labs do well, to paving the way for their future, lucrative, in-demand careers. Just ask Hana.
The TMC™ lab headcount currently stands at 75, with 44 in rural and urban communities in Nebraska and 30 across the country and the first one now in Taiwan. This compact trailer takes learning on the road to support afterschool and summer learning programs.
The trailer makes the most of education in its compact space. Inside, its bins contain STEM activity materials, electronics, crafting supplies, textiles/sewing, paints, and art supplies, ideal for supporting existing ELO programs or providing a pop-up learning experience in a community.
“Our ideal purpose for the TMC™ is for it to be a tool for [ELOs] for students and connect them to their communities,” said Hana.
“So, I hope the TMC™ Taiwan can do that, and there are many ways to make that happen. We’re trying to put materials inside the TMC™ labs that allow for learning to take place, and create an environment where students have this image of learning being something fun, but also an opportunity to pursue things they’re curious about,” said Hana.
Currently, Hana oversees the TMC™ teams as they build out the educational experiences that will bring the learning lab to life.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting involved in this project because it’s given me a great opportunity to talk to people coming from different backgrounds [by] being able to hear everyone’s views on education and how they think [we can improve learning]. It has also allowed me to continue my Mandarin journey – focusing on a specialized language I would not have developed without this hands-on project,” she said.
Eventually, when the Taiwan-based TMC™ gets going, the plan is to connect Nebraska TMC™-empowered virtual learners with Taiwanese ones to collaborate and learn from their spaces.
Let’s return to the image of our globe. As we zoom out, we can suddenly see, despite our vastness, how incredibly close we are to one another, thanks in part to cutting-edge afterschool and summer learning experiences.
As the saying goes, every journey begins with a single step and as Hana’s journey shows, the passions sparked through stepping into an engaging summer program, experiences nurtured by mentors and families, can lead to journeys around the world — and cutting-edge careers that will shape the future of education in an increasingly connected world.
We know that more girls and young women would thrive in an afterschool or summer program. If you know someone like that or want to improve or sustain your own ELO, BSB is always looking for new partners.
Learn more about the organization here: https://beyondschoolbells.org/.