National AfterSchool Association Conference Draws Educators to New York

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NEW YORK — Thousands of teachers, administrators and other education professionals from across the country are gathering in midtown Manhattan Friday for the National AfterSchool Association’s annual conference, with the goal of bringing the nation’s most successful programs and initiatives to a broad audience.

“We looked for who is doing the best work, and where,” said Erin Leonard, a spokesperson for the conference. “What are the successful people doing, and how can it be replicated?”

One workshop, called “Bigfoot, Superheroes, and Mermaid Bait,” focuses on designing afterschool programs that appeal to tweens. The workshop is being run by Peter Rogovin, who co-authored a report on success principles for afterschool programs, and Kait Steele, who represents 826NYC, a national award-winning writing and tutoring center that embodies those success principles.

Workshop attendees will have a lot of expertise at their fingertips at this workshop — 826NYC has found success in part because of its appeal to children. The tutoring centers in each city are accessed through a different fanciful storefront.

Children and tweens in Brooklyn can find secret identity kits at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.; in Seattle, there’s rocket fuel for sale at the Greenwood Space Travel Supply; and in Washington, D.C., kids can explore a cave and buy unicorn tears at the Museum of Unnatural History.

“The stores form a gateway into the community,” said Steele, 826NYC’s director of field operations. “A student may not wander into a tutoring center, but they may go try on a cape at a superhero store.”

By transforming the storefront from a drab office to an exciting, imaginative wonderland Steele said, it makes it more likely to get the student excited about what’s going on inside.

“The kids walk in and know that the experience is going to be different than anything they’ve encountered,” Steele said.

There are 150 workshops at the conference — from innovative robotics to programming on a tight budget, from student leadership to NASA-run science programs, there will be something for every attendee.

For attendees who want to share something about which they are passionate but do not have the material to host a full workshop, they can share their insights at an “Ignite Session,” which will take place at 4:00 p.m. on March 2.

The New York BureauSteele said she looks forward to the workshop.

“I find it inspiring to learn what others are doing in the field,” Steele said, “and to talk about what we can continue to improve on and do better.”

In addition to the workshops, there will be presentations and breakout groups, as well as a keynote speech by Jaime Casap, a “global education evangelist” at Google.

“There’s a lot of content at this conference; almost an overwhelming amount,” Leonard said. “But we’re planning some fun and games as well.”

That includes a scavenger hunt and a Broadway performance.

The conference begins Feb. 28 and runs through the weekend, with workshops and innovation sessions. The final day of the conference is Monday, March 3. Organizers say they expect the turnout to be huge.

“Over 2,000 people have registered so far, and there’s still on-site registration,” Leonard said. “So we are preparing for a lot of people!”