Introducing BrainPOP Connect™: A New Virtual Event Series for Educators
Join us for our upcoming event, BrainPOP Connect: Looking Forward, on August 12. Preview the program and register today!
By the end of June, many teachers share the same sentiment: “Put a fork in me—I’m done!” But the proverbial phrase was uttered much earlier this year. Pushed beyond their capacity during the pandemic, teachers need space to connect, reflect, and… breathe before gearing up for a new school year. And so, our new virtual event series, BrainPOP Connect, was born. The inaugural event, BrainPOP Connect: Summer Retreat, offered a program that was cathartic, inspirational, future-focused, and actionable, yet low pressure. Long-time BrainPOP subscribers joined brand new ones for two days of events that included a morning workout, meditation, guided introductions to BrainPOP’s “summer school kit” and grade-level pacing guides, and more. Here are highlights from Summer Retreat:
Self-Care Practices to Enhance Educator and Student Well-Being
Keynote speaker Ilana Nankin, CEO of Breathe for Change, engaged participants in a variety of physical and mental self-care exercises that they can implement immediately in the classroom. Nankin’s organization has certified thousands of teachers—and impacted tens of thousands of students—through wellness, SEL, and yoga teacher training. We breathed, we stretched, we visualized, we accepted.
Create Healing Spaces
Keynote speaker Nita Baum, educator and founder of b*free, an organization “focused on awakening the potential for every person to embody equity leadership,” addressed the need to prioritize self-care practices to effectively manage our lives and responsibilities. Nita framed our experience over the last year as “collective trauma.” Through exploring biology, chemistry, psychology, and morality, she took a multi-disciplinary approach to how humans experience stress, and struggle to meet the needs of others without meeting their own. Sound familiar? Nita urged us to look at classrooms as healing spaces and to build a culture that prioritizes well-being alongside academics.
Over 40 workshops across five strands of programming:
1. Play and Learn = Plearn
Plearning is an empowering (and fun!) teaching strategy for introducing interactive digital learning tools. It is based on the idea that we learn best by trying something rather than listening to someone explain it. We invited educators to observe, tinker, and take risks with our creative tools, including movie making, concept mapping, and coding. Because plearning begins with independent exploration and discovery, after experimentation, it’s just as important to collaborate as a group to share insights and construct knowledge together. One attendee recently used the strategy with her fifth graders to introduce BrainPOP’s Make-a-Movie tool and exclaimed, “It’s the most engaged I’ve ever seen students during the last week of school!”
2. Go Behind the Scenes
Leveraging kids’ (and teachers’!) curiosity about the beloved BrainPOP characters, we offered an exclusive opportunity to pull back the curtain on BrainPOP’s content creation process. Our chief creative officer and employee #1, Mike Watanabe, who also happens to be the voice of Tim, shared the story of how BrainPOP began. Our scriptwriters were also in attendance to answer questions and share the magic behind the movies.
3. Mindful Planning
Taking time to reflect on teaching practices is important, but understandably challenging for educators this year. For this reason, we provided guidance and time for teachers to think about what they learned about their practice and themselves. One session featured BrainPOP’s equity-driven learning design framework, “Access for All,” which prioritizes differentiation, SEL, and Universal Design for Learning. Another session prompted attendees to exercise the mental muscle of “letting go” of legacy teaching practices to make space for something new.
4. Take a Deep Dive
After this year, we understood the value of inviting educators to remember why they chose careers in this field. These sessions nourished their collective passion for teaching and learning, and highlighted how BrainPOP supports their goals, whether they’re infusing SEL across subjects throughout the school year, using formative assessment to learn about student’s strengths and areas for improvement, or implementing innovate new approaches to teaching science.
5. Kick Back and Relax
Humor and relaxation are among the best antidotes for stress. At BrainPOP, we take humor seriously! Wrapping up the program with a virtual mixer, teachers toasted each other and played games, competing for coveted BrainPOP swag.
Good news! Our next event, BrainPOP Connect: Looking Forward, is scheduled for August 12. Preview the program and register today! With back to school around the corner, together we will re-envision your teacher toolkit for the upcoming year. Sessions will focus on discovering new ideas and sustainable strategies for building a creative and collaborative classroom culture, enabling equitable access for all learners, strengthening literacy skills, and more. Upon completion, attendees will receive a certificate and walk away with a deep understanding of how to use BrainPOP effectively to meet their instructional goals.
Andrew Gardner is VP, professional learning at BrainPOP, where he oversees professional development services, designs learning experiences for teachers, and runs the Certified BrainPOP Educator program. Prior to BrainPOP, Andrew taught for over 10 years, including as a founding faculty member of The School at Columbia University, where he was a first grade teacher, technology integrator, and curriculum designer. Andrew has served as an adjunct professor at NYU Steinhardt School of Education and Harvard University Future of Learning Summer Institute.