Chicago Educators Connect at National Geographic Meetup

This post is brought to you by Ray Kinzie, a junior high social studies teacher with the Chicago Public Schools at Hitch Elementary School. Ray is also a member of the Geo-Educator Community Meetups Planning Committee and shares his experience with the first National Geographic Meetup for Educators that took place this past October.

A classic fall day in Chicago, Illinois made a perfect backdrop for the first National Geographic Meetup for Educators held at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on October 8, 2014. Over one hundred Chicago-area Pre-K-12 educators and staff from local museums and non-profits met to share ideas and resources around teaching students about our interconnected world. The palpable buzz in the air reflected everyone’s excitement.

Educators check in at the October 8th meetup in Chicago. Photograph by Lynn Szopinski

Educators check in at the October 8th meetup in Chicago. Photograph by Lynn Szopinski

The meetup provided great professional development opportunities with a level of quality long-associated with National Geographic. After checking in, participants received a passport to manage networking contacts; so much went into facilitating our connections. The first part of the evening featured an opportunity to talk with 15 exhibitors, which took place in an open-air patio overlooking the museum grounds. Participants enjoyed taking in the atmosphere, engaging in rich conversation, and researching new opportunities over refreshments.

This growing community focuses on what really matters in education: serving our students and enhancing their communities, expanding our pedagogical process and becoming teacher leaders, and building deeper connections with other educators.

Ray Kinzie welcomes guests and hands out raffle tickets. Photograph by Lynn Szopinski

Ray Kinzie welcomes guests and hands out raffle tickets. Photograph by Lynn Szopinski

Educators meet with local museums and nonprofits to gain resources. Photograph by Lynn Szopinski

Educators meet with local museums and nonprofits to gain resources. Photograph by Lynn Szopinski

Participants connected with new and old friends. Photograph by Lynn Szopinski

Participants connected with new and old friends. Photograph by Lynn Szopinski

During the second half of the event, participants gathered at tables and worked together on a brainstorming activity around geo-education and the power of collaboration.

A group of educators from across Chicago brainstorm geo-education activities. Photograph by Alison Szopinski

A group of educators from across Chicago brainstorm geo-education activities. Photograph by Alison Szopinski

Two educators share an activity from their group discussion. Photograph by Alison Szopinski

Two educators share an activity from their group discussion. Photograph by Alison Szopinski

Months of planning by the Geo-Educator Community led to an evening of professional development and networking opportunities that made a positive impact on all participants. It has been a privilege to serve as one of the teacher volunteers working with National Geographic to help implement and launch the community and plan the first meetup. As a twenty-year veteran teacher with the Chicago Public Schools, I find it exciting to collaborate with my colleagues and partner with National Geographic on such an important initiative.

Meetup volunteers were essential to the event's success! Photograph by Nora Stowe

Meetup volunteers were essential to the event’s success! Photograph by Nora Stowe

This growing community focuses on what really matters in education: serving our students and enhancing their communities, expanding our pedagogical process and becoming teacher leaders, and building deeper connections with other educators. The Chicago meetup was a big step forward in making professional development a reinvigorating and relevant process again. I am eager to continue these conversations, as I feel empowered to make local and global connections a central focus of the teaching and learning process in my classroom.

The next meetup is scheduled for December 11th in Washington, DC.

Where should we host our 2015 meetups? Fill out our survey to nominate your city.

Join the Geo-Educator Community for discussions, ideas, and resources that help students learn about the world.

 

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