Guide to Hosting Your Own ParentCamp

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Cross posted from Edutopia

Since Knapp Elementary held the first “ParentCamp” on April 27th, our learning community has been engaged in conversations far beyond the 27 discussion sessions led by local parents and teachers.
The ParentCamp experience, by design, is a hybrid “un-conference” opportunity for parents and teachers to come together and model the four core beliefs highlighted in Beyond the Bakesale. The experience levels the playing field putting all stakeholders in a circle for real face to face discussion about what is best for kids.  It’s important to understand the difference between a traditional conference and the un-conferencefeel we worked to bring to #ParentCamp.
Engaging upper administration in discussion early is imperative. An un-conference is still very foreign to many of today’s leaders. Be sure to explain the difference.
Traditional conference: Speaker stands and delivers presentation. Audience participation is minimal. Typical room set up is presentation screen with audience seated in rows facing speaker.
Un-Conference: Discussion leader(s) sit amongst the group to lead a discussion. The expertise and experience “of the room” is harnessed from the start of the session, and face to face perspective sharing leads to relationship-building, networking and a sense of “we’re all in this together.”

Learn more about the un-conference experience in this Edcamp video.
Origin of #ParentCamp
After participating in EdCamp Philly and EdCamp Leadership last year, it’s hard not to be inspired to find new ways to infuse these participant-driven professional development approaches into our own learning communities. We began by hosting an EdCamp-style, building-based professional development at Knapp Elementary in September and January. After the September offering, we left the “big board” of sessions up for the Home & School Meeting happening later that evening. As we shared the unique format and roch discussion teachers were involved in during their In-Service Day, parents imagined what the experience might offer for both parents and teachers in the same atmosphere.
With interest from our home-school team, we started the planning process to secure a manageable schedule, , discussion leaders, registration, sponsors, district and technology support. Several parents and teachers met each month physically and virtually (using Google Docs) to organize and share information detailed below.
ParentCamp Schedule:
      Registration/Breakfast: 7:30-8:30AM
      Welcome Session / Groundrules: 8:30-9:15
      Session 1: 9:20-10:00
      Session 2: 10:05-10:45
      Networking Break 10:45-11:15
      Session 3: 11:20-12:00
      Closing “Smackdown” 12:05-12:30

Sponsors: 5-10 local and national sponsors were sought to cover possible expenses of continental breakfast, lunch, technology access (1-day wifi pass) and any other costs. Social media was a big help in securing the financial support necessary to put this un-conference on. Potential sponsors were asked to complete this gFORM.
Technology Needs: A one-day guest wifi called “ParentCamp” was set up to allow guests to log in from their own personal devices for Internet sharing during the conference, Skyped sessions etc. This information sharing opportunity using the Twitter hashtag #ParentCamp was used frequently by discussion leaders and attendees throughout the un-conference. Our technology assistant was also on hand during in case we needed emergency tech support. Check out day’s #ParentCamp feed here.
Custodial Needs: Two custodians on duty for set-up, unanticipated needs and breakdown of un-conference.
Choosing Un-Conference Discussion Leaders: Discussion leaders had the opportunity to submit session ideas in advance using this gFORM. Typically an un-conference begins with a blank palette of sessions, but since the majority of participants and discussion leaders were new to this experience, we kept this traditional piece in place.
Pre-Conference Signup: Attendee signups were available online using this EventBrite, also for embedded on our Family Engagement Wiki. It was also sent home via email to our families and shared out on Twitter for local learning communities interested. For our families without technology access, we provided a hard copy flyer opportunity in mailboxes and on the front office counter. Parents and teachers went door to door in our car rider line to spread the word in a face to face manner. All elementary families from our district were encouraged to send at least one parent, grandparent or other guardian to this conference. A week prior to the event once all sessions were confirmed, we shared this online conference session sign-up using Eventzilla.
Next Steps
YOUR school or district is invited to participate in the planning and implementation of the next #ParentCamp – Saturday, November 23, 2013 at Knapp Elementary School. @KnappElementary is looking for other schools around the world to share in the parent-teacher learning this fall. We’ll offer global-sharing sessions, a shared Smackdown as well as a global #ParentCamp hashtag to amplify the potential of the day. Complete this brief gForm if you’d be interested in serving as an un-conference site for #ParentCamp.
Related Links
      Planning an EdCamp
      EdCamp comes to Knapp Elementary (Part 1 / Part 2)
For more information on ParentCamp, contact Joe Mazza or Gwen Pescatore. Follow @ParentCamp for more information.

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5,459 thoughts on “Guide to Hosting Your Own ParentCamp

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