International LearningSCAPES 2023 Conference
30 Oct 2023
The International LearningSCAPES 2023 Chicago conference was a wonderful event. The first day of the conference involved visiting sites. I was lucky enough to get on a tour that showed some lovely spaces. In particular Niles North High School. They had the opportunity to build a new building and they did a great job. Fabulous, agile spaces with natural light and borrowed landscape views. Different types of furniture settings and glass walls that allowed the spaces to be agile.
The second day started with a keynote speaker followed by a selection of workshops. The first keynote speaker was Dr Tyrone C. Howard. Dr Howard is most known for his work in education K -12 and the impact of race, gender, social class and culture on teaching and learning. He focused on the inequality of the school system in the USA, particularly in the area of funding and school facilities.
A couple of the workshops I attended had a focus on ‘student wellness centres’. Some areas of the USA have committed to serving the whole child – attending to the social, emotional, and physical health and wellness of students so they are better prepared and energised to focus on learning, growing, and building meaningful connections at school. These schools host Wellness Centres on their campuses. Wellness Centres are built facilities, operated by a Qualified Health Centre - medical providers/partners and/or Student Medical Services, who see members of the community, in addition to students. Services offered include medical, mental health, vision and dental services. The focus is prevention, education, early intervention, and screening by connecting, leveraging, and building by collaborating with onsite partners and school teams to support student holistic wellness and achievement.
Day three of the conference consisted of the awards ceremony, workshops and the final keynote speaker. It was wonderful to see two Australian schools win awards. We cheered loudly. I attended a couple of workshops that highlighted Career Centres. These centres are built on high school sites. The session I valued the most was about the Umóⁿhoⁿ (Omaha) Nation Public Schools. The presenters were passionate, authentic and had made a difference in the lives of the students and their community. They described that growing up in Umóⁿhoⁿ, historically has been devoid of hope. A place that not only requires a sense of resiliency, but demands it in order to survive.
A place where the school is literally the heartbeat of the community. Umóⁿhoⁿ (Omaha) Nation Public Schools recently planned and built a catalyst career & technical education center that not only provides opportunities for students but also creates a response to real needs for the Omaha Nation Reservation Community. The presenters shared how the issues faced by reservation and other remote communities can create real opportunities for school programming to create career tracks, services and amenities which then truly builds community resiliency by creating needed services and resources.
The final keynote speaker was Dr. Wells-Hedrington, Commissioner of Education at the Virgin Islands Education Department. Dr. Wells-Hedrington shared the journey of transforming education in the Virgin Islands after hurricanes Irma and Maria. An amazing transformation.
During the conference we had an International Board meeting. The focus was on Global Reach. Connections with colleagues in Germany and the Netherlands have been successful and we hope to continue to build on this.
Article by: Deb O'Riley, International Director
Photography: Daniel Smith