SLedCamp (Student Led edCamps)

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to the idea of Student Led edCamps. Being a Public Relations Coordinator for edCamp Oshkosh and a total believer in the power of the learning that can happen through an edCamp, I was all for trying the idea out. All I needed were some test subjects teachers who would be willing to work through what it would look like when it was implemented. Lucky for me, three of my fifth grade teachers were up for the challenge.

Fortunately, most of us had been to an edCamp and knew how sessions were grown organically by the attendees of the conference. What we didn’t know was what it looked like when students took the helm, so I decided to research what others have done. I researched and researched and researched. I found blogs and articles on the benefits of Student Led edCamps and teachers who had implemented it and found it to be a wonderful way to empower kids and engage them in their learning. What I didn’t find were any resources on HOW to implement such a project. I wanted perimeters (if there were any), timelines, guidelines…but I couldn’t find any of that. So, we started from scratch, and my hope in posting this information would be to share what we did, what was successful, what failed, and what will be done differently next time.

Around this same time, I had just finished the book The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. He spoke about Identity Days at his school where students and staff were able to present on a topic that they were passionate about. In one chapter he says, “Allowing students to share their interests created an environment where they felt that their voices mattered and that what they cared about mattered as well.” I loved this idea, and at the first brainstorming meeting I suggested that we did a mashup of an Identity Day and a Student Led edCamp. These are the basics of what we ended up with on our planning doc:

  1. Students could volunteer to lead a 20 minute session on a topic that they are passionate about. If they wanted one partner that was also passionate about the same topic, that was ok.

  2. We wanted students to TRY to incorporate some sort of academic skill. For example, if a student decided to present on baking, they could also talk about fractions and how they relate to a recipe. More on this later…

  3. I would offer (as the technology integrator) my services at some designated lunch recesses to assist the leaders with anything they needed as they planned such as presentation help (although presentations did not need to be done on technology – it was the choice of the student), connecting with experts in the field that they were passionate about, or planning out what they were going to say.

  4. The majority of the planning and work for the SLedCamp would be done on the students’ own time either at home or when they were done with work in class.

We really had no idea if the kids would go for this or not. Even though they could talk about something that really interested them, they had to do all the work on their own time, and weren’t required to even participate and it wasn’t graded. I think that my three teachers were skeptical that the students would take something like this on.

Our next step was to get all the fifth graders together to show them a presentation showing them an example of a teacher edCamp and explaining what we were thinking. They were instantly excited and students began