Have you ever had one of those experiences that leaves you reeling, your mind running a hundred miles a minute and your adrenaline at an all-time high? It’s a game changer. It alters your outlook and your thinking and the way you will go about your business for days and, hopefully, months to come. Days later you’re still shaking your head . . . but in a good way . . . in the best way.
That’s where I am. Days after returning from the AstroBrightMinds Summit in Atlanta, I’m sitting in my classroom trying to wrap my head around this incredible collaborative experience, but the words don’t come easy and don’t quite fit.
But I’ll try my best and give you a little pictorial tour of my three days with the BrightMinds Team and hopefully, you’ll understand why I am crazy about Astrobrights and why I adore the BrightMinds Team so much.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Earlier this spring I was contacted by Astrobrights Papers with the opportunity to work with their team and two other teachers. The collaboration would allow us to provide Astrobrights with a better understanding of the day-to-day activities of teachers and give us a great opportunity to play with and use paper in new and creative ways. I was happy to find myself partnered with two of the best bloggers in the business. Maria Manore Gavin of Kindercraze and Reagan Tunstall of Tunstall’s Teaching Tidbits. They are such amazing, smart and savvy teachers. After months of working with this team, I’m still not totally sure how Astrobrights decided to include me in this enterprise, but I am so grateful that the stars lined up and they notice my little blog and decided I would be a good fit.
As part of our working together, the Astrobrights team planned a summit to get all the BrightMinds team members together for an all out, brainstorming extravaganza (and unbeknown to us, a whole bunch of fun thrown in the mix). It would be an opportunity to get creative, to team build, have some fun and do a little work at the same time. That summit took place last week in the lovely city of HOT-lanta. And from the moment my agenda arrived, my experience continued beyond my expectations. The theme for the week . . . style, color and collaboration!
BUILDING THE TEAM
While we have worked the parts of the Astrobrights team via emails and phone calls over the last several months, there is nothing like having the opportunity to really know your teammates, to ask about their families, laugh at their jokes and find out what you have in common. The opportunity to build those relationships happened while we worked together, but a great deal of it also happened when we were able to spend some downtime together.
Jeremy and Blair are just two of the Astrobrights team that we worked with while in Atlanta. Our first night in Atlanta, they and other members of the team joined us for a fun evening of great food and conversation at the Georgian Terrace Hotel’s, Livingston Restaurant. It was right next to our hotel and across from the legendary Fox Theatre.
Our second day in Atlanta was a scheduled creativity day. This would be when we would have the opportunity to play with all those wonderful Astrobrights Paper colors.
The ‘Sun in my Belly‘ restaurant was our venue for the morning.
The character of the building was a fabulous backdrop to get our creative juices working.
Everything was absolutely gorgeous.
Pops of Astobrights color were everywhere and every detail considered . . . (And yes! Those are Flair Pens tied to those napkins. Someone knows what teachers like!)
It was the perfect setting for our morning creativity and collaboration.
The Astrobrights team arranged for the unbelievably talented Atlanta blogger, Joni, of LayBabyLay to be our host for the day. With her help, we would get to give our creative muscles a work out.
Her creativity was contagious.
Wearing a creativity crown couldn’t hurt our efforts . . . In fact, it might have helped.
Fun Astrobrights Paper and supplies were a must!
And we were ready to get started.
Color wheel construction!
You can get more paper crafting ideas like these by following my Paper Crafts Pin board below:
It was fabulous morning, and I loved having the opportunity to get crafty with Joni and the rest of the team.
WITH A LITTLE FUN MIXED IN
A trip to the Georgia Aquarium was scheduled for the afternoon. We had the great pleasure of getting a ‘behind the scenes’ tour to this incredible facility. The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the Western Hemisphere, and really, it has to be to hold . . .
. . . these guys—Whale Sharks! The worlds largest fish are housed right here in Georgia!
The entire facility is top-notch. I can’t say enough about the variety of exhibits and the amazing selection of aquatic creatures.
The size of the facility alone is just mesmerizing.
It was such a treat and a great way to spend the afternoon with the rest of the team.
Our last day in Atlanta was slated for professional development and studio work. Our host for the day, Lionstar Films, set the stage for the day. The sign on their wall says it all.
I know when you think of professional development, for a teacher, it isn’t always in the best of light. But the morning spent with our teammates, Jamie, Blair, Lauren and Jeremy, was probably one of the highlights of my trip. There’s just something that happens when you sit around a table with way-smart, hyper-creative and super-positive professionals. Remember that thing I spoke of earlier? That thing that sets you reeling, has your mind going a hundred miles a minute and makes you literally feel like you’ve just had a hundred ‘aha’ moments? Yeah, it was that kind of professional development.
IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA
This part of our trip was probably the most nerve-wracking for me. Although we had the best, and I mean THE BEST, professionals to work with, there’s just something a little unnerving about having a camera on you. Now put twenty-five 5 year olds in a classroom and I can get up and talk and work it like any good kindergarten teacher, but in front of adults, that’s a bit different.
Maria is probably the most comfortable teacher in front of a camera. I think her recent time in front of the camera for her weeding may have geared her up to the experience, but Lionstars’ Ryan, (He’s the big one.) and Chris (The one behind the camera.) also did a great job of making it a pretty painless experience for us all.
Head shots were the easy part. Once they were completed, Reagan took the lead in our videos next, and it’s a good thing she did. I was able to get some create tips after watching her perform like a pro.
Maria was incredible
And I somehow made it through it, thanks to some great behind the scenes help!
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
At one point on the last day of our visit, I was asked . . .’what has this experience meant to you?’ Sounds like a simply enough question, but often, experiences that have the greatest impact on us are often so incredibly difficult to articulate. It was ‘great . . . fun . . . amazing?” No! Those weren’t big enough words to tell the story.
This is what I can tell you. When I began working with Astrobrights, I had no idea what to expect of this partnerships. It’s not like businesses are knocking down teachers’ doors to get their opinion. I couldn’t imagine what they could possibly want from a kindergarten teacher from Northern Michigan.
But here’s what I discovered! The team behind Astrobrights is interested teachers. Beyond paper and color, they really wanted to hear about our experiences in our classroom. They wanted to know about areas where teachers struggle and what ideas we had to make things better. They valued our opinions and encouraged our collaboration and creativity.
They built professional and personal relationships with us. They developed an interest in our stories, gave us a voice and made us an important part of their team. This company and this team REALLY cares for teachers. If I didn’t know it before I came to Atlanta, I definitely knew it when I left. I don’t think I will every really understand ‘why me?’ But I am so incredibly delighted to be part of the ASTROBrightMinds Team. Their energy and enthusiasm was absolutely contagious, and I can’t wait for what comes next!
So what does come next? Well, Astrobrights #25DaysOfColor just wrapped up, and after last year’s successful campaign, Astrobrights will be back for another round of Colorize Your Classroom fun with some new and interesting twists. It’s going to be a great so be sure to look for it in the coming weeks.
And in the meantime, Maria, Reagan and I will continue to work closely with Astrobrights and the BrightMinds team, giving teachers a voice and finding new and creative ways to incorporate color into your classroom. It’s going to be a bright, amazing, colorful year so stay tuned!