Last week, the Beepods team attended the Wisconsin Association of School Boards State Convention. It took place at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There was a lot of buzz around some key topics. We wanted to share with you some key takeaways that apply to educators working in sustainability, bees or educators trying to stay on top of things.
Each school district faces different challenges when looking to install sustainability education. There are so many variables at play I can understand why many never make the cut. The easiest answer to give a teacher, administrator, parent or community member is “No.” Decision makers face the challenge of navigating each variable and want projects to succeed. Sometimes it is too daunting.
We discussed some of these challenges with the representatives who were in attendance. Often, the project success came down to timing. Why? Of course, money is a challenge. Everyone acknowledged various ways to obtain funding for these projects. More often than not, if teachers and curriculum directors plan around projects it is fairly straightforward. Beyond timing, other challenges educators face include, belief systems, other budget items, liability, staff retention and training.
One person stated, if there were clear, executable plans it makes navigating bureaucracy much easier. This still does not guarantee a successful implementation. That comes down to the pitch and early execution of the plan. At Beepods, we take great pride in being there through every step of the design and implementation of a Beepods Educational Project. So this conversation was very reassuring for me.
In the state of Wisconsin, there is legislation to protect the school district, teachers and staff from lawsuits. A $50,000 limit for accidents is pretty lock solid as long as you are not negligent in keeping any possible risks on the property. In fact, when discussing bees at a school, most of the carriers stated riskier things they had already insured. Archery and playground equipment were two areas that came more than once as being high risk. Each discussion came down to 3 things: negligence, awareness and supervision. Each item has its own set of guidelines to be discussed with an agent or provider.
One educational area noted was shop class. Almost every provider or broker has faced an instance in which a student was injured during an episode using the shop equipment. The allegations against the school was for lack of supervision, but under Wisconsin Statute 893.80 there are many tools for defense in these cases. Here is an example from one of the providers.
Long story short, the insurance brokers and providers are community members and citizens. They are always looking for more ways to enrich student learning. I am amazed at the excitement about an opportunity to engage students with the Beepods Beekeeping System. Our goal at Beepods is to continue to build relationships with the providers and brokers to be a resource for them going forward.
Many districts are facing the challenge of passing referendums. Administrators are working hard to generate money to maintain facilities and basic education opportunities. The topic of funding can be a difficult conversation to have, especially when thinking about the best ways to educate young members of society. For every program out there to enrich learning across disciplines there is the question of how to afford it.
With each of these conversations, I recall when my home town of Fort Atkinson was first making efforts to pass a referendum. It failed the first time. The second campaign involved activating the current students in high school and middle school. It only passed by a few votes. A referendum is a levy on local taxes to increase school district spending. money goes towards buildings, maintenance, school additions (curriculum, sustainability or energy efficiency projects), or other debt issues. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards scheduled many speakers at this year’s convention. Topics like marketing, budgeting and campaigning created discussion. For Wisconsin districts, the WASB organization has numerous resources available. Take a look and get in touch with them.
The big takeaway on referendums is this: as more education on the topic takes place, the success rates for districts passing these referendums has increased over the years.
Another challenge districts and administrators face is turnover of teachers and staff. Each district faces hiring and obtaining staff with different smaller challenges. Without getting into too many technicalities and numbers, I just want to take a chance to speak about how Beepods works with champions and schools to overcome this.
We understand that people want to move up in their career. It is great to know that so many professionals have a drive for excellence and growth. It only shows that individuals in Wisconsin want to leave an impact and help further themselves as they educate the youth of today. Beepods has built this into our project plans as a contingency. If a champion (teacher or staff) key to the Beepods project leaves, we will train the next individual. We are here to save the bees, so the more people we can teach, the better.
This is why we are constantly updating the online education portal on our website. It is why we work hard to build shareable PR materials and educational curriculum that teachers can share in their schools. It is why we offer so many support mechanisms for all our customers. It is unreasonable to think that every customer and client of Beepods will remain in the same position and place forever. We had to find a solution for transitional leadership and education. It is important the entire organization understands maintaining a colony of honey bees. We are here to help.
The final thing I want to touch on is how excited educators are about the next generation of tools for teaching. Most of them grew up with hard copy texts, overhead projections and physical slides. In an age of technology, decision makers have to choose between improving the outdoor classroom, the shop with fabrication-laboratory tech or even increase the computing power of the school. All of which come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
What is really empowering for us at Beepods, though, is the dedication everyone at this conference had to teaching students. Engaging them with knowledge that makes children want to learn. Motivating them to achieve their potential and beyond.
I hope this was helpful for those of you who could not attend the convention and if you have any questions, please, do not hesitate to shoot us an email at [email protected]. At Beepods, we know we can connect you with the right people if we do not have the answer and we are here to help you BEE A Champion.