The EAST Year In Review – Part I

Matt Dozier’s Personal Reflections on Another Great Year

What an extraordinary year we’ve had! The EAST Initiative has grown by leaps and bounds — in the number of schools and in services offered — in the fifteen years that it’s existed. But the 2010-2011 school year has been one of our busiest and most successful ever. Here are the highlights of the first half of the year. Stay tuned for the finale next week! —MD

July 2010

We started the year flying high. Jerry Prince, Melanie Ridlon and I travelled to the Annual ESRI Users Conference in California, where EAST received a coveted Special Achievement in GIS award. This award recognizes the best of the world of GIS, and that certainly includes EAST students and EAST projects. The EAST Initiative was specifically recognized for the work it has done in furthering GIS education in America. At the awards ceremony, I got to meet and visit with Dr. Roger Tomlinson, the “father of GIS”.  Considering that when we started with EAST, most of us couldn’t spell GIS, it was very humbling to be recognized.

July also saw the initial training of our new class of EAST Facilitators. Forty-eight newbies were prepared to start their EAST journeys. Among those were the facilitators of our sixteen new programs for 2010-2011: Batesville Junior High School, Berryville High School, Bismarck High School, Clarendon High School, Green Forest Intermediate School, Gurdon High School, Jonesboro High School, North Little Rock High School East Campus, Ozark Middle School, Pottsville Junior High School, Robert F. Morehead Middle School, Roberts Elementary School, Springdale High School, Strong High School, Valley View High School and Woodlawn High School.

The new programs were also in the throes of equipment installation in their new classrooms, and we started a new round of Administrative training; before the end of the year we had trained over 80 administrators in the implementation and maintenance of EAST programs.

August 2010

With the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, EAST quietly turned fifteen years old. It says a lot about the capacity of the human brain to hold contradictory yet compatible ideas in a single brain, because to me this is both a very short and a very long time. It seems like just yesterday we were sitting around a table at Greenbrier High School dreaming, wishing and hoping to do something important (and trying like heck to explain to the larger world what it was we were trying to do). On the other hand, it seems so very long ago. When EAST started, I had seen a website (and a web browser) twice; I did not even have an email address or a cell phone.

Fast forward to EAST in August 2010. Over 125,000 students have taken the class; it is being offered across the country and the work of the staff, facilitators and students has received national and international recognition. And when I googled “EAST” this morning, the EAST Initiative was the first hit. To quote our founder, Tim Stephenson: “WOW!”

September 2010

The annual cycle of Student Technical Training began with an online course, courtesy of our longtime friends and supporters at the Center for Advanced Spatial Technology (CAST). By the end of the school year nearly 2,000 students had participated in EAST-sponsored technical training in one of our 120+ trainings and Conference breakout sessions.

September also saw two new members added to our Board of Directors. We were honored to add Dr. Angela Kremers, Sr. Program Associate for Education for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and Mr. David Moody who was the Deputy Director for the Arkansas Energy Office and is now the President of LGW, Inc., an alternative energy start-up. We are blessed to have a Board of Directors that is passionate about EAST and willing apply their expertise to our efforts.

October 2010

By the beginning of October, the EAST Site Support Team had put significant wear and tear on their tires and the engines of airplanes across the country. The team routinely spends time in EAST schools working with administrators, facilitators and students. By the school year’s end, EAST staff had put “feet on the ground” in over 300 visits!

October also saw our new facilitators back for Phase II of their training. We were glad to reconnect with them after their initial training and the launch of their programs. Now they would hone facilitation, project management, and student motivation skills, backed up with real-world, personal experience.

November 2010

The third annual EAST Night Out took place in November. This nationwide open house celebrates EAST in action in the community. This year 130 schools participated and over 10,000 visitors got to see what all the excitement is about. Wow!

At the office, we took time to reflect and be thankful for our blessings at the fourth annual EAST Thanksgiving Chili Cook-Off (which is probably closer to what the Pilgrims shared with their guests than what we serve at modern Thanksgiving celebrations). For the third year in a row, my obviously superior “Hearty and Hale” recipe lost out to Network Manager Tim Van Dusen’s decidedly inferior “Middle of the Road” rendition in blind taste test voting. I suppose it takes time for the truly great things to earn the appreciation they deserve.

December 2010

The new facilitators completed Phase III of their training in December. We were proud to see how far they had come and excited to see how far they would go. With tears of pride we graduated them into the larger EAST universe of fully trained facilitators.

With another class behind us, the EAST activity wound down. But not before launching the EAST After Hours program with much excitement. In the 2010-2011 school year we would award over a quarter of a million dollars in grants for schools to take projects outside of the traditional school day.

What a great way to show the power of EAST.

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