'Purple cow' theory part of lesson plan on innovation

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Aug. 4—Standard Middle School hosted hundreds of program leaders and site managers from schools throughout Kern County on Thursday.

The learning goal? Helping these educators become a "purple cow."

David Stricker, director of expanded learning for the Standard School District, organized this three-day, multidistrict workshop to offer professional development and share the enthusiasm for learning that after-school program facilitators have a unique opportunity to instill in students.

He likened the analogy of a student's classroom experience to seeing a cow when you're driving down the road.

If you've never seen a cow before, he explained to the gathering coalesced in Standard's multipurpose room, you might want to stop and take a selfie to remember the moment.

Similarly, a child often starts the first day of school with wide-eyed optimism and excitement over the newness of everything.

However, by the sixth or seventh "cow," a student can become bored, jaded and terse if they're not engaged.

However, after-school programs — workshops shared about things like drones and podcasting, project-based learning and even esports — have a chance to be a purple cow, meaning something that you'd definitely want to remember, even after you've seen a dozen cows.

"It's a hands on-type deal. It's more you're teaching them a skill, a lot of arts, a lot of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and a lot of (physical education)," Ana Williams, a retired science teacher for Standard School District who helps out with the Expanded Learning Project, said in describing the idea behind learning "beyond the bell."

"It's just super exciting to watch them after school, and seeing if we can give them that excitement to participate," Williams added. "We want to give them that awe to try something they've never tried before."

The conference, which is a relatively novel concept in terms of how it's focused on after-school educational opportunities, invited program leaders from Arvin, Fairfax, Fruitvale, Maple, Panama-Buena Vista, Richland, Standard and Wonderful schools.

"It's an opportunity for them to connect with other people from other districts, empower them, validate maybe what they already knew," said Jaime Cherry, the expanded learning coordinator for Richland Elementary in Shafter.

And it's the same for what they're trying to do with their students, she added, noting how sometimes kids can see something at home and not be interested, but then they see a peer try it out and they'll be very eager to give something a shot.

"So you're expanding that horizon for them," she added, "and getting them interested, because you never know what is going to be that thing that ignites that kid to do better in school."