A special synergy occurs when the world of public school educators merges with the expertise of community partners from the realms of art and science.

That is exactly what happened during the Aug. 27 professional development day provided for teachers involved in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The Santa Fe Community Educators Network invited educators to Museum Hill for hands-on instruction in everything from creating micro-habitats, molding clay pots, making paper and cooking to computer programming.

The training, which included more than 80 teachers from Santa Fe Public Schools along with 60 teachers from Espanola Public Schools, was funded through the 21st Century federal grant.

The renewal of a four-year federal grant for Santa Fe Public Schools expanded extended learning programs during after school hours from five to 14 schools this year with the goal of serving poor families whose children are struggling the most academically.

The new grant for the first time tapped into the rich artistic and scientific resources right here in Santa Fe. They include the Museum of International Folk Art, the Georgia O’Keeffe, SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe Botanical Garden, School for Advanced Research and NM MESA along with Cooking With Kids and CODE.ORG.

The vision was to train teachers with six weeks of enrichment curriculum each semester that the community partners developed. Teachers will deliver the curriculum during the 21st Century program with the potential impact to educate more than 2,000 students from Santa Fe and Espanola in the after school hours.

Rae Hoffacker wrote the 21st Century grant creating the unique partnership with the Santa Fe and Espanola public schools and the Santa Fe Community Educators Network. The professional development component came together as she worked with the partners to initiate a train-the-teacher model. The training in August will be repeated in January so teachers can implement the curriculum during the spring semester.

Rae believes the enthusiasm generated by the participants about art and science education through hands-on, project-based learning was well worth the effort. She said, “I think that the excitement of getting all of the partners together with all of their ideas about how this could be accomplished was what made it successful.”  

Mollie Parsons, education director for the Santa Fe Botanical Garden who spearheaded the organization of the training, agreed that the partnership was a wonderful fusion of the best of both worlds.

It was incredible to see such a talented and enthusiastic group of teachers, eager to learn,” Mollie said. “Our community has a wealth of museums, science centers, historical sites, and other organizations who want to support the youth in our community.  By partnering with the schools, we are better able to connect students to the rich and inspiring cultural resources that make Santa Fe such a wonderful place to live.”