Education Highlights

September 24, 2020, Feature, by The National Recreation and Park Association

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For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.

With more than 60 sessions and 12 education tracks being offered at the 2020 NRPA Annual Conference: A Virtual Experience, you are guaranteed to learn something new and leave inspired. Below are just a few of the education sessions that will be offered during NRPA Virtual.

WE GOT ENGAGED!: Tips for Communicating Effectively with Your Part-Time Workforce
This session will focus on tackling the challenges of effectively communicating with large numbers of part-time employees in an efficient manner that encourages collaboration, mentorship, cross-training and employee development. Attendees will learn about the benefits of creating a part-time advisory council and embracing the unique talents found in a diverse department, while exposing the part-time workforce to the varied and wide-ranging careers that can be found under the park and recreation umbrella. Interactive discussion topics will include lessons learned from an array of communication and efficiency barriers, best practice suggestions for managing today’s part-time employee and tips for how to prepare for the future of increased service demands balanced with staffing challenges.
Speakers: Adam Blackmore, City of Henderson Public Works, Parks and Recreation
Track: Career Development

Safe Spaces for High Performers: How to Create a Safe Space for Your Workforce
In this interactive learning experience, participants will explore the characteristics of high performers and how engaging these key team members within the workplace can be critical to work performance. Identifying these characteristics will create an opportunity for managers and coworkers to put into action the concept of “checking on your strong friends.” High-performing staff members can be an asset to your team. However, managing and staying engaged with such members can be a challenge. This session will stimulate a conversation that identifies characteristics of high performers and also puts into action essential staff engagement tools to support the continued success of high performers within the workplace.
Speakers: Atuya Cornwell, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation; Cortni Grange, Grange Enterprises
Track: Employee and Volunteer Management

There’s an Octopus in the Parking Garage?! ‘Futureproof’ Your Parks for Resiliency to Climate Change
With the election upon us, one topic that is often discussed is climate change and its dramatic effects on communities all over the world. Increased flooding, drought, expanding ranges of non-native invasive species, access to clean water and changes in the growing season are just a few impacts that show that this isn’t just a coastal problem. Resiliency is another term often used — but what is resiliency and why should you be thinking about it when developing/redeveloping parks? Making decisions regarding the location of parkland, the use of those lands, the placement of infrastructure and overall park design will be critical in the coming decades. This discussion will give you a good idea of how climate change will be affecting parks and recreation departments, what jurisdictions around the country are doing to be more resilient, and how you can describe these changes and their effects to elected officials and the public.
Speakers: Chris Matthews, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation; Jai Cole, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks
Track: Conservation

Equity: The Case for Redlining the Term ‘Social’ and Getting Comfortable with ‘Racial’
Why “racial,” not “social” equity? While wealth is a major driver in outcomes, race is the stronger predictor. When studies control for income, racial disparities remain key factors in health, education, employment and incarceration outcomes. Racial equity strategies are currently a major focus of parks departments in large, diverse, urban cities. Parks departments — such as the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, New York City Parks and Recreation, Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation, San Francisco Recreation and Parks, Minneapolis (Minnesota) Park and Recreation Board, and Portland (Oregon) Parks and Recreation — are developing equity initiatives to ensure that their parks are focusing on resources that best serve these changing demographics. Creating a racial equity strategy provides a framework, tools and resources that also can create social equity solutions. During this session, you will learn strategies for gathering the appropriate data to ensure that the predominant race and income of an area does not predict the quality and/or quantity of its parks, and that parks in diverse, low-income areas best reflect the community needs in that area.
Speaker: Jai Cole, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks
Track: Social Equity and Inclusion

The Esports Experience: Determining the Best Esports Programs to Build and Strengthen Communities
Esports, or competitive video gaming, not only has grown to be an impressive billion-dollar industry, but also is now known as the “new social network,” attracting multi-generational players and spectators alike. For park and recreation professionals, this means esports can have tremendous impacts on equity and health and wellness within communities. The opportunities to bring esports experiences to the population at large are endless. From recreational esports programs to STEM/STEAM learning, to tapping into the sports tourism business, understanding all the possibilities to bring inclusive and innovative esports experiences to communities will be the focus at this interactive lecture. The presenters will provide field-tested and proven concepts from real-life case studies of esports experiences they’ve activated over the past year. In addition, they will share best practices and guidelines to determine the best approach to launching a successful esports program for your community.
Speakers: Karen Mendoza, Global Youth Enterprises; Matthew Reiter, Maricopa Esports; Scott Novis, Bravous Youth Esports and GameTruck, LLC
Track: Recreation and Sports Programming

Did COVID-19 Make Us Essential?
Every park and recreation professional knows how essential our agencies’ services are to the health and wellness of communities across the nation of every size and composition, but decision-makers and voters don’t always connect what we do with the value we bring. At no time in recent history has our agencies’ value been more obvious than during this current COVID-19 pandemic. This session will explore how agencies across the country have responded to the crisis with both in-house and partner programming for those relegated to their homes and how agencies can capitalize on that work to strengthen their value as an essential service.
Speakers: Janet Bartnik, Mountain Recreation; Cortney Weinstock, Baltimore City Recreation and Parks
Track: Health and Wellness

Next Practices for Parks and Recreation in a COVID-19 World
As we start thinking of what a post-pandemic world may look like in this coming decade, this session will help attendees think of next practices they want to shape in order to design an inclusive, welcoming and financially/environmentally sustainable park and recreation agency. During these increasingly unpredictable times, with changing demographics and technologies, this session will share insights for how to build an agency culture and mindset that can innovate and thrive in chaos and embrace change as park and recreation agencies look to continue playing the role of essential components that sustain the community’s very fabric and way of life.
Speaker: Neelay Bhatt, PROS Consulting, Inc.
Track: Leadership and Management

Park Foundations and Friends Groups: Filling Budgetary Gaps Through Alternative Sources of Funds
Park and recreation leaders are facing ever-expanding budgetary challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic recession. Local park foundations and friends groups can play a crucial role in filling these budget gaps while, at the same time, raising awareness of the essential value of local parks and recreation in the areas of conservation, health and wellness, and equity. Moderated by NRPA President and CEO Kristine Stratton, a panel of mayors and city managers will share their experiences and offer best practices that led to strong working relationships with foundations that maximize alternative sources of park and recreation funding.
Speaker(s): Kristine Stratton, NRPA
Track: Leadership and Management