In the never-ending quest for new/different/more/exciting program opportunities, I often find myself attending events for which I may or may not actually be the target market. One such recent event was the Ultimate Educator Expo sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Environmental Educators at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

I have attended this event in the past, finding many useful programming ideas and contacts. While the event is generally aimed at formal educators, there are many programming opportunities for non-formal educators as well. Exhibitors and presenters from many Greater Cincinnati organizations are included, along with raffle prizes, snacks, and drinks. It includes break-out sessions for specific programming topics. And it’s free!

Since I live and work in Northern Kentucky (south of the Ohio River, for those not local) there are some presenters and exhibitors who cannot come to my library for programs. However, they frequently have contacts in sister organizations or know of similar programming opportunities elsewhere. Some are only able to visit school sites, some are unable to cross county lines. Some cannot cross the state boundary. All are willing to discuss their products/services/opportunities with the goal of improving the environmental education availability in Greater Cincinnati.

There are always take-aways from events like this that will become a long-term addition to my programming arsenal. I have used several UEE craft ideas as a standard go-to for a number of years since attending my first event. It was at an Ultimate Educator Expo that I first learned how to make a Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle chart with colored pasta, and at a previous UEE that I came across a Junior Plant Explorer Kit. I have booked programs for the library as a result of UEE in the past, and discovered many new things I want to consider for the future. The contacts gained and networking possibilities are numerous, and it is also just nice to see what other educators are doing from time to time!

While this particular event may not be useful to anyone outside the immediate geographic area, there are likely to be similar kinds of events in other cities. Learning to have this type of event on my radar opened up a much larger array of professional development opportunities. When I learned to look beyond events aimed squarely at librarians, I found there are many more options available! Events like this also function to further point out to me what types of programming opportunities classroom teachers are seeking, making it a good way to help me tailor my outreach offerings.

Besides, hanging out with animals is always cool! :)