Photo: Helicopter at Arcadia Housing Authority

Relationships Lead to Meaningful Learning on the Suncoast

Posted on May 27, 2023 by Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Suncoast Remake Learning Days 2023 consisted of more than 200 events across four counties during 10 days in April, with more than 25,000 attendees. When Kellie and Rachel asked me to write an article for Beyond The Blog highlighting one or two events, I immediately thought, "How do I choose?" Much like my mother did when asked to pick her favorite child, I will say with confidence, "I can't choose just one or two because I value each event equally."

Events, both large and small, offered families the opportunity to joyfully connect, learn, share, wonder, and create together. Suncoast Remake Learning Days celebrate the important relationships between children, parents, caregivers, and the community. In many ways, I think the success and "magic" of Suncoast Remake Learning Days is cultivated due to the connections and relationships formed between collaborating event hosts and the audiences drawn to their events.

The importance of relationships to the success of an event was evident during the Learn Aviation Hands-On event at the Arcadia Housing Authority. (I'm not picking a favorite. This event was great, and the other 205 were also terrific!) Learn Aviation Hands-On was created as a result of relationships. Becky-Sue Mercer, Executive Director, and Frank Dillon, Asset/Risk Manager of Arcadia Housing Authority, often attend Taco Tuesday at the Arcadia Municipal Airport. They enjoy watching the planes and helicopters take off and land, which led them to wonder if a helicopter could visit the Housing Authority during Remake Learning Days. They mentioned the idea to a willing pilot, spoke with airport manager Shelley Peacock, and, while still at Taco Tuesday, spoke to a city official about what would be needed to make this exciting event happen.

Becky-Sue Mercer knew the experience of getting inside a helicopter would be memorable and meaningful for the children and families of Arcadia Housing Authority, but she didn't stop there. Knowing that the Boys & Girls Club is an easy walk from the field where the helicopter was going to land, she reached out to the leadership of the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club to invite those children to participate. The City of Arcadia Marshall, Quinn Jones, came to share the joyous event with the children and families. The Housing Authority staff grilled food, made snow cones, and developed aviation activities for the families, including a photo backdrop of a runway, which proved to be a popular selfie location.


Another wonderful example of collaboration and the power of relationships is Soar in 4's Night at the Museum. The School District of Manatee County's Soar in 4 event is a learn, play, explore, and make-together event for families. Everyone receives free entrance to The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, and dozens of community partners and teaching artists share free, hands-on activities. Materials and books are available to support their preschool–3rd-grade child's curiosity at home by completing challenges and learning together. Not only was Night at the Museum a successful Suncoast Remake Learning Days event with more than 500 people in attendance but due to the support of and the relationships between all the community partners, the event is replicated on the first Wednesday of every month throughout the year.


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