Over nearly four decades, a total of more than 26,000 educators have convened on the UConn Storrs campus for Confratute, a weeklong summer institute that provides educators with practical strategies for engagement and enrichment learning for all students. Thanks to support from one philanthropic family institution known as the Barnes Foundation, close to 100 attendees have been able to attend Confratute over the past three years — including this summer’s program, which marks Confratute’s 39th year. The Barnes Foundation, whose goal is “giving to promote excellence in education with an emphasis on programs that benefit students in grades kindergarten through high school,” has contributed a total of $50,000 since their support began in 2014.
“The funding provided by the Barnes Foundation has supported teachers and administrators from schools that serve low-income students to participate” in Confratute, says Joseph Renzulli, co-creator of Confratute and director of the Neag Center For Creativity, Gifted Education, and Talent Development. “For these educators, bringing the tools of an enriched and challenging curriculum back to their schools helps to provide equal opportunities for all students in our state to be prepared for matriculation to higher education.”
If not for the Barnes Foundation and their continued philanthropy, Confratute participants from many towns — including Hartford, New London, Manchester, New Haven, Norwich, and Windham — would not have otherwise had the funding to gain access to the weeklong program and its resources. In addition to networking with fellow educators, Confratute attendees have the opportunity to interact with representatives from the Barnes Foundation, who come to Confratute to meet with educators, attend sessions, and learn more about the experiences of the teachers whom the Barnes Foundation supports.
Confratute, which is known as a “combination of a CONference and an instiTUTE, with a strong emphasis on FRAternity in between,” has been held at UConn since 1978 and has had upwards of 26,000 participants. It is sponsored by the Neag Center for Creativity, Gifted Education, and Talent Development, which is housed in the Neag School of Education.
The creators of Confratute, Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis, designed this professional development program to help educators from around the world come together to learn about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, which provides best practices in enrichment learning and teaching; differentiation; strategies for high engagement and creativity; meeting the needs of gifted and talented students; and using technology to personalize instruction.
For attendees, the weeklong classes, known as “strands,” are taught by educators well-versed in the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) and who teach all over the country and in locations around the world.
Strand topics range from personalizing learning to a process known as “infusion,” which allows for students to have enrichment activities as a part of any and all regular curriculum topics. Among Confratute’s 50-plus sessions are Math for Those Who Think They Can’t Do Math; Storytelling, Mime and Movement; CSI: Forensic Science in the Classroom; and Books That Inspire and Guide.