Snapshots from the 2023 Philadelphia Professional Development Retreat

Current Fellows gathered in Philadelphia for three days of professional development and  immersion in social impact work.

The Fellows traveled from New York City and Boston to Philadelphia for the spring retreat in April. After arriving on Wednesday, Fellows headed to The Clay Studio where they had a rooftop lunch and reconnected with the cohort.

After lunch, Fellows went on a tour of the studio with Jennifer Martin, the Executive Director of The Clay Studio and then attended a professional development presentation with Adrienne Justice, Community Engagement Manager about the importance of social-emotional learning in curriculum development.

Fellows then transitioned into a ceramics workshop where they explored their identity and social-emotional themes. To finish out the day Fellows interacted with the after-school program and engaged in a project together where students and Fellows made tiles to be made into a collaborative piece. 

On Thursday, the Fellows visited The Discovery Center to engage with Audubon Mid-Atlantic. The day began with a bird walk where we explored Audubon grounds and identified birds with Center Manager Damien Ruffner. Fellows then engaged in conversation with Suzanne Biemiller, Executive Director and Angie Wenger, Director for Southeastern Pennsylvania Centers. Afterwards, Fellows participated in a mussel measuring workshop where they learned how mussels were used in watershed education. We then traveled to Reading Terminal for lunch and city exploration.

Some of the sites we visited were City Hall and Love Park. One Fellow noted that “the bonding time and conversations were so crucial in building relationships” Fellows returned to Audubon Mid-Atlantic for team building activities with Outward Bound and canoeing on the Strawberry Mansion Reservoir. 

Thursday evening was full of celebration and connection as the graduation for second-year fellows commenced. Speeches were held and graduation books given to Fellows as they reflected on their experiences in the Fellowship. This led into the alumni dinner where current fellows connected with alumni Fellows in Philadelphia. The dinner was illuminating as  alumni Fellows to share their career journey, current Fellows found points of connection and collaboration among organizations. As one Fellow said, “I feel like during this retreat we bonded as a group, and the activities played a big part in that.”

On Friday, Fellows returned to The Clay Studio for wheel throwing and reflections on the retreat before heading back to their respective cities after a tiring, but inspiring week.

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Picture of Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson (she/they) is the After-School Program Coordinator and FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.