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A Peek Inside The Bright Minds Summit with Astrobrights

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that my feed got a little more vibrant than usual last week. You may have also noticed a few familiar faces. And you were probably wondering what I was up to! I am so excited for finally share the story of my trip with you today! I also have a little inside information about this year’s Colorize Your Classroom Challenge from Astrobrights paper. Trust me, you definitely want to be “in the know” about this event!

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

Before I dive in too deep with my adventures last week, I’ll share a little of the backstory about how I ended up at such a colorful 3-day summit. Several months ago, I was contacted by Astrobrights Papers to become a member of the inaugural Astro Bright Minds team. Astrobrights loves teachers and is always looking for new ways to support educators. They reached out to a few teacher-bloggers to help them brainstorm and spread the word about their Colorize Your Classroom program. I was honored to be selected for this year’s Bright Minds Team along with Marsha from Differentiated Kindergarten and Reagan from Tunstall’s Teaching Tidbits.

Astro Bright Minds Logo

The three of us have been talking extensively with the Astrobrights team for several months via email and conference calls. We helped launch this year’s #25DaysofColor Campaign to provide ideas and inspiration for how teachers can incorporate color into their classrooms. There were lots of freebies from many other fabulous teacher-bloggers thrown in along the way too!

#25DaysOfColor inspiration from Astrobrights

Astrobrights has BIG plans for this year’s Colorize Your Classroom Challenge and they flew Marsha, Reagan and I to their headquarters in Atlanta for the first-ever Bright Minds Summit so we could collaborate with them. I had no idea how amazing those three days would be! From the moment my flight landed, I was greeted with the most sincere southern hospitality. There were colorful surprises left in my room at Hotel Indigo each day and we were treated to the most amazing meals and incredible experiences.

Atlanta postcard

The fun kicked off with dinner on Wednesday night. We walked over to Livingston restaurant, which is located in the Georgian Terrace Hotel. The hotel itself was STUNNING and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dinner was delicious and the company was amazing! Here you can see two of the summit’s masterminds: Blair and Jeremy with us.

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

And of course, I was in the company of some incredibly talented educators!

Maria Manore, Reagan Tunstall and Marsha McGuire

The three of us gathered the next morning in the lobby at Hotel Indidgo  awoke the next morning for a quick dose of caffeine before we set out for the day’s adventures.

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

From there, we headed out to the most amazing breakfast at Sun in My Belly. The whimsical, artisan atmosphere was the perfect setting for the summit’s Creativity Day.

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015 Astro Bright Minds sign paper flower

All of the gorgeous decorations were created with Astrobrights paper by Joni from LayBabyLay. She is just as fabulous and incredible in person as she appears in this photo!

Reagan from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits and Joni from LayBabyLay

Creativity Day began like all amazing days should … with a delicious breakfast! First we feasted; then we learned a little bit more about Astrobrights and their parent company, Neenah Paper. The Astrobrights team was also very curious about our lives and struggles as educators. They want to make our jobs easier and it was refreshing to hear so much sincere appreciation for the teaching community.

breakfast Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

After breakfast and our morning chat, it was time to get creative! The tabletop display was almost to pretty to touch. Almost …

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

Joni led us in creating a color wheel using a selection of Astrobrights papers. I loved that we all wore floral crowns while we created our masterpieces!

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015 Astro Bright Minds summit 2015 Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

creating with Astrobrights Papers

We may have gotten a little side-tracked and had an impromptu lesson in how to create the beautiful paper flowers that adorned our creative space.  I’m going to have to file that information away for a spring event at school.

Astrobrights Papers creativity day

Our trio of completed color wheels.

Astrobrights Papers color wheel

Of course I had to take a photo!

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

It really was a wonderful morning!

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015 Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

We stayed at Sun in my Belly for lunch and then headed out on our afternoon excursion: a trip to the Georgia Aquarium complete with a Behind the Seas facility tour. (Did you catch that little pun?) While on the tour, we saw the on-site veterinary offices, some of the water pumps and where the animals’ food is prepared each day. One of the most interesting stops on the tour was having a view of the pool where the whale sharks and manta rays live. It was amazing to have a birds-eye view of those creatures swimming.

Georgia Aquarium

After the tour, we were treated to the Penguin Encounter experience. We saw a penguin up close and and were even able to pet it. AMAZING. From there, we visited several exhibits and took in the scenery. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

tunnel at the Georgia Aquarium

whale sharks

Reagan, Marsha, and I also had fun taking photos of each other.

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015 Astro Bright Minds summit 2015 at the Georgia Aquarium

Of course we needed a selfie!

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015 selfie

Friday was the third and final day of the Bright Minds Summit and it certainly felt like the grand finale. We spent the day at Lionstar Films. The studio had the word “CREATE” displayed on an exposed brick wall in giant marquee letters. It was definitely a great place to get the creative juices flowing.

CREATE marquee letters

As if Astrobrights hadn’t done enough for us already, the Bright Minds team was treated to some early-morning professional development. As an entrepreneur, there are few things I love more than talking about business. Having a round-table discussion with people that actually have a degree in the field and two top-notch educational bloggers felt like heaven!

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

Our professional development session was followed by a round of hair and makeup for each of us.

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

Next came a photo shoot. The amateur photographer in me ate up every moment of the experience. I was fascinated by their entire setup and all my mirror selfie experience helped me to easily feel at ease in front of the camera.

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

The final task of the day was a round of video recordings in front of a gigantic green infinity screen. This task was definitely beyond my previous experience level but I loved it.

Astro Bright Minds summit 2015

I’m sure you’re wondering why on earth we were taking such professional-quality photos and videos. I can’t give away too many secrets quite yet, but I can let you know that it was all in preparation for this year’s Colorize Your Classroom Challenge. Astrobrights has BIG plans for this year’s challenge and they are planning a truly awesome launch. I am SO excited for you to find out more. Keep an eye on their Facebook page and mark your calendar for August 24!

Colorize Your Classroom


After a very long and completely wonderful day, I said goodbye to the Astrobrights team and headed for the airport. When I arrived in Detroit on Friday evening, I was exhausted, but exhilarated. My trip to Atlanta for the Bright Minds Summit shattered all of my expectations. I thought I was going to help a company prepare for it’s upcoming campaign. Instead, I became friends with a wonderful team of brilliant people who truly have teachers in mind every step of the way. I gained new insight into my own blog (which will help me continue to make Kinder Craze better for all of you readers), and I left my impression on the upcoming Colorize challenge. I’d say it was a great trip!

Maria selfie

No wonder I can’t stop smiling 🙂

A huge THANK YOU goes out to Jeremy, Blair, Lauren, Jamie, Connie, Sarah, Jessica, Joni, Ryan and Chris from Lionstar and the ever-talented Zoe. My mind is officially blown and it’s all because of you.

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Maria Gavin

Maria is a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, with 13 years of teaching experience. Her love and passion for all things early childhood is now fulfilled as a mom to two amazing kids. She loves sharing practical and creative tips and ideas that are perfect for young learners – in the classroom or at home!

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4 Responses

  1. Wow! What an amazing opportunity!

    I hope you share the secret behind those flowers…they are amazing!

  2. This sounds and looks like my idea of heaven on earth! So much FUN COLOR! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with Astrobrights! Have a great school year ! -Jessica 🙂

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Hi, I'm Maria.

I’m a former kindergarten teacher turned work-from-home mom. I still love sharing ideas and resources to make teaching easier, so you can focus on what really matters in the classroom. When I’m not working on the blog, you’ll find me chasing kids around the house with a cold cup of coffee in my hand (some things never change even once you’re out of the classroom!)


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