I had such a good time at the NAEYC 2013 annual conference—personally enjoyable and professionally productive! The handouts at the Early Childhood Science Interest Forum table at the IF Café were picked up by conference goers eager to connect to resources. The ECSIF is a dedicated—and open—group. There was good discussion and sharing of resources at the ECSIF annual meeting, including the wonderful news that NSTA is in the process of developing a position statement on science teaching in early childhood! Early childhood researchers and practioners were involved in writing the draft and the NSTA Early Childhood Science Position Paper will be available on the NSTA website for review within the next couple of weeks.
NSTA was at the conference supporting early science learning with a display of resources and free copies of the elementary (and preK) journal, Science and Children. Editor Linda Froschauer is an active member of the ECSIF and presented two sessions on science in early childhood:
- “Defining science learning and teaching” with Ingrid Chalufour, Cindy Hoisington and Karen Worth.
- “Science inquiry and practices: Fun experiences with hands-on materials to awaken the scientist in children” with me!
The handouts for these sessions are up loaded on the NAEYC conference schedule. (Go to the NAEYC Annual Conference and Expo page, and click on “Search session” to go to the Precis Abstract Management searchable conference program. Search for the session you attended (or missed), then click on the title of the session. A new window will open with a full description of the session, and attached files, if any, listed at the very bottom. Click on the title of the handout file to download it.)
My conference experience began with a session on the topic of play, and I saw many possibilities for how the open-ended exploration of materials in play might extend into a science investigation into the properties of matter or understanding balance. And many opportunities for imaginative play, developing mathematical concepts, and rich use of language. Seeing possibilities for integrating the curriculum was not the best part of this session. The most powerful part was the experience of playing with a set of materials for an uninterrupted 15 minutes or so, and reflecting on it, showing us teachers what children get out of this kind of activity—to learn about self and the world through self-created experiences.
As the presenters said, “It is in the doing that we understand.”
Read about recess in the Play, Policy, & Practice Interest Forum’s Fall, 2013 newsletter CONNECTIONS online.
Read an excerpt of the book From Play to Practice: Connecting Teachers’ Play to Children’s Learning by Marcia L. Nell and Walter F. Drew, with Deborah E. Bush. Read more about developmental outcomes directly associated with quality play experiences in authors’ responses to questions about play.
And read about play in the NAEYC position statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice: “Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as promoting language, cognition, and social competence (pg 14).
The session “How a Head Start coaching community of practice created a professional development system using CLASS and the Project Approach” provided beautiful examples of Mid-America Head Start teachers and their directors and coaches creating a positive climate with regard for student perspectives. Developing the projects—“Bugs on Our Playground,” “Our Elevator,” and “Things in Our Homes”—and using the CLassroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), created a culture of learning and change. Educators involved in this community of practice noted that “We are seeing children in a different light—noticing their competence and accomplishments as thinkers.”
“A constructivist approach to integrating STEM education” presented by Susan Wood and Kheng Ly-Hoang of the Children’s Center at CalTech showed many ways teachers can promote scientific ways of thinking so children are able to make connections, think critically, problem solve, observe, estimate, test their ideas and collect data. The slides of children and teachers at work gave me new ideas for science learning.
There were many enticing sessions that I missed due to so many choices:
- “Sharing the BIG IDEAS of physical science with pre-K children: Properties of matter, force/motion, and measurement” presented by Robert Williams, Mary Hobbs and the teachers in the BLOCKS project.
- “Ramps and Pathways: A fun integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” presented by Betty Zan and Beth Van Meeteren of the University of Northern Iowa.
- “Playing and learning with nature’s play materials” presented by Mary Rivkin, Jan White, and Beth Grant.
- “Science at the center: Promoting inquiry and process skills throughout the day” presented by Rosemary Geiken, Mary Myron and Cathy Landy of East Tennesee State University.
These are just a few that were on my itinerary “wish list.” Please comment to add information about sessions you found valuable.
My last stop at the conference was the closing general session, “Monsters and superheros,” by Trisha Lee about (and demonstrating) the storytelling and story acting techniques of Vivian Gussin Paley. Much fun and meaning, learning how to listen to children as they tell their stories.