A love note to education conferences

In my suitcase I have a collapsible jug, tube, funnel, glitter, pebbles, foam hearts, sea shells, and empty plastic bottles—all part of the materials I need for a presentation at the 2017 ECSTEM conference (February 3-4), organized by The Children’s Center at Caltech, in collaboration with THINK Together.

Conference organizers greeting people as they arriveAn education conference is a joyful place where people are seriously planning to help children develop into critical thinkers, future leaders and life-long learners, as well as learn skills and content matter. This kind of professional development connects people who have experience and want discussion around their topic with people who want to learn about it. And it connects education researchers with people who are teachers so their conversation can be mutually beneficial. These connections can extend beyond the conferences and become resources for each of us. Conferences expose us to regional differences in schools, programs and culture, and to the many, many vendors that sell to the education community. Being at a conference as it unfolds gives us new appreciation for our education associations and organizations, for their ability to build a system that can meet many of the needs of a community that is so diverse. I know a conference was time well spent when I feel part of a group that wants a good future for all children; when I’ve learned some new science content; gained insight into how children learn, how adults learn, and how schools can become better at supporting science learning; and have resources and connections to colleagues who I can turn to with questions.

Working together in a session on science and engineering practicesA science education conference is a place for early childhood educators and an early childhood education conference is a place for science educators. We have to show up and contribute to create the conference experience that will benefit our teaching practice and our students. Having a colleague work with me at my first conference presentation (using an overhead projector to share photos of children at work in a science exploration) made this first experience less daunting. Those of us who have been in the profession for longer can partner with newer educators to support their first presentation experience as we learn from them. Any who are able can donate to scholarship programs that pay for conference registrations, housing and travel for those whose programs can’t pay these expenses.

I’m looking forward to the 2017 NSTA national conference in Los Angeles where I’ll participate in the amazing Elementary Extravaganza event and take in as many other sessions as I can! Early bird registration deadline is February 3!

What local, regional, state, or national conference do you recommend?

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