April 12-14, 2021
With the theme “Children As Conservators,” this conference focused on understanding that young children have the intellectual capacity to develop scientific skills and knowledge. Piaget called this the theory of conservation, in which the child realizes that properties of objects—such as mass, volume, and number—remain the same, despite changes in the form of the objects. Participants learned how to engage children in hands-on learning that is based on asking questions about their natural environment and then finding the answers; the latest developments in early childhood STEM education research and practice; and techniques to promote school readiness for a smooth transition to elementary school and provide a foundation for further STEM learning.
The opening keynote address was by Judy Harris Helm, EdD is a national and international speaker and trainer on project work, engaged learning, documentation, and school design. Dr. Helm served as the educational planner for three early childhood centers and two birth–8th-grade community schools. She helps teachers of preschool through 3rd grade to integrate research into their curricula.
Los Angeles-based filmmaker Nirvan Mullick, a speaker and change-maker, provided closing remarks. Mullick’s short film Caine’s Arcade became a viral phenomenon in 2012, receiving millions of views and changing the life of one creative 9-year-old boy. Following Caine’s Arcade, Nirvan founded Imagination.org to foster creativity for children worldwide and created a Global Cardboard Challenge that has since engaged over 1 million children in 80 countries. Imagination.org now supports more than 150 Chapters in 20 countries, providing kids with time for creative play weekly.
With the theme “Children as Adventurers,” this three-day institute, offered attendees a variety of opportunities to gain knowledge from listening, doing, playing, and networking with their peers. In addition to traditional workshops, the Early Learning STEM Institute featured a simulated Anji play experience. Workshops included promoting scientific inquiry with infants and toddlers; developing children’s STEM higher-order thinking skills through the creation of a vertical vegetable garden; story-time engineering to bridge literacy and STEM; how to successfully incorporate STEM activities in the outdoor environment and panel discussions with Early Childhood STEM Experts on the future of math and science in early education.
Chinese educator Cheng Xueqin gave the keynote address on “Exploring Anji Play.” Xuequin developed the internationally recognized philosophy and approach to early learning. Anji Play is the curriculum of the 130 public kindergartens in Anji County, China serving more than 14,000 children from ages 3 to 6.
Dr. Osnat Zur provided the closing session remarks, speaking on “Supporting Early STEM Thinking and Learning: The Critical Role of Teachers.” Zur, a developmental psychologist, with expertise in children’s cognitive development, focusing primarily on the development of mathematical and scientific reasoning, is a Senior Program Associate with the Center for Child & Family Studies at WestEd. She serves as Project Director as part of WestEd’s collaboration with the National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning. Her remarks provided examples of developmentally appropriate, playful early learning STEM experiences.
The theme of the 2017 STEM Institute was Children as Inventors. With this in mind, a number of elements have been added to support Head Start education staff to navigate new knowledge and experiences supporting innovation in our environments. The conference included a number of hands-on workshops, a model classroom environment based on the resource books, Loose Parts, and a Curriculum Fair.
The opening keynote address. “The Importance of Engaging Young Students in Science,” was given by Dr. David T. Crowther, University of Nevada, Reno. Crowther is a Professor of Science Education at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Director of the Raggio Research Center for STEM Education at UNR. He has five years of experience teaching at the elementary-middle level as well as summer teaching at the 8- 12th grade level in biology. He served as president of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest science/STEM teacher organization in the world. His presentation focused on engaging in STEM practices because they are an essential part of both a formal and informal education for all students and it must begin at a very early age.
The conference’s closing keynote presentation was by Amanda Bryans, Office of Head Start, where she has worked for more than 27 years, including five years as the Disabilities Services and Education Coordinator, and five years as the Director of the Albany, NY Head Start program. She recently oversaw the development of the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework and contributed to writing the newly released Head Start Program Performance Standards. She focused on exploring new opportunities embedded in the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) and Head Start’s Early Learning Outcomes Framework (HSELOF).
I have been to management workshops, not leadership training. This has totally changed my perspective and encouraged me to propel forward in developing my skills.
I am honored and humbled to be a recipient of the Region 9 Head Start Association’s Legacy Scholarship. The scholarship helped me get one step closer to achieving my goal of becoming a Head Start Director.
I took part in The disproportionate impact of COVID 19, and how to provide “real” support for black/brown children and families and I just want to say this was an amazing webinar. I hope we can look forward to further conversation on this topic.
Thank you so much for making events like this! I really enjoyed and learned so much teaching strategies to implement STEM in the classroom.
The HR Network was an excellent opportunity to network and learn the best practices from other HR professionals within Head Start programs. You will be amazed by the level of talent and experience of the participants.
The Summer Camp training was powerful and inspiring! Each presenter was very engaging, it’s hard to even pick a favorite session!
The Leadership Challenge training was very relevant to my work as a Head Start leader! Great facilitation; stayed with the program yet allowed time for individual and small group reflections.
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