On Fri. Jan. 30th, Sharon and I attended the 2015 MnAEYC-MnSACA State Conference. We were joined by 7 Early Childhood & Youth Development (ECYD) student club members. The morning began early as we all prepared ourselves for an invigorating day in St. Paul, MN. The students had arranged to meet one another at the entrance and begin the day together. Sharon arrived early as she would be presenting sessions later in the day. I arrived with the conference keynote; we shared a few morning laughs and said our goodbyes.
After choosing our breakfast of choice (muffins, bagels, oatmeal, fruit, coffee, orange juice, apple juice), we all sat down together at a table near the front of the room. After the welcoming message, Rae Pica was introduced as the keynote speaker. Rae Pica is an early childhood education consultant, specializing in children’s physical activity. She is the founder and director of Moving & Learning and is an author of 18 books (soon to be 19- June 2015).
Right away Rae had us “moving & learning” when she asked us to dance with her. The entire room was up and dancing at 8am! In her keynote about teaching to the whole child she stated that we often set up environments contrary to the way children learn. Reflect on your early childhood environment – is it set up the way adults want it? Ask yourself if it’s designed for the children and the way they learn and experience life around them. Rae also reminded us that children can’t learn in one domain without also experiencing it in the other domains. This is why worksheets and dittos are not effective! She encouraged us to take a stand and that there’s power in numbers. “You don’t see legislators dictating to doctors when to operate on a kidney. The doctors make that decision based on their expertise. Our field has been dictated to us for too long! Educators need to take a stand to do what’s right for children.”
After a short break, it was off to the morning sessions. There were many great sessions to choose from, facilitated by a variety of inspiring professionals in the field, including our very own Sharon Bergen and Cory Woosley!
Our ECYD group gathered after for lunch to debrief a bit about the morning sessions and share in the excitement of the day. After lunch, our students turned in 180 greeting cards for the Cards for Hospitalized Kids organization. Our ECYD Club, the DCTC Lions Club, and others from DCTC all participated in the community service learning opportunity. THANK YOU! The afternoon was filled with more fascinating dialogue and networking.
Here are some thoughts and reflections from our students:
“The MNAEYC conference was a wonderful experience. The keynote speaker, Rae Pica, started the conference out with a bang. She was so full of energy and had us moving, dancing and singing! You could really hear her passion for the whole child. She was the perfect start I needed for the day and made me realize why I am here; I want to increase my knowledge in many areas so I can better the lives of children.
One of the sessions that I went to was about brain development. The speaker brought up some wonderful points and I learned a lot. The part that really stuck with me was when we watched a video on Romanian orphanages and the affects of the poor care had on the child.
Another session I went to was all about Big Body and Rough and Tumble Play. It was a panel of 5 professionals that all work in different types of early childhood settings. They spoke about how this type of play benefits the children and teaches them self-regulatory skills, physical development, negotiation skills and so much more. What I really loved is that they discussed the risks as well as the benefits. Each professional had extremely helpful answers and points that you know they truly stand behind because they work with children themselves.
The conference was amazing, I did however have a few surprises that came up! When I went to the conference, I did not expect to hold a snake or tarantula! How crazy is that? I’m not sure what came over me, whether it was the positive, happy atmosphere or all the coffee, but I faced my fear and held a tarantula! I’ll definitely be going back next year!” -Julie H.
“Walking into the conference was exciting. There was an electricity in the air that gave me goosebumps. Being a part of early childhood on such a new level was so enlightening!
Rae Pica got up on stage and continued the great energy with a fabulous lecture. You could see her passion for learning radiating from her constant smile. She got us singing and dancing while showing us how truly important it is for children to move to learn.
Next, we split into smaller sessions with various interesting topics. Some were very interactive. My favorite was about bringing nature into your center. They set up different stations that let us experiment with natural objects in unique ways. Then we split into groups to brainstorm answers to scenarios about different issues that you might encounter when trying to implement more nature into your classroom environment. There are so many ways to get children involved in nature even if you don’t think you have the space or time for it. Just adding potted plants with long grasses, etc. and some slices of an old log can create a jungle like obstacle course right on the playground!
I am so glad that I decided to go to this conference! I had the opportunity to interact with early childhood in a way that I never have before. I am looking forward to using everything that I learned and continuing to learn even more. I hope to attend again next year!” -Elise S.