Strength in Numbers at Early Childhood Conference
As co-chair of the Birth–Grade 3 Alignment Committee under the Delaware Early Childhood Council, I had a unique experience of helping facilitate the Stronger Together Conference that was held last December at Dover Downs.
The purpose of this conference was to bring together preschool, kindergarten, and first grade teachers, along with administrators, to open up the dialogue and ease those student transitions from birth to age five and the K-12 system.
The committee members worked diligently to facilitate conversations among the three levels of learning throughout the day, first through small, group-guided questions that were discussed at the intermixed tables. We provided attendees ample opportunities to network with other teachers throughout the state.
We were honored to have Governor Jack Markell and Secretary Steven Godowsky speak to the group of approximately 300 attendees. They both discussed the commitment that our state has made toward supporting early childhood education.
Our keynote speaker, Dan Gartrell—a renowned early childhood expert and an emeritus professor from Bemidji State—gave a wonderful message about readiness and social-emotional issues across the age ranges that addressed the committee’s commitment to include all age level teachers and staff. He created a specific article based on our committee’s concerns titled, “Readiness: Not a State of Knowledge, but a State of Mind.” He shared very personal stories that had us laughing and crying.
Attendees also chose two 90-minute workshop sessions out of nine choices that focused around social-emotional areas. Topics included ‘Learning While Playing in Classroom Centers,’ and ‘Strategies to Develop Language and Literacy in Young Dual Language Learners.’ All workshop presenters were asked to align their topic to all levels of the participants.
We had a fantastic lunch hour to socialize and network. There were also many vendors and exhibitors for participants to learn about from Readiness Teams throughout Delaware, to educational resources, and community presenters.
There were many positive comments on the evaluations about the conference, and one huge takeaway was each person that attended received a zip-drive with all the presenters’ handouts and information.
By building a mutual understanding of expectations and goals across the four-to-seven-year-old developmental continuum, we will ensure smooth age-level transitions for Delaware’s earliest learners.