Today marks my first full week as the new Executive Director of Child Care Resources of Rockland, Inc. And what a week! In addition to meeting with staff individually and in groups and attending external meetings with our community partners, I attended CCRR’s 44th Annual Early Childhood and School Age Conference at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill on November 3rd. Underwritten by the generosity of Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, who secured grant funding for the event and other professional development initiatives, we saw over 100 teachers, child care providers, and early educators come together to learn more about their profession.
In her opening remarks, Jane Brown reiterated that what we do is for children – children who cannot wait for policymakers to figure it out. We have to revel in our passion for children, share it, and ignite it in others! Yes!
In her keynote that morning, Cindy Terebush, an Early Childhood Consultant, Presenter, and Author, focused on the need for children to play – how simple. And eye opening. Just allow kids to be kids and play. Allow them to pick up a block and decide what it is; to look at a flower an ask questions; to make up their own stories about a playground adventure or nature walk. Because we know that’s how they learn – through play. How simple.
I sat in on a good portion of Cindy’s morning workshop Project, Craft and Art – They Are Not the Same! She engaged participants in a fantastic discussion about how these common tools used in preschools. I was particularly intrigued when Cindy described project based learning – a deeper dive into discovering. We know this type of learning builds connective synapses in the brain that support the 21st Century skills. This was particularly exciting to me because my children have benefited from project based learning in our school district. I can see in them the critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills they have built – all soft skills needed for future employment. Hearing about the foundations for these skills being built in preschool is so exciting. In this NY Times article about the maker movement, the notion that handing a preschooler a lump of clay and allowing them to figure out what it is or what it could become is exactly what Cindy was talking about.
Another popular workshop that I sat in on was Developmental Discipline: An Individualized Approach to Classroom Management with Quality Improvement Specialist, Educational Consultant, and Author Eileen Flicker. She reminded us that young children especially, communicate with their bodies and will display both positive and negative behaviors. So observing them for clues about what they are thinking and feeling is imperative to developing strategies to help them express those thoughts and feelings. How powerful!
In my first week here at CCRR, I am constantly reminded there is so much we already know about children, and we have so much more to learn about them and from them. It serves us well to try looking at the world from a child’s perspective – simply.