Here are some glimpses from the NSTA 2014 Richmond, Virginia area conference where teachers shared their work and learned from others. The location is excellent—beautiful train station, hotels just across the street from the convention center, easy access to restaurants and helpful staff people abound! This morning I had the other half of my chicken dinner from Pasture and it was still delicious.
In one session I was delighted (but not surprised) to see teachers collaborating on designing and building their solutions to engineering problems presented to us. We were given the familiar problems of building a chair for Baby Bear (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) and a house for a pig (Three Little Pigs) that would meet certain requirements. This is how it felt to be problem-solving with a group…excited to be challenged, and impressed with my colleagues design ideas, their ability to communicate, their small motor skills and their willingness to take chances and try again. We didn’t have time to discuss how to implement engineering challenges in our classrooms but later a colleague suggested that we don’t have to present children with problems because every day young children encounter problems to solve in their play. Some that come to mind include, keeping their block structure from falling over, choosing the best blanket to drape over chairs for a tent, digging holes that won’t collapse, and carrying armloads of balls. These are problems that they need to solve for their own purposes. They are also opportunities for teachers to support the Practices of science and engineering while working alongside or observing children.
The session, Defining Science Learning and Teaching for Early Childhood, was an in-depth look at the recently released NSTA position statement on Early Childhood Science Education. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has endorsed the position statement. Members of the NAEYC Early Childhood Science Interest Forum will be presenting an expanded version of this session in Dallas at the conference next month, November 5-8.
Some of the best discussions took place just after or between sessions. Chat up the person next to you, you might just discover that she is an early childhood teacher from the same small community where your cousins live!
There are two more days of the conference to enjoy! On Saturday, children and their families are invited to a free event, Celebration of Literacy and Science, in the Grand Ballroom, Greater Richmond Convention Center where they will join other conference goers to a panel discussion of authors of outstanding science trade books who will share what inspires them, how they do their work, and how their books can be used in teaching (10:00 AM – 11:30 AM). Children and their parents are invited to visit with authors to explore their mutual curiosity and wonder about the natural world (11:45 AM – 1:15 PM). Families and homeschoolers will also be able to tour the NSTA exhibit hall and the NSTA Science Store (9am-12pm).
I always get recharged and expand my network at conferences!