By Kathleen Strom:

As Qualistar’s new Professional Development Manager, I help facilitate development, outreach, and delivery of trainings for early childhood educators throughout the state. On November 4th, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Science Symposium. The Symposium was held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science as part of our continued partnership to bring early childhood educators ideas, strategies, and activities they can integrate into their everyday practices. We had nearly 50 professionals join us from around Colorado representing all types of ECE programs–from large centers to small family care providers.

Children’s natural curiosity leads them to explore everything they can to understand the world around them. Young children can benefit from experiences that allow them to ask questions, investigate materials, and formulate their own ideas and hypotheses. That’s why the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recommends that early childhood educators can support this crucial learning by “providing numerous opportunities every day for young children to engage in science inquiry and learning by intentionally designing a rich, positive, and safe environment for exploration and discovery.” In an early childhood classroom, science learning is fostered when the environment is intentionally set up to encourage children to explore in their own way and at their own pace.

It is not uncommon, however, for many early childhood teachers to feel challenged by integrating science into a classroom with young children. Wanting to help teachers find fun and easy ways to incorporate scientific concepts, we introduced one of Qualistar’s newest trainings, Grass, Dirt, and Concrete: Engaging in Preschoolers in Outdoor Spaces. Designed and presented by our Outdoor Learning Specialist and Trainer, Adrienne Sedlak, educators learned hands-on ways to incorporate loose parts into the outdoor learning environment to create dynamic and variable spaces that allow children opportunities for open-ended inquiry and investigation. In addition to exploring how simple materials such as rocks, sticks, fabric, picture frames and tiles could easily be added to the outdoor space in any child care program to promote scientific exploration, participants also discussed how a rich outdoor learning environment promotes physical activity and social experiences for young children. At the end of the training, participants were able to reflect and develop a plan for how to incorporate loose parts into their outdoor spaces.

The feedback we received from this training tells us why offering early childhood providers high-quality educational opportunities in areas such as science is so crucial. One participant told us she was looking forward to “adding loose parts to the learning environment outside and asking children more open-ended questions about their play and being mindful about not making assumptions about their designs.” Another attendee wrote in her evaluation, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This has been so amazing. I feel I can walk away with new information to implement to enhance the learning experience.”

It is our goal to continue to provide well-developed state-approved trainings to early childhood educators throughout Colorado. We have two new symposia quickly approaching! Click the links to learn more about our Art Symposium and our Engineering Symposium. As always, check out our training calendar for all of our upcoming trainings.