Start Early. Start well.

March 01, 2017

Integrated Learning, Purposeful Play Will Be Focus of Professional Development Institute

Omaha, Neb. — Nearly 300 teachers, community-based early childhood educators, and others who serve young children in the metro area have registered for the third institute of the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan “Professional Development for All” 2016-2017 series March 2 and 4 in Omaha.

The event, entitled “Young Children as Active Learners and Thinkers: Integrated Learning Matters,” runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, both at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Omaha. Participants will examine how intentionally planned, integrated learning experiences rigorously promote each child’s intellectual, social, creative, and academic abilities while nurturing their capacity for lifelong learning. Selected portions of this institute will be presented in Spanish as well as English.

Developed by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska and funded by the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties, the free professional development series is designed to introduce leading-edge research and innovative practices to those who work with young children and families, and give early childhood professionals the chance to come together and learn from each other. Now in its second year, the series drew nearly 1,000 participants in 2015-2016.

“A big goal for our work as early educators is to support even the youngest children as critical thinkers and problem-solvers and to ensure that they find joy in learning,” said Chris Maxwell, director of program development at the Buffett Institute. “Integrated experiences, like purposeful play and inquiry, are being squeezed out of many of our classrooms. Yet, when balanced with other effective educational approaches, they assume an essential role in equipping children with the skills and dispositions to be active lifelong learners.”

Featured speakers at the institute include Judy Harris Helm, a national expert on integrated learning and the project approach. Helm began her career as an elementary and preschool teacher, and then directed and designed early childhood programs and taught in teacher preparation programs. The author of numerous books, she assists early childhood and elementary schools in applying research and new methods through her consulting and professional development company, Best Practices, Inc.

Other speakers include: Amy Blessing, Kindergarten demonstration teacher, Malpass Corner Elementary, Pender County Schools (Burgaw, N.C.); Susan Choplin, Kindergarten demonstration classroom teacher, Walkertown (N.C.) Schools; Donna Dobson, director of elementary education, Omaha Public Schools; Andi Green, instructional coach, Martin Millennium Academy (Tarboro, N.C.); Janette Merkel, program specialist, Buffett Early Childhood Institute; and Debora Wisneski, John T. Langan professor of early childhood education, College of Education, University of Nebraska Omaha.