Start Early. Start well.

October 04, 2017

Educators, Child Care Providers to Focus on Nurturing Children's Natural Scientific Curiosity

Omaha, Neb. — Encouraging young children’s natural curiosity about science and supporting  scientific learning during the years from birth through age 8 is the focus of the first institute of the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan “Professional Development for All” 2017-2018 series. 

The one-day event, entitled “Children as Scientists: Scientific Inquiry for Every Child,” is offered Oct. 5 and 7. The Institute runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, both at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, 2825 Y St. More than 200 participants will explore new research-based ideas about children’s learning, as well as educational practices that engage young children and their families. 

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 now in its third year. “PD for All” 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.

“Children are born scientists,” said Chris Maxwell, director of program development at the Buffett Institute. “Our responsibility is to keep this alive by nurturing young children’s scientific knowledge and intentionally opening up opportunities for all children to engage in scientific inquiry. This is critical for children’s futures in the 21st century.” 

Featured speakers at the institute include Daryl B. Greenfield, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University of Miami (Florida) and a nationally recognized authority on early science education. He is principal investigator on federally funded (National Science Foundation, Institute of Education Science, and Administration for Children and Families) and privately funded (United Way and Buffett Early Childhood Fund) research grants to develop and evaluate early childhood science programs. Greenfield serves on multiple national, state, and local panels, advisory boards, and workgroups.

Other speakers include: Anne Karabon, assistant professor of early childhood education and STEM at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; Wendy Badders, Heather Dreibus, Katherine Holt, Dan Sitzman, and Laura Strubbe, science instructional coaches for Omaha Public Schools; and Maegan Heimes, Kelly Jones, and Michelle Sullivan, master teachers with Educare of Omaha at Kellom Elementary School.

Saturday’s session will include an additional keynote speaker, Christine M. McWayne, professor and director of early childhood education at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University.

This week’s institute is the first in a series of five sessions planned for 2017-2018. Other upcoming institutes include "Children as Authors: Guiding Children on the Pathways Toward Strong Writing" (Nov. 30, day and evening sessions); "Children as Mathematicians: Early Math That Matters the Most" (Jan. 25 or 27); "Children as Researchers: Reading to Learn Can Start Early" (March 1 or 3); and "Children as Expressive Artists: Integrating the Arts as a Tool for Learning" (date TBA). 
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