By Erin Tomlinson
Early Learning Coordinator
Southeast Early Learning Regional Coalition
Washington is a national leader in early learning, and it’s why when we see growing participation in the statewide Starting Strong conference. We saw more than 550 participants come together from throughout the state to create connections among the high-quality early learning opportunities being created for children and families.
The sixth annual Starting Strong P-3 Institute welcomed early learning professionals, child care providers, kindergarten through third grade teachers, school superintendents, principals, parents and community partners focused on helping children start strong from pre-school to third grade.
The two-day institute took place August 5-6 and featured keynote speakers Dr. John Medina and Doug Clements, along with numerous breakout sessions and early learning vendors. The goals of the conference were to increase connections between early learning and K-3 professionals, apply theory to practice within the P-3 framework, and present information about Washington’s early learning priorities, initiatives, and promising practices.
“We hope participants gained a sense of community and support in their field through this statewide partnership,” said Samantha Bowen, director of early learning for Educational Service District 123, “and that they walked away with a sense of collaboration and a shared understanding of the direction of early learning and elementary education in our state.”
This year’s event was preceded on August 4 by a Full-Day Kindergarten Symposium, which provided valuable information to kindergarten teachers, elementary school principals and school district staff on how to structure classroom environments and use what we currently know about child development to provide developmentally appropriate practices in full-day kindergarten classrooms.
Also available to the public was a special half-day pre-conference session with Dr. John Medina for those interested in learning how the brain develops and its impact on early learning. Author of the New York Times bestseller “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School,” Dr. Medina shared what brain scientists have uncovered about how we learn, how sleep and stress affect our brains, and how the brain sciences influence the way we teach our children and the way we work.
“Our vision for this conference was to build collaboration throughout the state as well as a system and framework around preschool through third grade,” Bowen said. “The ESD was thrilled to bring such a diverse group of presenters and educators together and greatly appreciated the partners from across the state who helped to create such a high impact and meaningful event.”
The Starting Strong event changes its host and location each year; the 2015 Starting Strong Conference will be hosted by ESD 113. The prior year’s participant evaluations are taken heavily into consideration as planning efforts are tailored to meet the needs of educators throughout the state, improve practice in the classroom, and improve change over time.