Somerville Spotlights Importance of Science in Early Childhood Settings

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Conference brings together early childhood educators serving students in different settings for joint professional development

Somerville, MA – More than 50 Somerville educators participated in the first of what is anticipated to become an annual early childhood education conference earlier this month, bringing
together educators from across the City for joint professional development as part of a community-wide initiative to align early childhood education services and experiences. Science in Early Childhood Settings, a two-day conference held at the Capuano Early Childhood Center on July 11th and 12th, offered conference attendees serving pre-kindergarten through first grade students in different settings, the opportunity to learn new skills and best practices related to teaching science in early childhood settings.

Conference participants were immersed in sessions that explored the importance of introducing science into early childhood settings. Early Childhood specialists Kimberly Brenneman from the National Institute for Early Education Research, Cynthia Hoisington from the Educational Development Corporation, Jeff Winokur of Wheelock College and EDC, Cynthia Ballenger from the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development/Tufts University, Mary Rizzuto from Needham Public Schools, and Honey Schnapp from the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative led sessions that looked at strategies, practices, and concepts for working with a wide range young learners. Sessions such as “Connecting Science and Literacy in the Early Years,” “Strategies that Support Young Scientists,” and “Science in the Kitchen: Exploring the Scientific Concept of ‘Change’ in Classrooms with Dual Language Learners” provided participants with hands-on learning opportunities and strategies to take back to their classrooms.

“One of the best things we can do as educators is to provide children with a solid educational foundation, as early in their lives as possible,” stated Superintendent of Schools Tony Pierantozzi. “In order for a community to be able to do that, there has to be a collective vision and commitment to meeting the needs of students and support the teachers who work with them. The Somerville Alignment Initiative is that collective vision. This first community-wide early childhood conference is one of the many ways in which the Somerville community is proactively working to set a new standard in kindergarten readiness to ensure that all Somerville students are ready and eager to flourish in school.”

The two-day conference marked the start of the next phase of ongoing foundational alignment work that has been taking place in Somerville over the past two years as part of a community-wide alignment initiative. Initial foundational work included Kindergarten Readiness Groups and Literacy Coaching for early childhood providers from across the city.

Funded by a Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Challenge Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), the Somerville Alignment Initiative is a community-wide strategy designed to align birth-to-Grade 3 educational experiences in the City’s mixed-delivery system, to better prepare students for early success. Among the goals is building on Somerville’s early childhood mixed-delivery system by sharing best practices and working collaboratively toward universal Kindergarten readiness. Somerville’s proposed strategy focuses on the use of data to identify key learning strategies, and joint professional development that supports common practices to prepare students for entry into Kindergarten and early education success.

This summer’s conference was the first offered by the Somerville Early Childhood Educators Institute, which is co-sponsored by Somerville Public Schools and the Eliot-Pearson Early Childhood Education Programs & Evelyn G. Pitcher Curriculum Resource Lab at Tufts University through Race to the Top/EEC grant funding.

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