Saturday, February 23, 2013

Professional conferences, and a physical science and engineering activity

The conferences of state and local professional associations can deliver a lot of learning experiences and networking in a short period of time. It's a way to get exposed to new ideas and be able to discuss them.

The Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education (VAECE), the Virginia state NAEYC affiliate, gathered early childhood educators together for a three-day conference. I attended sessions and presented twice on "Ramps and pathways: An appropriate and fun science of motion and engineering activity for young children."

During this session, participants explored the motion of objects on ramps, beginning with just one ball and a short ramp piece, and later exploring the motion of objects of various sizes, weights, and shapes. Adults and children begin exploring with these materials by making a simple ramp--complex structures come after more experience! With additional materials, participants branched out and built complex paths. They talked about their observations and argued for design changes to satisfy their curiosity and accomplish their goals. And made plans to bring the materials to the children in their programs!

Here is a short list of links and resources for learning more about the “Ramps and Pathways” physical science and engineering exploration that was developed at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Early Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (CEESTEM) in the Regents Center.
Ramps and Pathways: Developmentally Appropriate, Intellectually Rigorous, and Fun Physical Science by Betty Zan and Rosemary Geiken in NAEYC's journal, Young Children, January 2010. 
Problem Solving and Physics in Preschool by Julie Stoll, Ashley Ann Hamilton, Emilie Oxley, Angela Mitroff Eastmand, and Rachel Brent. 2012. Young Children 67 (2): 20-26.
Q&A with the authors of Ramps & Pathways bookRheta DeVries and Christina Sales
Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education, focusing efforts on improving early childhood education (birth through 8 years) in Iowa and beyond. Recognizing that children construct knowledge, intelligence, personality, and morality through active engagement with physical and social environments, the Center supports educational efforts that emphasize children's interest, experimentation, and cooperation. Note that the children in the videos have been using the materials for sometime and have a lot of experience with building and re-designing.  
"Problem Solving and Physics in Preschool" by Julie Stoll, Ashley Ann Hamilton, Emilie Oxley, Angela Mitroff Eastmand, and Rachel Brent. 2012. Young Children 67 (2): 20-26
I posted a bit about this activity on National Science Teachers Association's The Early Years blog.

Thank you to all the VAECE volunteers who made the conference such a success!
Peggy Ashbrook