Sunday, April 14, 2019

Early Childhood Conference

I haven't been to this conference before - apparently it's quite a big deal in the early childhood educator world. It's pretty inexpensive, compared to most library conferences, and is at a local university. I wasn't sure how much it would apply to library work, especially since I already have my school colleague who does most of our early childhood storytimes, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to see ways the library can support our local early childhood centers, from daycares to four year old kindergartens. Conclusion - I'm glad I went, but once was probably enough, since I got the feeling a lot of it repeats. I was the only librarian at the pre-conference on Friday, but I did meet two other librarians from the Gail Borden library on Saturday (those in the library world may be familiar with this Illinois library as the one of the first to go to bisac/subjects and it's a pretty innovative - and massive - library.). Anyways.

Friday preconference
 - Inevitably, I drove back and forth several times on the highway before deciding on an exit. Amazingly, I then quickly found the university, even with detours!
 - Robin Fox, a professor with a lengthy background experience in early childhood education, was the morning speaker. She talked about the changes in education, inclusiveness, policies, having difficult conversations, etc. After lunch, there were casual break-out sessions. I don't think these went too well since a lot of people seemed very much at a loss what to do without a facilitator, but I had some good conversations with a couple people, especially a teacher in a county next to ours and we exchanged several different library-related resources that I'll be following up on.
 - Robin Fox finished with a final conclusion and a number of resources
 - I then drove in CIRCLES for an HOUR trying to find my way out of the town. No, it is not a big town. I couldn't find the highway again! I finally found it, after an HOUR but I have no idea how.

 - Found the exit with no driving back and forth this time!
 - The keynote was... not for me. The speaker was someone who was apparently well-known in early childhood circles and she gave a very "inspirational" speech but I'm really not much on inspiration, I prefer practicalities. Other people seemed to get a lot out of it, but I personally thought there was no substance, just a lot of talk. And she incorrectly attributed several quotes from children's literature, including a Winnie -the-Pooh one, my particular bete noire. But, again, I wasn't really the audience for this.
 - Children and Play by Sandy Queen. Apparently this presenter has been presenting at the conference for a long time. I think it was the first time I've seen her though - very lively and personable, lots of stories, and some good information on the importance of play with ways to frame it. I think she was used to having longer sessions, as she kind of ran out of time at the end and I was sorry she had to end it - I could have listened to her longer. I'll be using things from this session in my work on our play areas and grant-writing, as well as how I frame/plan programs.
 - Secrets from your SLP by Tammy Myers. I was supposed to go to a different session, but I decided to be the rebel librarian and changed my mind and went to this one instead! I wasn't sure if you could do that or not, but apparently the only sessions that were completely filled were the, uh, essential oils and something else. So... yeah. Anyways, SLP does NOT mean what it means in the library world, it means speech language pathologist! The presenter did kind of put me to sleep - very soothing and somewhat monotonous voice - but she had really interesting things to say, especially in how we talk with/read to children and I'll be interested to incorporate some of her ideas, especially doing more matching and less identifying "this is red what else is red?" rather than "what color is this?"
 - During the lunch hour I checked out the vendor hall - they had a couple booths with puppets, toys, and the rest were things like the Registry and sponsors. Library exhibits are more fun lol.
 - Learning continues at home with Bev Schumaker - I was familiar with this person, she and her husband do learning games that many libraries circulate (I've got them in a list somewhere to add... sometime). This was super practical and useful, full of simple ideas for things parents and caregivers can take home to keep learning going. Lots of great recyclable ideas, things we can use for our activity table and/or in storytime.
 - Project Wild Child with Becky Bender and Sarah Nogee. Oh, how I wish our local kindergartens used this approach! These two amazing teachers take their early childhood and kindergarten classes out to the woods every Monday, rain, sun, or shine. So many wonderful experiences and ideas! I'm not sure how or if I can apply this to the library, but I'd certainly love for our outdoor garden space to be an exploratory space like theirs! Unfortunately, because it's right on a main road there are not only safety concerns but also issues with it looking "messy" since people drive by it. However, I really, really enjoyed this session.
 - Science it's electric by Karen Evans - this is a preschool teacher from Chicago who teachers her kids to make circuits and use electricity. It was hands on and I'm excited to see what I can incorporate into our programs - I think a maker kit for electricity and seeing if the kids can wire the dollhouses we make this summer for electricity would be a cool start...
 - Amazingly, I did NOT get lost leaving this time! I have no idea how, but somehow I magically ended up at the highway exit. So all's well that ends well.

In some ways this was very different from a library conference. It was much more structured - people signed up for sessions ahead of time and I am pretty sure you weren't supposed to change (rebel librarian here though...). The educators have a lot of different concerns - much more attention is paid to policy, regulations, etc. I also noticed that there wasn't as much of the same "sharing" culture as I usually see in library groups - people stuck to their own groups and although I chatted with a few people it wasn't anything like a library conference. Especially before and after sessions, most library conferences people naturally (in my experience) chat to their neighbors and introduce themselves, but that's apparently not a thing for this. I also didn't see many people exchanging ideas as I'm used to.

So, as I said at the beginning, some great presenters and I got good ideas, but I don't think I'll need a repeat visit. I'm certainly glad I went (although that's not how I felt at 6am in the morning after a long week...)

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