The Collaboration’s Annual Symposium has been a signature event for the past 14 years. Organized by a volunteer team of top-notch early childhood education professionals, this gathering has grown to well over 300 attendees.
The Symposium workshops aim to provide people with new ideas and activities to try with children right away. Preschool teachers, family child care providers, early intervention professionals, parents and caregivers all will find something to bring back to their young ones. Sixty volunteers make sure the day runs smoothly.
Each year the Symposium has a different theme. This year’s focus is “Here and Now: Respecting Childhood.” Childhood is a precious time in a person’s life. We are often so focused on how to get the child to the next stage of development that we struggle to see them where they are. How do we value and respect the child here and now? We can begin by designing environments and planning curricula that speak to the child where they are: here and now. Workshops such as “Planning Purposeful Play” and “Empathy in Young Children” set the stage for guiding a child’s growth from the place where they are right now.
Recent symposia have covered the themes of diversity, overcoming obstacles, active exploration, building relationships, wellness, and social-emotional competence.
This year, there are two scholarship opportunities to recognize local teachers, providers or parents – one is based on financial need, the other is to honor the memory of Dr. DeeDee Farmer who was an inspiration to so many people of all ages in the classroom.
In addition, discounts are available to students and many workshops provide early intervention credit. The Symposium is approved by Gateways to Opportunity, the statewide professional development support system.
The Collaboration hosts this annual event as an opportunity for local early childhood providers and families to learn more about young children and how to help them grow and develop into their best selves. In addition to the Symposium, Collaboration staff conduct trainings for early childhood professionals throughout the year as part of our effort to provide high-quality child care to all young children in Oak Park and River Forest. A highly trained early child care workforce provides our children with the tools they need to grow and develop socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively before they enter school. This professional development program is a cornerstone of our work.
During 2002-2003, all six of Oak Park’s governmental agencies joined to initiate and promote the Collaboration for Early Childhood. Established as a not-for-profit organization, the Collaboration became a unique public/private partnership in which all of the governmental agencies contribute financially and participate through staff and/or board involvement.
Now, with more than 90 agencies participating, the Collaboration works to overcome the fragmentation and scarcity of services endemic to the early childhood field by leveraging and integrating all of our community resources to better meet the needs of the youngest children and their families. Our key initiatives include professional development, the advancement of high-quality preschool for all children, parent information & support, and developmental screening.